Delaware's Brimming Horn Meadery is part myth, part magic, and part science

Mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage dating to over 9000 years old, and for John Talkington, The Brimming Horn Meadery has been a dream two decades in the making.

Mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage dating back more than 9000 years. For John Talkington, The Brimming Horn Meadery has been a dream two decades in the making.

Talkington started brewing when he was a teenager and mead always held a special interest. “I was always interested in Nordic mythology and Beowulf. Mead is mentioned in a lot of those old stories.”

Mead is essentially wine made from honey. There are no grapes to press, like in traditional wine, but the process of making mead is otherwise similar. “Essentially what mead is is just honey, water and yeast and the fermentation process,” Talkington said inside his Milton mead hall.

From that simple beginning, brewers add berries, herbs and whatever Talkington’s imagination can come up with. “I like to cook, so a lot of my mead recipes have to do with things I’ve cooked or desserts or things I’m reading about in history.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

He describes the process of making mead as “a little bit of myth, a little bit of magic, a little bit of science.”

We had the pleasure of watching Jon start a batch of mead when we visited him in Milton. One of the first things we noticed was the smell of the honey. It was strong, sweet and just smelled terrific. In fact some of the honey comes from beehives located behind the meadery.

Talkington has spent more than 15 years brewing mead and he has the awards to show for it. He’s won awards at both Meadlennium, a mead brewing competition in Florida and Mead Free or Die in New England.  The biggest achievement was perhaps winning the Mazer Cup. “That’s the biggest mead competition in the world and I’ve won two Mazer cups at that so I’m very proud of that,” Talkington said.

The Norse inspiration carries over to The Brimming Horn Meadery’s tasting room, where you can truly drink like a Viking. The tasting room is decorated to resemble a Viking mead hall. “I wanted it to kind of look like an old Viking hall but have a modern appeal to it,” he said.

Woodcarvings depicting Viking longboats, Norse gods and more adorn the walls. The bar itself is decorated to resemble a Viking longboat complete with shields and a dragons head. The room is really a treat to be in and there is something interesting to see on every wall. “We wanted it to be kind of lively and fun inside, but still give it that old world character.”

It’s been a long journey for Talkington and his mead. He never thought his mead would be enjoyed by the public, he says it’s humbling. “It was always something I made for at home and family and shared with my friends and it’s just very exciting.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

He hopes customers see and taste the work and passion that goes into every one of his meads, “I hope that they think its special … I hope it brings them some joy cause they are drinking something that’s very ancient, but created in a new way.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal