Talon Bergen’s first experience with home brewing came when his brother-in-law gave him a Mr. Beer kit. The beer he made was terrible, but the kit included a booklet he read numerous times. He was fascinated with the science of brewing. When he and his wife Emilie were leaving Alaska, where they were living while he was in the Army, a friend gave them a bottle of homemade mead as a going-away gift. Unlike every beer she had tried up to that point, Emilie liked it. Talon had to learn to brew it. As with the beer, his first batch of mead was terrible. And it was 24 percent alcohol. Bergen says after six months of brewing, it was finally drinkable.
Despite his newfound mead-making ability, opening a brewery was still the plan. But the strong craft beer scene awaiting Bergen in Connecticut was intimidating. His epiphany came while sitting with his wife at a Hartford Yard Goats game after he handed her a hard cider. “She says, ‘I could go for a mead right now.’ And it just clicked,” Bergen says. “We were driving home that night and I was like, this is what we need to do. We’re not the only people who want a light, refreshing beverage that isn’t beer.”
After almost two years of planning and searching for a spot, Bergen House opened in September next door to Eli Cannons Tap Room in the same Main Street building that houses Perkatory Coffee Roasters. It’s one of only a handful of Connecticut meaderies.
Mead is made from honey, water and yeast, with spices and fruits used for flavoring. Bergen says he uses a different fermentation process than most commercial meaderies, which enables him to keep the ABV around 6 percent. He then carbonates the mead. The result is a light, refreshing, crushable beverage that is like a beautiful liquid meld of beer, cider and white wine.
Bergen House has eight taps, which provides both variety and an ability for customers to taste every offering in one trip. A flight of eight 4-ounce pours, arranged in order from dry to off-dry, is a perfect entrée into the mead world. Ginga’ (orange blossom honey, ginger) is the Moscow mule of meads; The Thief (orange blossom honey, beer yeast) has a pleasant, sweet aftertaste; The Trickster (wildflower honey, Loki yeast) is reminiscent of a mellow cider; No Fair (caramel apple mead made with local cider) is comparable to a double IPA or a Port wine.
Each of the eight is distinct and delicious, and there are two non-alcoholic options on the list as well. The caramel apple soda is the unleaded version of No Fair and the lemonade, sweetened with honey and carbonated, is quite possibly the best version of lemonade I’ve tasted.
725 Main St., Unit 27, Middletown
Hours: Fri 4-8 p.m., Sat. noon-8 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.