Most of us first encounter mead in the pages of Beowulf in English class. But few of us ever go on to become experts in honey wine. For Brian Sullivan and Paul Wilkerson, mead came to them through a love of home brewing. “I got into mead as another means of creating something from simple ingredients,” says Wilkerson. Mead makers, also known as mazers, can coax manifold flavors out of little more than honey, yeast and water.
The hobby quickly became a business, Capital Hive Meadery. The pair have been working for three years to open what will be the first commercial meadery in Northern Virginia. But as is always the case for innovators, there have been challenges. The pair originally hoped to open in Ashburn or Sterling, but found that zoning in that area made it “too much of a challenge,” says Sullivan. But Leesburg, with its own zoning ordinances, was open to having an industrial winery in its limits. Their space is across from the Leesburg airport at 960 Sycolin Road.
Now, the friends are poised to open their physical meadery in late August or early September. Sullivan says that in the next month he expects to receive Capital Hive’s Virginia ABC license, which will allow them to start selling memberships. Members will be the first to access the honey wines, which are not yet available for sale. Once Capital Hive opens to the public, they will have public releases each Saturday, when nonmembers can try a variety of the wares on a first-come, first-serve basis.
For now, this is a side project for Sullivan and Wilkerson. Sullivan is a lieutenant for Loudoun County Fire & Rescue. Wilkerson is a hospital supervisor for a local animal hospital. But Capital Hive is unlikely to stay small. Eventually, the pair hopes to add a taproom, which will also necessitate food service.
But why drink mead if you’re happy with beer or wine? Mead is unusually versatile. “It’s open to your imagination how sweet or dry it is,” says Wilkerson. “There are sub categories from low-ABV, carbonated session meads to a more still wine that you can do anything with. You can even caramelize honey as your fermentable sugar.”
Because dry wines are particularly popular in Virginia, the pair plans to have those on offer, but one of their most popular meads to date was flavored like raspberry-white-chocolate cheesecake, part of a dessert series. And meads aren’t the only thing Capital Hive will offer. Sullivan says that ciders and non-alcoholic sodas are also on the horizon. They plan to produce close to 100 flavors a year of mead alone, so for drinkers seeking variety (and a taste of history), there’s no better way to get it. // 960 Sycolin Road, Suite 115, Leesburg
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