How a Viking-themed meadery opened in a rural P.E.I. gas station during a pandemic
'Maybe people need another choice of something to do. I'm here.'
Chuck Gallison's business ambitions were launched during a trip to Iceland.
He and his wife were there on a trip three years ago and were drinking mead — an alcoholic beverage made from honey, water and yeast — when they struck up a conversation with the bartender.
He had heard of P.E.I. and wanted to know if anyone there made mead. Gallison told him he didn't know, and the conversation eventually resulted in getting a full tour of their process.
"He gave me a handbook. He called it an authentic Norse recipe. He says, 'You just do that when you retire,'" Gallison said.
"So I retired three years ago and I decided here, in the Bedford Irving."
Gallison launched Horns of Odin in February. The mead hall, where he ferments and sells his products, is Viking-inspired and is connected to Lily's Convenience Store on the corner of routes 2 and 6 in Bedford, P.E.I.
"I was a wildlife officer and I was everywhere, rurally. That's what I did. I didn't work in towns and I talked to everybody and I decided I live close by. This location was here. So it kind of worked out," he said.
Gallison describes his operation as a rural business. He makes molomel mead, which is mead with added fruit, and he uses as many local ingredients as he can.
"The honey comes locally from the beehives that are at blueberry fields and potato fields for pollination," he said.
"I pick local berries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries from the locals, or I buy from the fields."
He is also skilled at tracking down P.E.I.'s rare fruits that many believe don't grow on the Island.
"I can take you a mile from here where there's two plum trees in a lady's yard," he said.
"Murray River, for example, I got peaches. The lady has a peach tree and all that. Everything's here."
In contrast with larger operations, every batch Gallison makes is small and varies from batch to batch.
"Every flavour of strawberry is different," he said. "Up the road this way, in Tenmile House, [the berries] are different from the berries somewhere else."
'This has been a journey'
Gallison planned to launch his business in the fall in order to be up and running for Christmas, but he was held up by process along the way.
"This has been a journey … there are lots of checks and balances that I had to go through and I wish they had been faster," he said.
"At the end, we're here, fully licensed and I'm up and running, so I'm very happy about that."
By the time he had his affairs in order, it was mid-winter on Prince Edward Island during a global pandemic.
But he decided to open.
"Maybe people need another choice of something to do," he said. "I'm here."
Horns of Odin doesn't have a website or do any advertising. It has a Facebook page and a reliance on word of mouth.
"I've decided that I'm going to start that way and let that pan out," he said.
"Right now I'm more than happy the way it's panning out. It's been very good. I'm having numerous repeat customers."
Gallison hopes Horns of Odin can become a service for hire at celebrations like weddings, where he would dress as a Viking and serve mead from a barrel. But for now, he said he's content with the size of the business.
"I think I'm in a happy place, even though we're in a pandemic."