Thanks to the popularity of honey beers, the National Honey Board, Firestone, Colorado,
launched a Honey Beer Competition. The inaugural award was given in 2015 when Oregon-based
Rogue Ales won Best in Show for its Honey Kolsch.
Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, believes the reason honey
beers are growing in popularity is twofold. In addition to being used as a fermentable sugar source and
adding aroma and flavor, the ingredient allows brewers to capitalize on the demand for local products.
“Many craft brewers focus on showcasing ingredients from their backyards, and working with
local beekeepers is one way to do that,” Herz says. “It’s a useful and diverse local ingredient.”
Honey is also incredibly versatile. It can be incorporated into beers ranging from pilsner and
IPA to porter and braggot, giving brewers the freedom to express their creativity.
“Brewers are turning to interesting local ingredients that are outside the four common ingredients
in beer,” says Jon Hill, brewery manager at Atlantic Brewing Company, Bar Harbor, Maine. “Honey
is a popular local ingredient because it has a lot of variety in flavors.”
Atlantic Brewing Company started brewing Brother Adam’s Bragget Ale in 1997. The beer,
named for a monk at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, who was credited with saving the local
bee industry, uses honey to increase the fermentable sugars in the beer and add a rich flavor with
a hint of sweetness.
“The honey flavor is considerable,” Hill says. “Really, with all the malt and hops in this beer,
it would be quite boring without the honey.”
At Big Sky Brewing Company, Long sources honey for his Summer Honey, a seasonal wheat-
based beer with coriander and orange peel flavors, from local beekeepers. The hives are located in the
Bitterroot Valley in Montana, where bees forage on knapweed, noxious weeds with purple flowers,
giving the honey an earthy, spicy flavor. “It really complements the flavor of the beer,” he says.
Just as there are multiple flavors of beer, there are multiple flavors of honey—and not all of
it is sweet. Orange blossom honey has a light citrus flavor while alfalfa honey is on the spicy
side. For sweetness, tupelo honey has other varieties beat. It’s this diversity of flavor profiles that
makes honey beers interesting, according to Herz. “One brewer’s honey beer is not like another
brewer’s honey beer,” she says.
a sticky situation
While multiple varieties of honey allow brewers to
add a wide range of amazing flavors to their honey beers,
making beer with the sticky sweetener is not without its
challenges. For starters, it takes a significant amount of
honey to brew a batch of beer.
All honey is not created equal. The
National Honey Board, Firestone,
Colorado, estimates there are more than
300 distinct types of honey produced
in the U.S., thanks to the variety of
forage available for bees. These regional
differences in pollinator plants influence
the color, aroma and flavor of honey.
To add distinct flavor to a dish (or a
cocktail), consider the distinct flavors
of these popular honey varieties:
•;CLOVER: One of the more popular
honey varieties, clover honey has a
mild flavor and is light in color.
•;oraNGe blossom: Despite its
name, orange blossom honey can
be made from the pollen of multiple
varieties of citrus trees, including
lemon, lime, grapefruit and, of
course, orange. It’s white to light-amber in color and has a citrus flavor.
•;sourwood: Produced in the
Appalachian Mountains from the
nectar of the sourwood tree, this
honey has a spicy aroma and flavor
akin to anise.
•;TUPELO: A coveted honey variety
produced from tupelo trees in the
Southeast, the honey is white to
extra-light amber and has a mildly
sweet flavor. The trees only bloom
in April and May, making tupelo