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SPOTLIGHT ON . . . honey beers
While Big Sky Brewing Company uses ¹⁄¹0 pound of honey to
make a single gallon of Summer Honey, Atlantic Brewing Company
needs an entire pound of honey to produce each gallon of Brother
Adam’s Bragget Ale. A single hive produces just 60 pounds
of honey per season, which can make it difficult for brewers to
source enough honey to satisfy the demand. To help alleviate
some of the supply and demand challenges, some brewers have
taken their commitment to sourcing local honey to the next level,
installing hives at their breweries to raise their own bees.
In Oregon, Rogue Ales manages 100 hives and uses the
honey in its Honey Kolsch and Marionberry Braggot. “The
honey produced from these honeybees has all of the flavors of
Rogue Farms,” says beekeeper George Woodward. “As farmers
and fermenters, nothing makes us more proud than opening up
a bottle of beer made with ingredients we produced ourselves.”
Kaktus Brewing Company also installed hives at its Bernalillo,
New Mexico, brewery, and uses the honey to produce a seasonal
honey wheat beer. “We wanted to source honey as locally as
possible, and you can’t get more local than outside the back
door of the brewery,” says president Dana Koller.
Long acknowledges that he’d have no trouble getting ample
supplies of honey for Big Sky Brewing Company’s needs from
national foodservice companies, but he works with local beekeepers at Prairie Sunshine Honey in Victor, Montana, instead.
He cites concerns over quality (based on reports that imported
honey is often cut with high fructose corn syrup) and the desire
to support local apiaries. “We prefer to remain loyal to local
producers,” he says.
creating a buzz
As a result of limited supplies, honey beers are often seasonal.
When Kaktus Brewing Company starts pulling pints of its Honey
Wheat in the fall, Koller estimates the tap will run dry in fewer
than 30 days.
Big Sky Brewing Company produces just 5,500 gallons of
Summer Honey, which is only available between April and August.
“We are always asked if we can brew it year-round,” Long says.
“But only making it available for a few months of the year makes
the beer more desirable.”
Given that the flavor of honey can change from season to season
(and even hive to hive) depending on where the bees forage, the
exact flavor of honey beers is always changing. In fact, it’s almost
impossible for honey beer to maintain a consistent flavor—which
is one of the reasons Long loves brewing beer with honey.
“With wine, people expect different vintages to have different
flavors, but beer drinkers are not used to that,” he says. “They
expect that once you have a recipe, it will always taste the same.
But honey beers vary from year to year—that’s one of the things
that makes them unique.” ToP riGh T: James Taylor, brewer at atlantic brewing Company.
bo TTom, CloCKwise From ToP leFT: 1) rogue ales manages 100 hives and
uses the honey in its honey Kolsch and marionberry braggot. 2) a pound of honey
is needed for each gallon of atlantic brewing Company’s brother adam’s bragget
ale. 3) matt long, brewmaster at big sky brewing Company.