First things first: Beers brewed with honey aren’t necessarily sweet. In most cases, brewers use honey as a fermentable— it’s more likely a contributor to the beer’s mouthfeel and appearance. Pike’s lead brewer Art Dixon says you may detect a round, fuller sip because of its presence: “Honey will give your beers a little more body. It’ll keep you on your toes and make you wonder what’s in it.” Dixon should know—he used 150 pounds of local Salish Lodge honey per 30-gallon batch of Hive Five Honey Ale; he also used Salish honey for Pike’s new Locale Skagit Valley Alba pale ale.
Mead: A fermented honey beverage whose ingredients are simply honey, water and yeast. It can range from dry and earthy to sweet and full-bodied, and from still to sparkling.
Braggot: A mead-beer hybrid that expresses the flavors and aromas of both beer and honey.
Honey beer: Classified under the new substyle of Alternative Sugar Beer, honey beers shouldn’t taste meadlike; rather, honey can add flavors that are in balance with the overall base beer.
Yep, bees are in trouble. Actually, plenty of pollinators—butterflies, bats, birds—have struggled recently because of a complicated triple punch of disease, habitat reduction, and pesticides. In May, the White House created a Pollinator Health Task Force to develop land management plans and other guidelines to safeguard their health.
Where do seven million bees go for winter vacation? An almond orchard in California. Each fall, Rogue Ales packs up and ships the bees that colonize its 42-acre Oregon hop farm and sends them to warmer climates. In March, the bees return, ready to produce honey for the brewery’s honey kölsch, braggot and mead.
Twisted Pine’s West Bound braggot should be on any honey lover’s radar. A saison’s white peppercorn flavors stud the sip, with rose hips, orange blossom honey and peppermint on the swallow. Keep an eye on shelves now; if it’s not there, supplies should be replenished by February.
Back Forty Truck Stop Honey brown ale offers plenty of malt toast and earthiness to balance the lingering sip. It’s made with as much Alabama honey as the brewery can get its hands on—originally, it was brewed with honey purchased from a supplier who sold his wares at, yep, a roadside truck stop.