Just in time for a mass bee die-off, honey has become the hottest alcohol flavoring of the year. Seems whatever apiaries are left will be putting in some serious overtime.
No longer relegated to Renaissance Fairs, mead (an ancient recipe for wine made with honey instead of grapes) is among the most popular bee brews, with companies like Colorado’s Medovina refining the process to create high-end wines ranging from super sweet to off-dry sippers perfect for a late summer evening. Closer to home Enat Winery in Oakland brews Ethiopian mead called tej using an old family recipe. But because of its relative simplicity to make and similarity to beer brewing, local honey purveyors say there are dozens of home mead makers throughout the county cooking up their own batches.
More accessible to honey, uh, newbees are honey beers and ciders. Near Graton, Ace Cider makes Apple Honey Cider using Gibson’s Golden Wildflower Honey from Sonoma County. Claiming to be the first commercially produced in California, the cider is a mix of 5% honey and 95% Sonoma apple juice. Cider Master Lou Markarian says that despite its sweet honey taste, the cider is balanced by a tart acidity from the apples.
Though they only brew about 5,000 gallons of the honey cider a year (it’s an acquired taste, reportedly), Ace uses a whopping 150 gallons of honey per year. That’s about a year’s production for two hives, according to the San Francisco Bee Keeper’s Association. The honey cider is available on tap at Ace Pub, as well as in bottles at select Whole Foods, Bevmo, Costco and Trader Joe’s.
While at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, BiteClub was two-fisting Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale, which marries flavors of orange peel and organic honey with a light, crisp beer. A winner at the 2007 American Beer Festival, it’s available through BevMo.com.
Still can’t get enough of the sweet stuff? Check out Matrioshka Honey Vodka, Modern Spirit Grapefruit Honey Vodka or Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur which can also be found through BevMo. Whisky mead is available from Friary Vintners in the UK.
But no matter what your drink, this summer you’re in for a serious buzz.