Bees, Brewers and Honey, Oh My!

HBS Austin Group Shot

Thirty of the top craft brewers in the United States recently attended our Honey Beer Summit in Austin, where they received a comprehensive education on brewing with honey. It was a successful event, and we anticipate quite a few new honey beers hitting store shelves this summer from our attending brewers. 

This was the ninth Honey Beer Summit we’ve conducted, and we’re always thrilled to teach brewers about honey and learn about their operations. Here’s a list of the top things we talked and learned about at our annual Austin Honey Beer Summit.

1. Honey beers are not always sweet! This is always the first thing we talk to brewers and consumers about when discussing honey’s use in beer. Because honey is 95%-99% fermentable, most honey beers will not be sweet at all. In fact, they will be crisp and refreshing with the aroma of a field of wildflowers. If a brewer does want a sweet flavor profile, they just add honey after fermentation, which will impart the trademark flavor of honey and give a beer a real depth of flavor. 

2. If you’re in Austin, plan to spend a couple hours at Jester King Brewery. We’ve been partnering with Jester King for the last three years, and it seems that every visit to their property gets bigger and more beautiful. Since our last visit, the farm brewery added a food program, closing the loop on the farm to table concept with both food and beer. They’ve also expanded their farming operations and our attendees were able to take a tour with Farmer Peppy and walk through Jester King’s recently planted vineyard, check out their beehive and run around with goats! 

3. In beer, old is new. We had the honor to welcome Dr. Patrick McGovern to this year’s Honey Beer Summit. Dr. McGovern is considered the Indiana Jones of beer. He travels the world and analyzes archaeological finds, such as serving vessels, then works with a brewery to recreate the alcoholic beverages people were drinking thousands of years ago! Dr. McGovern talked to our brewers about honey’s use in many of these early beverages, as well as his work with Dogfish Head Brewery to recreate and sell these beers. During his presentation, our brewers were able to sample Midas Touch, a beer that was created after analyzing a 2,700-year-old drinking vessel from the tomb of King Midas. This beer has found a following, and you can actually purchase it nationwide where Dogfish Head beers are sold. 

4. Celebrating varietals. Tasting a honey flight is always one of our favorite sessions during a Honey Summit. For this event, we introduced brewers to honeys from around the world, including chestnut, cranberry, radish and watermelon honey. Not only does each varietal of honey have a unique flavor, but it also has a unique, color, aroma and viscosity. While tasting, you could see the brewers already crafting recipes in their heads about how to maximize honey’s unique flavor in IPAs, lagers, sours and more!