Branch & Bone Ales Wins Bronze at Festival of Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer with a Little Help from Honey

Posted by National Honey Board on December 10, 2019

Silence Mill

Photo Credit: Branch & Bone Artisan Ales

Experimentation and learning from other brewers makes brewing with honey a magical experience says Brett Smith, co-founder of Branch & Bone Artisan Ales and 2018 Honey Beer Summit attendee. We agree, and were thrilled to sit down with Brett and talk about his experiences brewing with honey, which were put in a national spotlight with a big recognition at a big beer festival.

Just two years into his professional brewing career, Brett and his Silence Mill Farmhouse Ale has won bronze in the Wild Ale category at the prestigious Festival of Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer in Chicago. The 17th annual competition featured 223 entries across 12 categories. Smith’s foeder-aged mixed-fermentation saison with honey was inspired by the time he spent at the 2018 Honey Beer Summit, an educational workshop focused on brewing and honey. 

“Our brewery had only been open for two months at that time, and it was a great experience attending the Honey Beer Summit,” he said. “I went into it knowing a lot about honey and brewing with it, but I learned so much more about ways to do things.”

The following year, Smith, whose brewery is housed in Dayton, Ohio, helped the National Honey Board bring a one-day Honey Beer Session for local brewers to Cincinnati. There he spoke about his experiences in brewing with honey by showcasing Silence Mill. 
 
“For me, honey is a romantic ingredient,” Smith says. “Brewing beer is made up of different types of sugar. That’s what we are doing, is creating the sugar water to ferment. Honey is just a really neat way of adding sugar to the beer.”
 
Smith said that brewing with honey that is created by bees is “the coolest thing in the world.” In Silence Mill, honey is added as a secondary fermentation, which allows the honey character to stand out in the beer.

“Our beers are mixed fermentation beers, which are kind of funky and acidic, and honey changes the beers so much. I can’t speak to what it does scientifically, but anecdotally it just makes a difference,” Smith said. 

Silence Mill’s flavor notes are tart, overripe fruit, hay and a lemon acidity, with a honey sweetness character. Smith said although it’s not a sweet beer, there is an undertone to it from the honey. 

Brewed about once a year, Silence Mill has about two months left before the bottles run out in this batch. However, there’s plenty more made-with-honey beers at Branch & Bone Ales. Ghost Heart is fermented from second use black raspberries and added honey. Additionally, an IPA honey in cans and a honey saison are on the horizon. Of note, the honey saison was made with PA-based brewers that Smith met at the Honey Summit in 2018.

“We got together and made the beer — it’s only proper to use honey in it since that’s how we met,” he said. “The Honey Beer Summit experience is something I couldn’t recommend enough. Putting all those good minds in one room together — magic happens. We’re always brewing with honey, so keep your eye out. There’s always something new.”