Pink Boots Society Series: Charlotte Chapter

Suzie Q baby I love you, at least that’s the way the song goes, and the Pink Boots brewers at Free Range Brewing in Charlotte, NC, love her even more. In fact, so much that they have an entire series of beers that are named after Susie, and for National Honey Month, Queen Bee Susie joins the fold.

Brewed August 31, Queen Bee Susie, a grisette with calendula flowers (a type of marigold) and avocado honey, will be released on Sept. 17 on draft and in cans at the brewery. All of the brewery’s Susie beers use local fruits or flowers and herbs.

Brewer Erika Woodcock-Ellertson got together with Heather Harris, co-leader of the Charlotte chapter of the Pink Boots Society, during a honey tasting to decide which honey varietal they would like to use in Queen Bee.

“It was so hard just to pick one. We already knew that we definitely wanted to put some flowers in it because honey and flowers just seem to go together,” she said. “It was pretty much a no-brainer. Sometimes honey, even if it’s not sweet in the final product, you can still perceive it as sweet. And, flowers can add some bitterness to help balance that out. We knew we wanted flowers that were local and in season.”

At first the pair chose lavender honey because it is nice and light and delicious, but a large amount of that varietal wasn’t readily available. So, the second choice was avocado honey, which is rich and provides a nice amber color.

“There was no loss there; either one would have been delicious,” Woodcock-Ellertson said.

Woodcock-Ellertson brews a honey beer every year, and it’s usually a high-ABV brew because the honey is added during secondary fermentation.

“We found that if we put it in secondary fermentation we still get a lot of the honey aroma and some of the flavors without all of the sweetness,” Woodcock-Ellertson said.

Brewing Queen Bee Susie for Pink Boots and National Honey Month has been a unique opportunity, according to Woodcock-Ellertson, to get the Charlotte chapter together on a brew and have all hands on deck, having everybody getting to learn about the brewing process.

“The added layer of what honey can do while it’s fermenting can be a unique experience,” Woodcock-Ellertson said. “Around 75% of my members don’t work in the brewery side, they work more in the front of the house, so it’s a really great experience that they can first learn about honey and fermentation from the National Honey Board and then come into the brewhouse and come and put the pieces together.”

Further, Free Range has always loved bees. The team likes to be in tune with what’s local and what’s around.

“Honey is a product made of local flora,” Woodcock-Ellertson said. “So, that’s pretty amazing. Just the process: how the bees make the honey and its own little fermentation and that’s really cool too.”