Pink Boots Society Series: St. Louis Chapter

STL PBS Chapter

Combine apple blossom honey with rhubarb, cherry purée, lactose and motueka hops, and you have a brand-new beer just in time for a National Honey Month release.

It all started with a National Honey Board honey tasting at Earthbound Beer, and the wheels started turning. Four different samples were on the table: orange blossom, cranberry, raspberry, apple blossom and watermelon. Danielle Snowden, brewer at Earthbound and Pink Boots Society member, saw that rhubarb purée was in stock, and she had never done anything with rhubarb before. Watermelon honey was the first choice, but she thought it would be fun to pair with apple blossom honey, so that ended up being the final honey varietal decision.

“Rhubarb and apple are a good flavor combination that gets used a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever had rhubarb by itself; I think it’s a very particular flavor. Rhubarb apple crisp is definitely a thing that I’ve had before. I added some cherry purée that we had on hand; the sweetness of cherries balance out the tartness of the rhubarb,” Snowden said.

The team wanted to do an IPA just for fun because the honey beers they brew are typically a braggot style with very little hops. They’ve never done a honey IPA — and there’s no better time to create one than for National Honey Month.

“We thought that would be a fun challenge and rhubarb is another new thing, so I thought why not just throw it all in one basket,” Snowden said. “I’m hoping the apple honey will really stand up to the rhubarb’s tangy tartness and pair well together.”

Lactose was included as well, making the new brew a New England-style milkshake IPA. They also used motueka hops from New Zealand, another new ingredient Earthbound hasn’t used before.

“I’m trying to learn more about hops too; motueka hops are very aromatic, citrusy, stone fruit lime zest vibes to it, so I thought that would go nicely with the rhubarb and apple honey,” she said.

Snowden said that she’s learning more and more about creating with honey through Pink Boots meetings, for one. Another St. Louis area brewer, Scott Kurtz of Bluewood Brewing, came in and talked about mead, which was great timing in preparation for a National Honey Month brew.

“We knew we were doing this honey beer, and it was pure coincidence that he was the guest speaker. He brought in some different meads and talked about the different honeys that he used in them and the best way to use honey, which I didn’t know a lot about,” Snowden said. “I had always added honey with about 10 minutes left in the boil. He suggested doing it post-boil when it’s cooled down a little bit, because you are likely to get more flavor and aroma.”

The process is similar to an aroma hop at the end of the boil in whirlpool or when it’s cooling down, so as to not burn off the aromatics. Snowden took the advice and added the honey in whirlpool, so she’s really excited to see how Rhu-Bee comes together with the new process.

Snowden loves working with honey, but another fascination comes from the bees, another facet of National Honey Month’s awareness initiatives.

“They are so underrated and the best little insects,” she said. “My partner has a book on bees with photographs very zoomed in. That has been really interesting to look at too — every part of their body is covered in hairs to pick up pollen. Even their eyes have hairs on them, and they are such a vessel for pollination. They are incredible and smart. I feel like bees and ants get lumped in together, but ants just follow the leader. Bees are actually smart.”

The Pink Boots collaboration with the National Honey Board is something that’s a fun trifecta for Snowden, who noted that collaborations are great. Meeting new people and learning new things are some of the things she enjoys most about the brewing industry.

Rhu-Bee IPA is being soft released at the Pink Boots chapter meeting on Aug. 30, and then will be released publicly Sept. 1. Earthbound works on a seven-barrel system of 220 gallons, and they plan on doing a split run of cans and kegs.

“We definitely want to have enough available on draft and for people to take home,” Snowden said. “I’m most excited to see how it turns out, and I hope it turns out well. I didn’t want to do something tried and true — that’s boring.”