Field to Fermenter

Honey and beer become one

September 9th marked the end of the Park District and Alter Brewing’s honey-beer collaboration, as the Field to Fermenter program made its debut. Thirty participants of all ages, over 21 that is, ventured into the apiary at Lyman Woods and the brewhouse at Alter to learn about the amazing stories behind honey and brewing. They met fellow honey enthusiasts and beer-drinkers, and got a sneak-peek tasting of the new Lyman Honey Wheat Ale.

It has been an amazingly fun and educational five-month journey since the honey bees were first installed at Lyman Woods. Over that time the bees produced a delicious spring honey, light in color with pleasing floral and lemon notes. In early August we brewed our house wheat beer, which used 75lbs. of Lyman honey, in addition to honey malt, to brew a light and refreshing honey wheat ale that will be popping up at local venues to promote Harvest Fest on Sept. 30th.

Adding the honey

There are several points during the brewing process where honey can be added, and it depends on the brewer and the beer as to when that happens. If honey is added early in the brewing process, it is likely that the honey is being used as a source of sugar, since most of the complex aroma and flavor compounds will be lost in the boil or during primary fermentation when many aromatics can be expelled. In the Lyman Honey Wheat Ale, we added our honey during secondary fermentation. While the sugar in the honey does get fermented, by waiting until this late in the process we maximize the amount of aroma and flavor compounds being present in the finished beer.

Dustin adding honey

Field to Fermenter – Part One (Lyman Woods)

Upon arrival at Lyman Woods the group learned the basics of bees and honey from the Park District’s premier naturalist, Marge Trocki. The group then split into two parts, the first suiting up with Marge to visit the apiary and get a first-hand look at where the magic happens. Participants were able to suite up and get up close and personal with the bees, something that few people get the opportunity to do.

While one group was in the apiary, the other was treated to an overview of the honey extraction process by Shannon Forsythe, the Park District’s Manager of Natural Resources and Interpretive Services. She demonstrated both how the wax is cut off to reveal the honey beneath, and also how the manual extractor spins honey off the frames. The group was then able to sample several different types of honey and experience some unique food and honey pairings.

Field to Fermenter – Part Two (Alter Brewing)

After returning to Alter, the class partook in a delicious lunch catered by Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs. After polishing off some of that delicious barbecue, half of the attendees went on a tour of the facility with Mark Hedrick, our head brewer, while the remainder was schooled in the art of tasting beer by our sales manager and Certified Cicerone, James Bigler.

Until next time…

We have truly had a blast putting on this program with the Park District. Being able to see hives go from empty, to full of buzzing bees, to full of honey, and finally into one of our beers has been such a rewarding experience. We hope that everyone who has  followed along since the beginning has enjoyed the posts and pictures, as well as gained a better appreciation for the crafts of honey and beer.

Thank you for your interest, and we hope you enjoy our very first honey beer which is now on tap!