Bee Local: Micro-Batch Honey….What’s That?

Did you grow up with honey?

I did. I grew up with this honey. There was only one kind.

via Amazon

Sure, you might get it in a bear or a glass jar, but it’s all the same, right? It was not until my visit to Bee Local’s new space in SE Portland that my eyes were opened to the reality. Yeah, there is a lot of “wonder bread-like” honey out there, but there’s a heck of a lot of variety too!

I had the benefit of sharing a honey tasting (and 2-3 pieces of amazing tres leches cake made by the extraordinarily talented Fabi of Not Just Baked–sidenote–check out her recipe for sweet cornbread with Bee Local’s honey here) and picking the brain of one of the most knowledgable minds on beekeeping in Portland proper. After 15 or so different honeys, I kind of felt like I’d been living life with my eyes shut.

pictured: Damian {Owner} Bee Local Honey

Old Bee–New Tricks!

Funny enough–I have always had a healthy fear of bees. I haven’t been stung since I was a little kid, and again, there’s the overarching generalization that all buzzing striped things are bees, when really I was more likely stung by a wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket. Honey bees are a bit less likely to be buzzing around the head of a small child. They have 3 different forms in the hive: queen, worker, and drone. Queen bees are largest and are responsible for all of the eggs lain within the hive. They are created by consuming the “royal jelly” (a gelatin created by a gland in the forehead of the worker bees), and are the only bee in the hive to do this. Worker bees are female are the ones cleaning the hive and feeding the larvae, and as they mature and age they take on responsibilities outside the hive like collecting pollen and guarding the hive. Drone bees actually develop from unfertilized eggs and are all male, thus responsible for mating with the queens.

The Hives

Did you just find a “swarm” in your yard? Did you know that there are people you can call to help get that taken care of? Instead of searching for your flamethrower, remember that in many cases, swarms are full of some pretty drunk bees. First let’s start with what a swarm is–a mass of bees that are searching for a new place to call home! Knowing that the journey will be long and arduous, bees load up on honey, so they are pretty happy campers when you happen upon them swarmed on your basketball hoop or swing set. The best thing to do is to call your local bee keeper, 4H Club, or animal control. They will safely round up the bees and take them to a happy new hive! There they can start anew.

Sweet Like Honey

The neatest thing about honey gathered from micro-batch honey is it shows the differences from location to location. I can safely say that the Mount Hood honey does not taste like the Willamette Valley honey. Why? It tastes different due to the fact that the bees are foraging on different vegetation. I remember that there was a honey I tasted, which had me spinning, “the bees must have been pollinating ivy!!!” I thought to myself. This was due to the distinct, ivy-like aftertaste the honey left on my palette.

And the Willamette Valley Honey, you ask? It tastes like grapes. NO JOKE. Once you cleanse your palette and taste a few different honeys, the flavor comes through quite strong.

Now we know that location differences can affect the taste of honey, but what about season to season? Didn’t get much rain in Portland in 2013, did we? Believe it or not, the honey will actually TASTE different and be a different COLOR than years in which we received more rain. It was here I had my small honey epiphany…

It’s like wine.

Honey is so much like wine. Different temperatures, water levels, and plants to pollinate will cause the micro-batch honey to change. These sensitive changes can be lost when you mix all the honeys together or, in many cases, when bees are feeding on the same sad thing day in and day out. This may produce a sweet honey, but it won’t have the same depth. I think bees need to be able to roam and have honey jarred in micro-batches. It really gives the best chance for the true flavor to emerge.

Giving It All Away

It feels like forever ago, but I held on to a giveaway from the gift guide! Lucky you! Now’s your chance to win this Bee Local Honey Gift Pack!

This honey pack includes 3 jars of micro-batch honey (picture here are Willamette Valley, Portland Farmland, & Mount Hood) along with a beautifully simple honey dipper from Bambu.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How do you feel about honey?

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