Honey has been used to make alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. Mead, which is fermented honey, is thought to be one of the oldest known fermented beverages. Beer, however, doesn't usually use honey as an ingredient, unless, like Eugene's Viking Braggot, you use it as one of your main fermentation sugars. Braggot is essentially honey beer. At Alesong, we hadn't yet made a beer that utilized the nectar, but personally, I've made several at other breweries in which I've worked. And, since Oregon, and especially the Eugene area, is chock full of specialty honey wranglers, we thought we'd take advantage of the sweet goodness that is all around us. We set out to make Oregon Honey, a farmhouse ale utilizing honey that will serve as our non barrel aged bottled beer at our upcoming September 3rd bottle release.
At the previous brewery I worked, Oakshire, we made a summer seasonal called Line Dry Rye in which we used honey as a complimentary flavor in the pale ale and it was from Queen Bee Apiary in Corvallis. We loved working with them and so I reached out to Karen at Queen Bee to see what kind of honey was available. While they harvest several honey varietals, it was Oregon wildflower honey that was fresh and ready to go. Wildflower honey tends to be more subtle than some other varieties such as buckwheat or orange blossom honey and with this one we noticed some hints of vanilla and floral notes. Not wanting to overpower the honey, we designed a lighter saison recipe that could be accented by this sweet kiss of honey. We also wrote the recipe to use Mecca Grade Estate malt from Madras Oregon. This Oregon producer of specialty malts not only provides us with locally grown malted barley but the flavor and impact of this malt is huge. We even added a touch of one of their newer malts called Opal for a little 'honey-like' color and a bit of toffee flavors.
The Wildflower honey was added on Day 6 once fermentation was nearly complete. Since honey is very fermentable, we wanted to try capture as much of the flavor and aroma of this honey as we could. Adding it very late in the process can help with that. We finished it with a light dry hop at the end for a little floral and fruity aroma to complement the honey on the nose.
In our new saison called Oregon Honey, you'll find a dry and very drinkable farmhouse ale, with mild honey flavors balanced with the fruit and spice of the yeast and mild citrus notes from the dry hopping. Hopefully the complex layers of flavors awaken your senses through this wonderful and light, end of summer beer.