The Art of BEEing: Brewing with the Bees

My beer supply is starting to get a bit low, so with no pressing projects and today’s forecast looking perfect for brewing I decided it was time to pull out the equipment and start another batch.  I had had a brewing frenzy during the winter of 2015/2016 and with the cartons full of bottles I hadn’t needed to brew all of last summer or fall.  Looking at my notes, I realized the last time I had brewed was the weekend before I picked up my package of bees.

I am no stranger to cooking and handling large pots of sweet-smelling substances outside with the company of stinging insects – cider pressing and apple butter day at Rurikia typically are accompanied by uncountable yellow jackets – but I was courious to see how my bees would react.

The day started on the cool side, and taking a cue from yesterday’s experiments with saucers of sugar water I again set them out near the hive both to give them something to feed on as well as to be a diversion.  Yellow jackets have an unsettling suicidal tendency to dive-bomb their way into the bubbling vat of apple butter and end their lives in a sweet bath of boiling fruit, so in case the bees should have similar thoughts I had a roll of 1/8″ hardware cloth and some metal cutting shears handy.

Sparging was uneventful, and as the wort began to heat I had a look over toward the hive and saw quite a bit of activity around the sugar water in the saucers.  When boiling started I again noticed an absence of bees near the brewing, but within seconds of the first hop addition the bees became interested.  There was never an endless flow of them, possibly due to my keeping their saucers well filled during the boil, but it was not at all uncommon to have 2 or 3 buzzing around.  It appeared to me that the hop aroma was a strong attractant, but inevitably they would get within a few feet of the kettle and back off. Some would land on my jacket, one tried a finger, others would land on the beams of the pergola under which I was brewing, but after a few minutes they would give up on actually finding the flower they were looking for and fly off.  Unlike yellow jackets, the bees never ventured into the kettle and I didn’t need to make a cover to keep them out.

As far as I could tell, bees are fine brewing partners.

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