Buzzed in Boston: Honey Gets Hyper Local

By Jacqueline Church, Foodable Contributor

Life is the flower for which love is the honey.
— Victor Hugo
Honey harvest in Boston's Seaport  | Credit: Seaport Hotel

Honey harvest in Boston's Seaport | Credit: Seaport Hotel

And honey, there’s a lot to love in Boston, thanks to our friends, the honey bees.

The news about bees is sobering: from Colony Collapse Disorder to the combination of pesticides, fungicides, parasites, to impact of climate change and a serious decline in bee populations. It’s not a stretch to say the story is a buzz-kill. A bad pun, perhaps, but not a stretch. 

Boston has a good news bee story. The Hub is home to a growing community of chefs, bee keepers, and activists filling our glasses with sweet hope.

Do you know just how important bees are to our food chain? Without bees, 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat would disappear.

Bees are tireless workers, and cover a radius of 3-6 miles or more from their hives. Luckily for us, urban beekeeping is on the rise from coast to coast, and Boston benefits from an active apiarist community and an increasingly green city which provides a variety of pollen sources creating a safe haven for local bees.

If your travels take you near Boston, check out food and drink featuring hyper-honey in several of the city’s leading hotels. Our chefs and bartenders are creating delicious menu items with honey produced by their own rooftop beehives. Often, these featured dishes also include vegetables and herbs grown on their own rooftop gardens. [See more about Boston’s rooftop farms here.]

Bee's Knees cocktail  | Credit: Fairmont Copley©

Bee's Knees cocktail | Credit: Fairmont Copley©

Sustainability Is the Bee's Knees

Many drop the buzzword “sustainability” these days, and Boston locals are doing more than paying lip service to it. You might be surprised by how long some have been at it, and just how committed they are.

Worldwide, The Fairmont Hotels contribute to bee health and consumer education through their “Bee Sustainable” program, part of their 25-year commitment to sustainability. The chain now has bee apiaries in over 20 properties worldwide. Since 2008, The Fairmont Copley Plaza has been home to three hives (130,000 bees!) and a small herb garden, producing upwards of 30 pounds of honey a year. The honey-butter that accompanies their hearth baked bread is a guest favorite and the honey also appears in cocktails such as the Bee’s Knees.

Miel: What’s in a Name?

Honey Old Fashioned at Miel  | Foodable WebTV Network

Honey Old Fashioned at Miel | Foodable WebTV Network

When your name means honey in French, you’ve got to deliver. And Miel does. A certified Green restaurant, Miel has had rooftop beehives since 2010. In 2011, they increased their beekeeping capacity up to 150,000 bees.

Diners can see what’s happening there via live “bee cam,” and each fall, Miel hosts a special honey harvest dinner. The regular menu features dishes that change with the seasons, many highlighting their honey such as cardamom honey scented beignets on a recent brunch menu, to honey glazed duck and honey roasted shrimp on the current dinner menu. 

At the press time, sommelier Paul Segesdi is pouring two terrific cocktails featuring a “honey drop.” The Honey Old Fashioned features Blanton’s Bourbon and orange bitters, while the Miel Champagne Cocktail includes St. Germain and lemon bitters. Both are fantastic with a subtle reminder of honey as a backdrop. 

They even feature the homegrown honey in some signature spa treatments.

Seaport Honey Saison  | Foodable WebTV Network

Seaport Honey Saison | Foodable WebTV Network

Seaport Sustainability

With more than a million bees in residence, the Seaport Hotel has been harvesting honey for years. Beehives are just one of the green initiatives at the Seaport, and they have numerous awards to show for it.

Dishes like hot honey glazed wings appear on the menu at Tamo, alongside a regular rotation of drinks featuring their honey-infused “Angel’s Envy” Bourbon. 

This year’s “Seaport Honey Saison,” brewed down the road at Harpoon Brewery, started with 40 lbs of the 100,000 harvested in 2014. It debuted August 13th at Tamo Bistro and Bar, and Foodable TV got a sneak peak, and taste.

National Honey Bee Day is celebrated each year on both August 15th & August 22nd. Whichever you choose, raise a glass to Boston’s bees and the chefs and bartenders highlighting the fruits of our winged friends’ labors. They work, we drink. Sweet.

Further Afield

Outside the city, some interesting honey Meads are being made with the support of beekeepers and consultants. Sadie Richards Brown, President of the Boston Area Beekeepers’ Association, or BABA, notes not all the action is happening in the city proper. “Garth Shaneyfelt of Green River Ambrosia makes delicious mead from Dan Conlon's honey (Warm Colornies Apiaries). And there's Moonlight Meadery in NH. There’s also the Meadhall in Kendall Square, which has a nice sampling of meads.” 

Extend Your Buzz

For more information about urban beekeeping, check out BABA here.

For restaurants and others looking to hire apiary experts, check out Best Bees. Like Green City Growers, consultants and keepers of rooftop farms like Fenway Farms, Best Bees install bee hives, fully loaded, and monitor hive health. They also mentor new beekeepers.