Honey Beer

September is national honey month, and what better way to celebrate than with a local honey beer that’s as delicious as it is well-packaged.

L’Apiculteur, brewed by Central State Brewing in collaboration with New Day Craft, was awarded Gold for Best Design/Packaging at this year’s Honey Beer Competition.  

“Named after the French word for “beekeeper,” the farmhouse ale with honey, black limes and elderflower is packaged in a vibrant golden yellow can with an illustration of a beekeeper with bees flying about; capturing the true essence of a honey brew,” said competition spokesperson Keith Seiz, in a news release.

Alison Wuebbels, National Honey Board ingredient marketing representative, added, “Central State Brewing is a great supporter of honey and raises awareness of honey and bee health by brewing their L’Apiculteur.”

Josh Hambright, co-founder and brewer at Central State, tells NUVO the winning design was created at Chicago-based Good Beer Hunting Studio.

“We've worked hand-in-hand with Michael [Kiser] and his team for all of our label and design work, since the beginning when they helped us come up with our CSB logo. They have an uncanny ability to take my very abstract label ideas and turn them into tangible artwork,” says Hambright.

“I've been super happy with our collaboration [for] labels, they all feature very bold and strong line art, from A Well Forged Sword with the orange impaled on a sword, to L'apciultuer with the old time French beekeeper, to our upcoming collaboration with Kuma’s Corner which features a robe-clad skeleton bear; they all evoke so much emotion and feeling while maintaining the simple and clean design feel we always strive for on Central State labels.”

“The inspiration goes back to my friendship with Brett [Canaday] and Tia [Agnew]. We've known each other for about as long as I've been in the industry and Brett and I are constantly bouncing ideas back and forth about things we could do to blend our crafts together,” says Hambright. “In the past we've swapped barrels; I've used honey in a few other projects that I got from Brett, and [we’ve had]  countless conversations around the technical processes behind what we both do. We decided to finally go all in and brew a collab together last winter.

“We have brewed a few honey beers before [at Central State Brewing]; the first beer we released out of 26th St. [production brewery] was a honey IPA called chester that used some Wildflower honey from New Day.

“[For L’Apiculteur] we used 720 pounds of wildflower honey, which accounted for about 40 percent of the fermentable sugars in the beer,” explains Hambright. “For the grain bill we went with a simpler recipe of Indiana wheat and barley from Sugar Creek Malt Company, to allow the honey to really shine through.  We are huge fans of Sugar Creek. Ours beers are about 90 percent their malt exclusively now.

“Wildflower honey is what New Day uses as a base for the majority of their meads,” continues Hambright. “It has a beautiful floral characteristic that we were trying to play up using the elderflowers in the beer.  We selected the black lime as an exotic ingredient; they are essentially a sun-dried key lime, used to add brightness and life to stews and other dishes. They have a wonderful almost candied taste and a definite brightness that we hoped to impart in the beer without resorting to using a heavy hand on an acid profile for the final beer.

“The resulting beer is an explosion of floral and fruit notes, with an underlying spiciness and slight funk from our house cultures we used to ferment it.”  

L’Apiculteur was released in May 2018. “It’s still drinking wonderfully and continues to develop more character in the cans,” says Hambright.

“This beer is most likely a one-off right now,” added Hambright. “We may revisit it in Spring 2019 as something to produce again; it has been one of our favorites and sold really well.  Brett and I have some other projects that we are working on together, we'll see when those are released but this will definitely not be our last collaboration. We are hoping to produce the next collab under the New Day label so it will not contain any grain but still try to show some of the flavors of Central State, but in a Mead.”