A month ago, Sandy Nicholson harvested his first batch of honey. The professional photographer had started his journey early this year, building his aviary on a Toronto city rooftop and creating a hub for 100,000 bees.
With his penchant for connecting with people, it was no surprise to us that he collaborated with neighbourhood nano brewery LayLow, to create a special edition honey amber ale with part of his first batch. This labour of love, named “Mariah” after the 90s diva Mariah Carey with her “Honey” hit classic, was celebrated with a 2 week pop-up exhibit of the urban bee keeping and brewing process.
We asked Sandy a couple of questions below, and for more on the bee-keeping process, see Sandy’s Bee Gallery.
Q: How would someone describe your “Honey” beer profile?
A: It’s an Honey Amber Ale (not enough bitterness to be considered an IPA, as I didn’t want the hops to distract from the character of the honey). There isn’t really a name for the style (technically it’s a Specialty Ale), but I would not say IPA.
Q: We’re curious – how many bees produced 1kg of honey? For this one keg?
A: Lots! I stoped counting them at 1000… there are between 10,000 to 60,000 honey bees in the hive. In order to produce 1 pound of honey, 2 million flowers must be visited. A hive of bees must fly 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey. One bee colony can produce 60 to 100 pounds of honey per year. An average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
Q: Surprising things you learned as an urban beekeeper?
A: Bee keeping is an amazing way to meditate while moving. You have to focus really focus or you will get stung. The bees learn to reconize you and stay calm if you do. People who are afraid of the bees get stung by the bees. So its a Zen thing. The hive is warm inside and when you put your hands in it like reaching inside a living animal.
Q: What happens after your harvest?
A: Winter is coming! We are tucking them into a bee cosy for a long rest until Spring, then we will be back at it.