Zeke and Jenny live in my neighborhood in the Italian Market. Zeke is a cheesemonger, which puts him a step below royalty in my book. After many years at DiBruno Bros he’s moved on to help open the new Valley Shepherd Creamery location that will soon open in the Reading Terminal Market. He was kind enough to co-host the beer and cheese pairing we did for our loyalty club members last year. A few months ago Zeke let me know he was marrying his girlfriend Jenny and mentioned that they’d like to brew their own beer for their wedding. Originally he was asking for guidance on making a homebrew batch, but eventually the concept evolved and before I knew it we were making plans to brew his wedding beer on our system in Maple Shade. The happy couple were pretty clear on what they wanted. Jenny’s favortie style of beer is Belgian Tripel and Zeke loves mead (Jenny doesn’t!). So they married their tastes (get it?) and settled on a honey tripel.
Jenny and Zeke came in to brew the beer with me. I asked Zeke how involved they wanted to be and how dirty they wanted to get. (In other words, should I have my assistant in to help with the heavy lifting or give him the day off?) “Put us to work” Zeke said. They earned their beer that day, from mashing in to general scrubbing. I always have fun watching someone’s first experience in a commercial brewery and Zeke and Jenny really got into it.
We made this beer with 120 pounds (about 11 pounds per barrel) of Pine Barrens wildflower honey. I did some research on honey beers and learned that when honey comprises about 30% of the fermentable sugars it dominates the flavor of the beer. We toed the line and used about 28%, we wanted the honey to play a starring role. Despite what you might think, honey doesn’t make the beer sweet. Honey is very fermentable, so most of the sugars turn into alcohol. What it did contribute was a delightful herbal, floral, earthy aroma that mingles really nicely with the Belgian yeast strain we used.
I also had a lot of fun picking up the honey. I got it from Fruitwood Orchards in Monroeville New Jersey. I grew up on the edge of the pines so even the drive out there itself was a fun and nostalgic experience. Once I got there I had a chance to chat with the folks at Fruitwood and I learned quite a bit about making honey. For instance I always thought the bees were somehow fed different types of pollen to make the different types of honey. It turns out it’s the other way around, they bring the bees to the pollen. For cranberry honey, they pack up the bees and set them down on the edge of a cranberry bog, for wilflower honey they drop the bees in a field of wildflowers, and for tupelo honey they send the bees on vacation to Florida. I guess the life of a honeybee isn’t so bad!
Well Honey Tripper actually premiered at Zeke and Jenny’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been so overwhelmed with pumpkin beers around here lately that I didn’t have an open tap for the ‘tripper till now. You’ve done a pretty good on those pumpkin beers, so now I’ve got an open tank and I’ll be transferring Honey Tripper on Thursday. It will be carbonated and on tap this Friday by 5 pm. I’ll be at the bar enjoying one! See you there.