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Sourcing the Best Honey Possible

Whether you’re making mead, cyser, or even honey beer, identifying high-quality honey is a challenge. James Naeger, director of sales and special projects at Schramm’s Mead in Ferndale, Michigan, offers some insight into the problems involved and how to overcome them.

James Naeger Jun 5, 2023 - 14 min read

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Photo: Allyson Schramm Naeger/Courtesy Schramm’s Mead

Honey has always been a key ingredient in alcoholic drinks. Sadly, however, the industrialization of beekeeping and honey production have turned this once-revered substance into a commodity.

Honeybees as livestock are trucked around the country to pollinate food crops on a massive scale—indeed, our entire modern food system relies heavily on migratory beekeeping. For example: Most commercial beekeepers put most of their hives on flatbed trucks and send them to California each year to pollinate almonds. Almond nectar, however, is almost entirely devoid of nutrients for bees, and they must be fed commercial sugar solutions and nutrients to keep them alive in the almond groves, which are grown in monoculture for miles around. In fact, if other nectar sources are available in an almond grove, the bees will ignore the almond flowers altogether. What little honey the bees produce in the almond groves is dark and tends to be bitter; farmers remove it from the hives and sell it off before trucking the hives back to their home locations.

Without this revenue, the business model of almost every U.S. commercial beekeeper would be in the red. Thus, honey production often plays second-fiddle to the pollination for which the beekeepers (and their bees) are hired.

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Director of Sales and Special Projects at Schramm's Mead