Root Beer Honey

In fall 2019 our bees at the Cotton Factory gave us a bit of a surprise! When we were checking on the bees late in September, we were puzzled when we saw the bees were producing a dark honey. There are very few plants in Ontario that produce a dark honey, and it was too late in the season for Knotweed or Buckwheat to be blooming (especially near Barton and Sherman in Hamilton!). Our first clue was when we dipped our fingers in to have a taste of the dark nectar in the combs. Two words sprang immediately to mind to describe the flavour: Root Beer!

While honey is usually made from nectar that bees collect from flowers, bees can process just about any liquid sugar the same way that they would honey. Normally they don’t, since their preference is always to get their food from flowers if they’re available, but circumstances last fall were far from normal. There was an exceptionally late spell of warm weather at the end of September until mid-October. While bees and humans alike were enjoying this unseasonable warm weather, the flowers were taking their cue from the decreasing day lengths and had pretty much quit blooming for the year. We had strong active beehives, and not much for them to forage on, so they ending up finding some root beer and cola concentrates that they collected and turned into honey. This has happened before, notably with the case of an M&M’s factory in France, and a machismo cherry factory in New Jersey.

While it tasted delicious, we wanted to make sure that what we had was safe to eat, so we sent samples off to the Animal Food Lab at the University of Guelph. As far as they were concerned it was honey! We also sent a control sample of our regular summer honey from the Cotton Factory bees as a comparison (and since we were curious whether there was anything undesirable in honey from an industrial area). Both honeys came through with a clean bill of health, with levels of metals well below the recommended thresholds.

Satisfied that our Root Beer honey was both delicious and safe to eat, we’re offering it for sale in a special limited edition package! Click on the pictures below: