Sweet New Hotel Trend: On-Site Beehives And Honey Programs

honey Going local, consuming natural products and being kind to the environment is becoming more important to people as they try to lead healthier lives. Luckily, many hotels are recognizing this, and trying to bring this philosophy to guests. It’s for this reason I find myself on the 20th floor rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria New York, wearing a beekeeper’s suit mere centimeters from 360,000 active hives.

“You probably won’t get stung,” assures Andrew Cote, the hotel’s resident beekeeper as well as an advisor for the bee initiative and leader in the NYC movement, who isn’t wearing any protective clothing. “If you do, though, know the poison from a bee sting is very good for you. Some people pay hundreds of dollars to have stingers placed into their skin.”

Not only is their poison good, but so is their honey. The roof has six hives in total. They look like small dressers, containing different compartments and drawers. Andrew sprays the hives with burlap as the smoke calms the bees, which tend to more aggressive in the fall when their hives are dying. One by one, we pull out wooden frames containing honeycombs. They’re tasty works of art, as the different honey varieties, wax and eggs form colorful patterns and designs. To keep the eggs out of the top frame where the pure honey is extracted, a “Queen Excluder” screen with tiny holes is used to keep the queen bee out. The result is pure honey produced from local wildflowers.So, why are the bee hives beneficial?

“It is great for the environment. Bees help pollinate flowers, trees and all kinds of flowering plants helping to further the greenery in NYC and purify the air we breathe,” explains Chef Garcelon of the Waldorf Astoria New York, who is very involved in the program. “… Best of all, it provides great quality honey that we can use in soups, salad dressings, savory dishes, pastries, baked goods and cocktails. In addition we can highlight the source of the honey on our menus and tell the story to our array of guests from around the world.”

beesThe Waldorf-Astoria isn’t the only hotel jumping on this sweet new trend. Hotels all over the United States are employing professional beekeepers to maintain onsite hives and work the delicious product into their dining and amenity programs.

At the Fairmont San Francisco, honey beehives are installed in the hotel’s culinary garden. About 800 pounds of honey is harvested, which is used to make dishes more organic and sustainable. For example, the honey is used in soups, salad dressings, pastries and as an accompaniment to their afternoon tea service. Most recently, the honey has also been used to create a “Fairmont San Francisco Honey Saison,” a handcrafted Belgian beer that infuses the pure honey from the rooftop.

“We were already using the honey in various dishes and our afternoon tea at the hotel, but wanted to offer guests something even more unique,” explains the hotel’s Executive Chef, JW Foster. “… We partnered with the local Almanac Beer Co, which shares a passion for the environment and makes a great product.”

According to the hotel, guests love it. In fact, it is their number one selling beer on draft.

Additionally, the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in Denver, Colorado, implements a “Royal Bee Initiative” into their hotel programming. Originally a small honey program, it was expanded in order to enhance the food and beverage program, grow the spa menu and educate people about how bees are in peril and how we can help.

The luxury hotel uses their on-site bee colony to offer a number of innovative experiences to guests in terms of food, beverage and relaxation. In terms of drinks, the Brown Palace works with local breweries and distilleries to offer a “Brown Palace Rooftop Honey Saison,” honey-infused bourbon and signature cocktails like the “Brown Palace Bees’ Knees” and the “Honey Brut.” During their high tea, honey is used to sweeten guests’ teas and scones.

spa Their spa also incorporates the pure rooftop honey into treatments and products. The “Queen Bee Body Scrub” combines organic brown sugar and in-house honey to exfoliate, hydrate and balance the skin’s pH levels. Furthermore, “Bee Royalty Signature Products” like lip balms and soaps make for artisanal gifts, and a portion of the proceeds generated go toward helping the Denver Beekeeper Association.

“There are a total of four bee hives, with more than 200,000 bees,” explains the hotel’s resident beekeeper Matt Kentner. “It would be great to continue with the work we’ve been doing – we’d love to continue to grow our hives; but most importantly, we want to continue to educate the public on the importance of bees, and how we couldn’t live without them.”

Some other U.S. hotels with on-site bee hives and honey programs include The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton, The Royal Sonesta Hotel Harbor Court, Baltimore and Ohio’s Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, among others. And, as the trend continues to catch on, more and more hotels are continuing to adopt beekeeping programs.

honey drink Festivals

Along with staying at select hotels, travelers can experience the honey trend by attending honey-focused festivals. From September 29 to 30, the Arizona Honey Fest will debut at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Arizona. The event will focus on the health and culinary benefits of the product, as well as the history. Cooking with honey demonstrations, honey spa treatments, beekeeper demonstrations, a Gala Honey Dinner, honey-infused cocktails and an outdoor marketplace will be featured.

Also coming up on September 29 and 30 is the annual Honey Harvest Festival in Cockeysville, Maryland. Beeswax candle making, a honey basket raffle, honey wine making and hive demonstrations are all part of the weekend lineup.

Each fall, New York City holds their annual Honey Festival. Honey-themed events are put on throughout the five boroughs, like honey tastings, honey-themed menus and drinks, city beehive tours, film screenings and speakers.

What do you think of the beehive hotel trend?

[Images via Shutterstock]

Five Things You Can Do On Earth Day To Save Natural Resources

earthEarth Day is upon us, and even if you’re not planning to celebrate our planet’s making it through another year (what global warming?), there are still some simple measures you can take to show your gratitude. Love your Mother, you know?

Whether you’re on the road or at home, the following are smart rules to implement every day of the year:

  • Do laundry at night, after peak electricity usage hours and only wash full loads.
  • Use a travel mug when you purchase your morning coffee and carry a reusble water bottle.
  • Stash reusable shopping bags in your car, purse or backpack and desk.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing dishes or shaving.
  • Switch to e-tickets, e-pay, and other paperless forms of commerce; add your name to no junk mail and catalog lists.

[Photo credit: Flickr user kevin dooley]

How to Save Water and Save Money

Gadlinks for Wednesday 10.21.09

Hump day is upon us, and for today I have some pretty fresh, eco-friendly/Asia-themed travel reads for you. Snuggle up with your laptop and enjoy!

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.

Win a 5-night package at Chaa Creek luxury eco-resort in Belize

Chaa Creek, an eco-resort in the jungle of Belize, is giving away a 5-night stay for two to the winner of their Nature Quest Sweepstakes. To enter, you’ll need to write a 300-word essay on why you want to visit the lodge, and answer a series of questions about the property (the answers to which can all be found on the website). If you score 85% or above, you’ll be eligible to win the 5-night Inland Expedition package.

There are four additional prizes as well, which include a 5-night Inland Expedition package for one, or 50%, 40% and 30% discounts on 5-night Inland Expedition packages for two. The packages include round-trip transfers to the lodge from Belize City, a trip to the Belize zoo, all meals, and several tours and activities including bird-watching, canoeing, a trip to a butterfly farm and more.

The resort is set on a 365-acre nature reserve, has been operating since 1981, and has won numerous awards for its quality service and commitment to the environment. The 5-night Inland Expedition packages normally cost $1625 per person. Entries for the contest are due by October 30.

Great Lakes Brewing: Saving the planet one beer at a time

At a recent farm dinner I attended, a multi-course meal of farm-fresh, organic ingredients was paired with beers from Great Lakes Brewing. As we dined and drank, we were treated to an informal lesson on brewing from owner Pat Conway, who also gave us the lowdown on the many greet initiatives that Great Lakes has undertaken in an effort to be environmentally responsible while producing top-notch beer. It’s a philosophy that the company calls a “triple bottom line” – a mission to run an environmentally and socially responsible business while still turning a profit – and it seems to be paying off.

The Cleveland, Ohio, brewery opened in 1988 as the state’s first micro-brewery and has been growing, and racking up awards, ever since. The Dortmunder Gold, one of the brewery’s first beers, was originally called the Heisman. After it won a gold medal in the Dortmunder category at the Great American Beer Festival in 1990, the New York Athletic Club noticed that the Heisman name was be used and requested it be changed. Other beers are more fancifully named and reflect the brewery’s location in the Great Lakes Region. There’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, honoring the boat that famously sank in Lake Superior; Eliot Ness, named for the man rumored to be responsible for the bullet holes in the brewery’s bar; and Burning River, a nod to the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969.

But what makes these beers so special, aside from the quirky names and indisputable quality (each has won numerous Gold Medals at competitions around the world), is that they are produced using so many green and sustainable methods. The owners, brothers Pat and Daniel Conway, say they take a full-circle approach to reduce waste and make the company more efficient. This approach has filtered down to all levels of staff, and dictates the methods used in all aspects of the business.

The brewery’s delivery truck and shuttle bus run on recycled restaurant vegetable oil, and they require that the trucks used by their distributors do the same. All cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and brewer’s barley is recycled. Newsletters, napkins, and menus are printed on recycled paper, all beer packaging is done with unbleached “eco-carton” and Pat says they even go so far as to re-use the blank sides of printer paper for internal documents. The brewery cooler features skylights and sensors to reduce electricity used for lighting, and the cooling system brings in cold air from outside in the winter to reduce the amount of energy required to keep the temperature constant.

Great Lakes works with local organic farmers to serve only the freshest food in their restaurant. Currently, 60% of their food supply comes from local and organic sources, though Pat says they are striving for 100%. They recently contracted with an Amish farmer who will provide the kitchen with meat from animals that graze on the brewery’s own barley waste. Spent grain goes to a baker who makes pretzels and beer-bread served at the restaurant, and another local farm uses brewery grains to fertilize the organic mushrooms they grow and then sell back to Great Lakes for use in entrees. Other organic waste is fed to worms. In a process called vermicomposting, the worms turn the waste into fertilizer, which is used to grow herbs in the brewery’s garden. Even the low-fill beers (beers that aren’t quite filled to the top by the bottling machinery) are saved and used for sauces, salad dressings, and soups. The low-filled Edmund Fitzgerald Porter bottles are used by a local ice cream shop to make chocolate chunk ice cream.

The brewery’s outdoor beer garden is also eco-friendly. Rather than let the space go to waste during Cleveland’s bitterly-cold winters, the Conway brothers decided to cover it with a retractable canvas roofing, packed straw bales into the walls for insulation, and added a fireplace to warm the space. They were using wood logs for the fire, until one employee had a bright idea. Instead of composting the spent cinnamon sticks used to make the Christmas Ale, why not compress them into logs to fuel the beer garden fireplace? The result of all these features is that, even on the coldest days of winter, it costs just $8 per day to heat the beer garden.

The result of all these sustainable efforts is staggering. Great Lakes Brewing, a $25 million business, has zero waste bills. Pat says he looks at waste removal as “waste opportunity” and is always searching for new ways to make the business green, and keep it growing. But the brothers aren’t just pocketing all that profit. The company also contributes to the community. Every year they participate in the Great Lakes Burning River Festival, which raises awareness and funds for environmental cleanup in the Great Lakes Region. An environmentally responsible company that gives back to the community and makes delicious craft beer – I think we can all cheers to that.

If you can make it out the Cleveland brewery, in addition to dining in the brewpub or enjoying drinks in the beer garden, you can take a guided tour of the brewery facilities, attend “beer school” to learn all about the brewing process, or enjoy a multi-course Brewmaster’s dinner paired with beer. You can also find Great Lakes beers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.