Claiming a three-peat is no easy feat, but Rogue Ales and Spirits’ Honey Kolsch has done it, taking Best of Show honors at the 2020 Honey Beer Competition. This marks the beer’s return to the Gold Medal podium, with the beer “dedicated to bees” also taking the win in the first two years of the Honey Beer Competition.
Something keeps bringing the judges back to this Kolsch, and we spoke with Jack Waibel, VP of production at the Newport, Ore.-based brewery, about what makes Honey Kolsch so special.
What do you think is the driving force behind why the judges keep gravitating toward this beer?
Balance. Honey is a distinct, but delicate flavor. Honey Kolsch manages to blend the subtle complexity of honey with the clean maltiness of a Kolsch style beer. The honey lightens the body and adds a light sweetness that balances nicely with the slight bitterness of the Crystal hops.
What’s the origin story behind Honey Kolsch? How did it come to be, and how did you decide on wildflower honey as the varietal of choice?
First released in 2013, Honey Kolsch was a continuation of our experimentation with honey after making a mead and a braggot. The wildflower honey we chose has just the right combination of fresh and floral characteristics that we wanted for this beer. In addition to the pumpkins, cucumbers, marionberries and peppers that we have grown at Rogue Farms, there is also a line of wildflowers that lines the road to the Chatoe Tasting Room.
Can you take us through how you use honey in this beer? Where do you add it and what’s the role you want honey to play in the beer?
We use honey on the hot side of the brew, pre-fermentation. It is intended to both lightly sweeten the beer and balance with the hops, as well as slightly dry the beer, adding to its refreshing quality. The mild dryness brings you back for another sip.
When you take a sip of Honey Kolsch, what’s your favorite thing about the beer?
As you start to take a sip you get the aroma of honey mixed with the biscuit and cracker notes of the malt. It's both refreshing and indulgent.
What’s the favorite thing customers say about the beer?
We love that this is an enduring fan favorite for our customers. We moved the product from a limited-time release to year round; it was one of the first beers we put in a can; we have updated and developed the artwork multiple times — we love that we have had the opportunity to share this beer with our fans for so many years and that over the years, it still continues to be a fan favorite.
Your site says that Honey Kolsch is a liquid ode to the bees in your Revolution Garden. Can you talk about your love of bees and how they aid in making Honey Kolsch the awesome beer it is?
Our hives have only been able to produce a portion of the honey used in Honey Kolsch, but we love keeping bees because they are a necessary partner in keeping our garden and crops healthy and a reminder that so many elements of our beer are interconnected and interdependent.
In five words, how would you describe the beer?
Award-winning beer dedicated to bees.
For more information on the Best of Show, visit http://honeybeercompetition.com/.