Meet Sun Hunny, a small-batch blonde ale from Rhinegeist. Brewed with local honey from Queen City Bee, the specialty brew is more than a beer — it’s a community effort that came to be from a stroke of fortuity.
Let’s rewind. Earlier this spring, Civic Garden Center Executive Director Karen Kahle was in the process of emailing Katie Hoover, Rhinegeist’s community engagement manager. Brandon Reynolds — a volunteer at the CGC and owner of business B the Keeper — pitched an idea: a beer made with raw local honey that would benefit the center.
In the moment, Kahle passed along the idea to Hoover. By late May, the beer was being brewed at Rhinegeist’s Spring Grove Avenue manufacturing facility.
“It was just this idea and we were super onboard with it and thought it would be a great opportunity for continued collaboration,” Hoover says. “It felt very organic and something both parties were excited for.”
The brew will be released at the Civic Garden Center June 12, where they’ll tap the first keg of the sudsy concoction. There will also be performances from Indie Rock band Sylmar, as well as local comics, plus grub from food trucks. If you want to catch a buzz, you can also take a tour of the CGC observation hive, which has a glass pane for easy viewing of its inner-workings. Donations toward the center’s beekeeping classes and activities are welcome.
“Our challenge is awareness, even though we’ve been around since 1942,” Kahle says. “Every week people come through our door and say, ‘We had no idea what this place was, what you guys did.’ For us to be able to attach our brand to a brand like Rhinegeist is really special.”
Rhinegeist was buzzing on Sun Hunny’s brew day. Along with Kahle, Kylie Johnson — CGC’s Green Learning Station (GLS) coordinator — did the honors of pouring honey into the inaugural batch. Wearing her own beekeeper suit, Johnson scraped the thick, amber honey out of a large glass jar, a tinge of sweetness filling the air.
She hopes that the beer will help get the word out about the Civic Garden Center and its programs, which include community gardens, hands-on horticulture, environmental education for youth and the GLS, which offers resources that help teach adults and kids alike how to live more sustainably.
“That’s what we’re all about: trying to take our mission and build community through education and environmental stewardship to reach as many people as possible,” Johnson says. “Efforts like this just increases our outreach.”
She adds that the process has been “a dream come true” for their mission of supporting pollinators. The hope is that, through Sun Hunny, they can raise awareness and educate the community about the importance of not only bees but other pollinators as well.
Johnson is a beekeeper herself. She keeps the aforementioned observation beehive and another Langstroth hive on the CGC’s property. Of the latter, she says her bee mentor — the president of the Southwestern Ohio Beekeepers Association, Ray Babcock — claims it is the strongest hive he’s seen in his 15 years of beekeeping.
Some of the honey used in first Sun Hunny batch came from those hives. The bulk, however, is from honey bee company Queen City Bee. Kahle says that other local beekeeping businesses are potentially interested in future batches.
“Being in the environmental world, we’ve found that you can do so much more just working with other partners and collaborating,” Johnson says. “It’s not about one person doing the job and getting the credit — it’s about all of us as a community working together to make something greater.”
In other words, it’s all about having a hive state of mind.
“If we’re really going to make a giant dent in getting people to think more sustainability, you’re going to have to get that upper part of the bell curve — the vast majority,” Reynolds says, adding that through the beer, the avenue to “going green” will be more accessible.
Since Sun Hunny is a small-batch brew, the beer will only be on draft. You can try it at the launch party or, afterward, at Rhinegeist’s Over-the-Rhine location.
“I think finding those organizations in Cincinnati that are such a wonderful asset to our city and not only be able to work alongside them but produce a product together is really special,” Rhinegeist’s Hoover says.
The launch party for Sun Hunny is 6-9 p.m. June 12 at the Civic Garden Center (2715 Reading Road, Avondale). More info: civicgardencenter.org.