Bikes, Bees and Beverages
Fairmont Palliser's BeeMW Bee Hive Tour & Taste takes you to the source of the sweet stuff before treating you to a few ways honey makes it onto the the hotel menu, including charcuterie and honey-infused chardonnay.
Apiaries and Bees for Communities (ABC Bees), founded by Eliese Watson, is teaching Calgarians to be better bee friends. The experienced beekeeper teaches classes to wannabe beekeepers, but that’s just a small part of her group’s mandate. To Eliese, the beehive is emblematic of how a community should work together, and she hopes that engaging with ABC Bees will inspire people to think together about how we interact with and impact our environments, to consider how things are connected.
One of ABC Bees’ initiatives is the Bees4Communities program. Ten local businesses partnered with ABC to sponsor urban beehives in Calgary. The businesses own its own hives, and get to use all the honey that its bees produce. The hives are also used as part of ABC many educational programs and partnerships. Owners share in the honey, contribute to educational opportunities that engage interested members of the public, and showcase honeybee products.
The Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, already a well-known destination for human accommodations, decided to branch out into the bee hotel business three years ago. As part of Fairmont’s Bee Sustainable program (which has seen beehives placed at over 20 of its properties around the world), the Palliser teamed up with ABC Bees to build two sweet new properties: the Bees N’ Honey Hotel and Miss Bee Haven (they’ve since added a third hive).
The honey that comes from the Palliser’s hives makes its way into all kinds of tasty cocktails and treats that you can enjoy at the hotel, but of course, since it’s in partnership with ABC Bees, there’s an educational component as well. With help from BMW Gallery and Calgary BMW (get it? Bee-M-W?), who supplied bikes and an actual BMW car, the Palliser’s executive chef Craig Nazareth took guests on a two-part tour and taste experience through the summer. Tours are on hold for now to work around the bees' honey-making schedule.
Weather (and wardrobe) dependent, you and a small group will ride on the BMW bikes (or in the car) to the private property where the Palliser’s beehives are located. Here, you learn a bit about the hives, and don your beekeeper’s suit. Nazareth prepares the smoker to calm the bees.
When everyone is ready, it’s time to open up the hive. Tours are staggered to minimize disruption to the bees.
The bees become more active when the lid of the hive is removed, but the smoke helps to keep them calm. The beekeeper’s suits (donated by SwizzleStix) keep stingers at bay, but the bees are quite docile. You can gently brush them away from you, and they lazily fly off, back to the hive.
Nazareth lifts out one of the frames so guests can get a closer look at the comb and bees.
He then shows guests how to harvest a small quantity of honey, before replacing the frame in the hive.
The hive visit wraps up on the bee’s schedule. Weather dependent, the bees may be more or less active. Nazareth watches for signs of agitation or stress in the bees and when they look like they’d like to be left alone to get back to work, the hive lid is quickly replaced.
Part two of the tour (the delicious part!) takes place back at the Fairmont Palliser where you get to taste a few ways the honey from the hives is used at the hotel. First on the menu is a honey and lavender cocktail. Light and refreshing, the sweetness of honey and a lavender simple syrup balances nicely with lavender bitters, gin, and champagne.
Next, enjoy a selection of charcuterie from Valbella Meats, cheeses from Springbank Cheese, dried fruits, some truly delectable house-made honey cakes with crème fraiche and, of course, honey from the Palliser hives. Go ahead. Dab a little on every bite. Yes, of everything.
Finish your tasting with another unique creation, a honey-infused chardonnay. Don’t forget to raise your glass and toast the bees!.
The Palliser’s BeeMW Bee Hive Tour & Taste excursions are on hold so as to not disrupt the honey-making season. Depending on the schedule of the bees, tours could resume this fall and watch for them to start up again in the spring of 2016.
When tours resume, contact executive chef Craig Nazareth at the Fairmont Palliser to reserve a spot. Tours cost $85 per adult, $50 for children, or book with friends as a group of 4 for $300.
ABC Bees also conducts Home 2 Hive Bicycle Tours with other Bees4Communities partners, and honey from urban hives is served and sold at Bees4Communities partner restaurants including Una Pizza + Wine and Ox and Angela.