A couple from the UK with a passion for exploring the world, and enjoying a drink or two while we’re at it!
We want to share our travel experiences to help you plan your next trip, and let you know the best places to enjoy a cold one when you get there!
Beer tasting and beekeeping might not be two things that you ordinarily put together, but we’ll be the first to tell you that it makes for a pretty interesting day out. Introducing The Hiver Experience!
Hiver is an award-winning UK based brewery that specialises in producing traditional honey beer. The beekeeping is making a little more sense now isn’t it? They have been growing like crazy since forming a few years ago, and with awards from Great Taste, World Beer Challenge, and high praise from celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. Hiver could be a brand that you will be seeing a lot more of in the coming years.
In addition to selling their ‘beeautiful’ (sorry, couldn’t resist…) range of beers, they also offer urban and rural beekeeping experiences so that beer lovers can get up close and personal with a working beehive.
We were invited to visit The Hiver Experience at Albourne Wine Estate in Sussex for an afternoon of rural beekeeping, followed by a tasting session of Hiver’s different varieties of honey beer. If you love good beer like us but feel like doing something a little different, this could be for you!
Hiver was founded in 2013 with the idea of brewing traditional honey beer with sustainable ingredients sourced from British producers. Honey beer has been brewed made in the UK for hundreds of years. Hiver’s goal is to bring this style into the modern age and as far as we’re concerned, they’ve done a great job!
Because bees forage within a short distance of their hive, the taste their honey they varies depending on the plants they obtain their nectar from. At Hiver, different honeys make for different tastes and styles of beer, just like the varieties of grapes in wine or botanicals in gin.
Hiver are also very passionate about giving back to British beekeeping. They sponsor a number of hives including those that they source their honey from and donate 10% of profits to pollinator charities. They also partner with Bee Urban, a volunteer organisation who encourage responsible urban beekeeping.
Hiver is a great all-round brand with a passion for what they do and a sustainable ethos. Their beers are now available nationwide in over 1000 outlets including pubs, bars and supermarkets, and they have big plans over the next few years to expand even further.
The Hiver Experience is ran from two locations, in both an urban and rural setting. The Urban Experience is located at Bee Urban in Kennington Park, just a short tube ride from anywhere in central London.
The Rural Experience is located at the Albourne Wine Estate in Sussex. A boutique vineyard and winery overlooking the South Downs, just 8 miles from Brighton and under 1 hour by train from London (London Bridge to Hassocks).
The urban experience starts from £42.00 per person, and the rural experience from £55.00 per person. Both include a general introduction to Hiver and beekeeping before suiting up to inspect the hives. After the beekeeping, you are taken through a tasting session of Hiver’s range of beers, as well as some food pairings.
Hiver also offer gift vouchers and hampers on top of the standard experiences which differ depending on the urban and rural locations.
For a full list of prices of experiences and Hiver’s full range of products, check out the link here. We have a discount code coming shortly so stay tuned!
The Beekeeping Experience
Time to go beekeeping! We’re going to run you through our day when we visited the rural Hiver Experience.
The vineyard is located in the countryside so you will need to make your way there either by car or taxi. We stayed at The George Hotel in Henfield, a nearby village around a 10 minute drive from the Albourne Estate. We chose to pre-book a taxi so we could both sample all of the beers Hiver had to offer. Keep this in mind especially if you want to try some of Albourne Estate’s English sparkling wine in their bar afterwards!
After a quick introduction running through the plan for the experience, it was time to suit up! Getting into a beekeeping suit isn’t difficult unless you’re a bit clumsy like Joe and manage to get the zips backwards. It’s essentially overalls with a large hood. Just make sure you follow the beekeeper’s instructions and zip everything up where it needs to be. You won’t want any visitors creeping in!
Next up is a short walk through the vineyards of the estate to get to the hives. The scenery around the estate overlooking the South Downs is stunning and it’s a great way to start the experience. The estate run tours on most days so if you want to arrive a little earlier to delve into some English winemaking, we say go for it! Check out the link below for some more information;
Once you arrive at the hives, the beekeeper will give you an introduction to beekeeping, talking through its history & equipment, types of bees, and how they produce their honey.
Now it’s time to open up the hives! For those of you like Joe who has a slight (pretty big!) phobia of bees and wasps, this is probably the time you start to sweat a little bit. Honestly though, don’t worry! The bees have no interest in you and just go about their business, even with the beekeeper moving the hive and pushing them around.
The beekeeper will do a full inspection of the hive, disassembling it section by section to check if everything is healthy and as it should be.
One of the most interesting parts of the experience was passing around one of the frames from the hive for a closer look. Oh, and it was full of thousands of bees….
The Tasting Experience
Once the hive is put back together, it’s time to head back over to the tasting room, untangle yourself from the beekeeping suits, and try some delicious honey beer!
We tried three beers during our tasting, but they weren’t all from Hiver... The first was actually from Hiver’s sister brand Fabal, which is their artisan lager. Fabal’s clean, crisp taste reminded us of our favourite European lagers and pilsners. Definitely one to watch out for and perfect for a hot afternoon cool down in the sun!
Next up was Hiver’s award-winning flagship The Honey Blonde. The beer is made with Urban London, English Blossom and Heather honeys which produces a beer that’s similar in style to a lager, but with much more depth of flavour. Lager, ale and craft lovers would all enjoy sipping on one of these.
The third and final beer we tried was The Honey Ale, one for the traditionalists. A rich, copper coloured beer with a touch of bitterness which will definitely keep the ale drinkers happy. Joe is a big fan of amber ale, so this was right up his street!
Hiver also brew an IPA, which is the newest addition to their line-up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available during our tasting, so we weren’t able to give it a try. But it is still available via their website so it would definitely be worth a try given the quality of the rest of the range!
To round off the tasting, the hostess will bring around samples of the different honeys used to brew hiver. We aren’t big lovers of honey on its own, but it’s surprising to try some different types and realise just how much variation there is. If you’re into your cooking and like incorporating some honey into your recipes, you'll really enjoy this part of the experience.
If you enjoyed any of the beers you tried during the day, they are all on sale afterwards so you can take some of the experience home with you.
After the experience is over, you can head over to Albourne Estate’s boutique bar to try some of their award-winning sparkling wine, with stunning views over the vineyard and surrounding countryside. Just keep an eye on the time, as the bar had shut by the time we had finished!
The Hiver Experience is a really enjoyable and unique day out that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. They are a great modern brand with a clear passion for what they do and the charitable causes they support, plus they make great quality beer!
The beekeeping experience is really interesting, and we would recommend anyone who has never tried it before to have a go. Who knows, it might help cure that crippling fear you get when one flies by, while you’re sipping on an ice-cold honey beer next summer!
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