Tag Archives: science

Blue Bee Cider

16 Dec

Blue Bee Cider

The Farm Table had the opportunity last year to meet Courtney Mailey of Blue Bee Cider, at the 2012 Richmond Earth Day Festival. We’ve enjoyed following the progress of this local business ever since.

Courtney, author of the Cider Apprentice Blog, started blogging about her experiences as an apprentice cidermaker at Albemarle CiderWorks in 2011. Since then, she has started her own urban cidery housed in Richmond’s Old Manchester District.

Courtney Mailey of Blue Bee Cider

This Brite Tank was made in Oregon and shipped to RVA

The Brite Tank was built in Oregon and shipped to RVA

Expelling the juice from the apples

Pressing the apples

I had the pleasure of joining Courtney and her in December during a pressing, and came away from the visit appreciating the making of Blue Bee Cider even more. Courtney’s father, Mel, a sweet and gracious man, who is clearly committed to the success of Blue Bee Cider, gave me a tour and run down on the process of making cider

Blue Bee Cider

Apples just waiting for the magic to happen

Apples just waiting for the magic to happen

Courtney, who was in constant motion during my visit, displayed an impressive combination of dedicated work ethic, good humor, and expertise. Her staff were at ease, and fully engaged in the process of making cider — they all seemed to be having fun, despite a few setbacks when the equipment jammed, or hoses came lose. Courtney, who kept her cool, got everything back on track with a quick sleight of hand.

Courtney Mailey Blue Bee Cider

I lingered a little longer than I intended to — it was satisfying to watch someone in the process of their craft, and Courtney, a true artisan, practices her craft with a relaxed confidence that is exciting to watch.

Courtney, in the process of training staff on identifying the parts of the apple that should be cut out, was giving a tutorial on "stink bugs" and the markings they leave on apples.

Courtney, in the process of training staff on identifying the parts of the apple that should be cut out, was giving a tutorial on the markings left by “stink bugs”.

Courtney with her father, Mel, and staff, tightening a hose that transfers expressed juice into a highly sterile and sealed off bag that is "boxed" for a few weeks before filtering it.

Courtney with her father, Mel, and staff, tightening a hose that pumps extracted juice into a highly sterile and impermeable plastic bag where the juice is “boxed” prior to fermenting it.

Blue Bee Cider

Every part of the apple is used. What's left of the apple goes back to the farmer to feed the goats.

Blue Bee puts every part of the apple to good use. Russell Bell of Ringer Farms shovels what’s left of the apple into a trailer, which goes back to the farm to feed the goats.

The name, Blue Bee Cider came from Courtney’s appreciation for the Blue Orchard Bee, native to Virginia. Blue Orchard Bees are not very social, and do not make honey, but are extremely efficient pollinators of apple blossoms.  Courtney, who noted how hardworking and solitary this type of bee was, decided to brand her budding business after them.

Courtney, whose work is not solitary, but certainly determined, is bottling up her sense of good humor, and the delicious bounty of Virginia for the rest of us to enjoy.

We can certainly raise a glass to that!


Courtney and her staff  have planted an urban orchard outside her urban cidery, with hopes that it may produce fruit for a future batch of cider.

You can follow Blue Bee Cider on Facebook and Twitter, where Courtney has chronicled the process of opening her cidery. She and her staff have started pressing, and selling the raw juice at her tasting room at 212 W. 6th Street, behind Scoot Richmond. The first two hard ciders will be available in the Spring of 2013, and a third in the Fall of 2013.

We hope to see you there this spring when Blue Bee Cider opens for hard cider tastings and tours.

The Apple Draws the Earth

5 Sep

School is back in session.

Virginia’s 2012 Fall Harvest Festivals are scheduled.

With the addition of apples in your Farm Table box this week, there is so much potential for creating a fall-inspired dish that will make you eager for a sunny and crisp autumn day.

In honor of our “Back-To-School Garden Box“, we put together a collection of our favorite links directing you to creative apple recipes that even Sir Isaac Newton would appreciate:

We’ve also heard “the buzz” about a new apple cidery opening in Richmond this Fall, and look forward to sharing more about how you can also “drink local” in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

For The Love Of Bees

26 May

The food we eat contains more than the labor it takes for the farmer to grow it, the packers to pack it, and The Farm Table staff to deliver it. The other workers involved are the unsung heroes…the bees.

We started thinking about the bees this past winter, particularly given the wild swings in temperature we had from warm to cold and back again. When the weather is warm several things happen: bees leave the nest to forage for food and the queen bee starts to produce larvae. Swings in temperature may affect the ability of bees to maintain their larvae at the right temperature, and may affect the bee population. Sudden warm spells similar to what we have experienced in VA this year drive bees out to seek food. If there are an adequate amount of flowers in bloom, the bees can do their special job of collecting pollen and nectar.

The problem occurs when the bees go out and there are not enough flowers to feed them. Not having enough to eat, they will consume the winter honey, leaving them with little food. Some Virginia beekeepers have noticed bigger and earlier swarms than is normal, and have actually harvested honey already this year, which they report is very unusual for their areas.

A more potent threat facing the declining bee population, however,  is what scientists are calling Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Scientists suspect that pesticides (neonicotinoid pesticides in particular), parasites, disease, and loss of habitat are a potential cause of CCD. Without enough bees there would be no or little pollination of plants, and agricultural production would plummet, something that the Virginia General Assembly is doing something about in a new grant program geared for beekeepers.

What are some things that you can do at the local level to support the bee population?

First of all, understand that honey bees are gentle and typically don’t sting unless their hive is threatened, or they are provoked. Honey bees are sometimes equated with hornets and wasps, but they are totally different creatures in terms of aggression. This is important to know if you are considering installing your own bee hive, and want to educate your neighbors on the risks. You can always get more information from the Virginia State Beekeepers Association or our local chapter in Richmond, The East Richmond Beekeepers Association .

Other things you can do: support the spread of rooftop bees in Richmond, consider installing a beehive in your backyard (but only after considerately discussing it with your neighbors), or support endeavors to increase your understanding and appreciation of the importance of bees in your community.

We really like what is going on at Mount Vernon High School in Washington State: