Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Beekeeper's Day Off: Road Trip to Alvinston, Ontario

Yes, a beekeeper's day off!

It was time for a road trip.  Now this trip just so happened to head south down to Alvinston.  Our bee club was booked to have a tour of a large beekeeping plant at Munro Honey, a family based business.

Here's photos and descriptions from our tour.  If you're a small time beekeeper this can certainly get your saliva running.  Just think of it as something to aspire to :)

Let's start with the Mead, honey wine.  Munro honey makes award winning wines that they ship all over the world.  They said they can't ship to the USA but they can ship overseas.

They make flavoured honeys and I couldn't resist a jar of Raspberry and Jalapeno pepper honey.  It was an amazing taste experience.

Of course we did wine sampling and I bought my favourites (I prefer sweet wines to dry) Blackcurrant, Sweet Wine, Raspberry Melomel and an incredible Aged Mead that tastes like a liquor.  Amazing.

What is not pictured is the loading dock where the trucks can back right in, nor the large hot room where the deeps are put prior to extraction.  The hot room warms the honey up so it flows out of the combs better.

This is the stainless steel custom built uncapper and extractor.

The deep is first set on the flat bit of metal.  Then a foot operated hydraulic lift raises the deep up and lifts the frames so that they're hooked on a carrier.  (You should have heard the groans of envy when he demonstrated the lift).

There's knives that cut the caps off the frames and then they travel to the extractor.

This giant extractor, with the curved lid up while it's open, can hold 120 frames of honey.  It spins the honey at 200 revolutions per minute--that's fast.

They run it for twenty minutes.

They only use frames with plastic foundation.  If the frames were wax foundation they'd fall apart in the spinning process.

Here's a another photo of the equipment at the starting point but taken from the other side.

They said they take the equipment apart in winter and put it all back together.  They clean it and replace worn parts.  They can't afford any down time in the honey season due to broken equipment.

The upright rectangular box attached to the left holds hot water where the knives are stored.
This is the cold room.  It's a giant refrigerator.

As you can see it's stacked from top to bottom with silver painted honey supers.

The cold temperature halts the spread of wax moths and keeps them from being a problem.

The room can't be set to freeze though which is what the owners wish they had now.

With small hive beetles on Canada's doorstep, a huge frozen room would be perfect to store frames and to kill beetles.
This is a honey meter which weighs the honey as it's poured into a jar.

This way each jar is filled identically.

It was interesting to note that with a plant this large they still fill their jars one at a time.  But one does have to have something left for the Christmas wish list :)

Munro Honey runs about 3,000 hives.  In addition to honey they sell comb honey, wax, mite resistant Buckfast queens and nucs as well as beekeeping supplies.

This guy, Dad, is our Marketing Manager, but in this photo he's shopping in Munro Honey's gift store.

He couldn't resist a jar of cinnamon and butter honey.

I couldn't resist a painted wall hanging that said:

"Buzzed on Local Honey"

Their gift shop is well stocked with tasteful items, most of them bee related.


These are large vats that hold the honey wine, called Mead.

Now for a short history, mead is considered to be the oldest alcoholic beverage.

To quote Wikepedia:  "Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, although archaeological evidence of it is ambiguous  Its origins are lost in prehistory. "It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks," Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat has observed, "antedating the cultivation of the soil."



This is a super large melting tank.

The wax is poured out into the plastic bucket which makes nice large bricks.

The bricks can then be nicely stacked on a flat.

Or used as a table to set your lunch on.

See more below...









This equipment is used when making special honeys such as the flavoured honeys I mentioned previously.




When the honey is extracted it's piped across the ceiling and run through this machine.

The honey and any bits of wax are spun at a high speed.

The honey is heavier than the wax and floats to the outside.

The wax stays in the center and knives inside the machine cut it to keep the wax at the same size.

The cuttings of wax fall down to the floor where they are collected.

Then the clean honey is piped to the next room.



This is a large heated tank where the honey is stored. 

The honey can sit to bubble out for a few days.

Then it goes into this large heated tank and from there it can be piped to any number of machines or bottlers by turning a valve.

Sweet!

Next we looked at a heated tank that holds a few gallons of honey ...

well maybe more than a few gallons.

This is a micron filter.

Our tour guide told us that it filters out any debris but it doesn't remove pollen.

Which is great because you don't want pollen removed from honey.
This is a label machine.

We didn't see it in action but I can guess it does a pretty nice job.






The day would not be complete without seeing the huge refrigerated tank used to make creamed honey.

I must say their creamed honey was very smooth.

Thanks to Munro Honey, run by the Bryans family for taking time out to give us a tour.  They're great to deal with over the phone and even nicer in person.

So, are you surprised I spent my day off at a honey plant?

Honestly, it really was a beekeeper's day off.

I didn't see a single bee the whole day.
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