Review: Honey Basil Ale, Bison Brewing

Honey Basil Ale
Bison Brewing — Berkeley, CA

  • Style:  Herb Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV:  6.0%
  • Malts:   Not provided
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Specialty Ingredients:  Organic basil and organic honey
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle
  • Price:  $11.70 (six-pack equivalent) at bottle shop.

Description:  "This Bison classic is infused with organic honey for its aroma and a hint of sweetness and fresh organic basil to lend a slight herbal note and basil aftertaste—a perfectly refreshing brew." — Bison Brewing

Random thoughts:   Basil is a great herb with many varieties that add depth and flavor to a wide range of foods from Italian sauces to Thai curries. I don't know how it will taste in beer, but I was eager to give it try.  This is the second of seven beers I'm profiling as part of my series on summer seasonal beers.  

The tasting:  Deep golden orange in color with a white head that dissipated slowly, leaving no lacing on the glass.  Very nice looking!  Aroma of caramel malt, honey, with some light basil.  In flavor, the caramel malts are prominent and the basil makes its presence known stronger than it does in aroma.  It adds a distinctive herbal character.  It has a light malt sweetness and a touch of bitterness in the middle.  The hops don't come through in flavor or aroma, which makes sense, since this beer is showcase for the basil.  However, I didn't notice the honey in flavor, which surprised me.  Honey Basil Ale is medium bodied, lightly carbonated, and finishes with lingering basil.

Rating: 3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it me.  I like how Bison uses basil to add flavor instead of hops.  It provides a unique spiciness.  If you like basil or are looking for something with an unusual twist, give Honey Basil Ale a try.  I expect it would pair especially well with Thai food, which tends to make liberal use of basil.  In the end, while the basil provides a unique flavor, it's more of a novelty to me.

Have you tried Honey Basil Ale or any other Bison Brewing beers?

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  1. Thanks for reviewing the Honey Basil Ale, Sanjay! And glad that you liked it and would drink it again if someone gave it to you.

    Your comment about not detecting the honey in the flavor is one that we hear a lot. An interesting fact to note is that 95% of the sugars in honey are fully fermentable, which means there is almost no residual sugar left from it post-fermentation (esp in this beer since we use a highly attenuative yeast strand). The yeast consumes virtually all the sugar in the honey, leaving behind a slight hint of sweetness that enhances the flavors of the malt, a very subtotal floral aroma from the clover, and a smooth mouthfeel.

    Thanks again for the awesome review!


    The Bison Brewing Team

  2. Ahhhh, that makes sense... I was not aware that honey leaves little residual sugar. I brewed a homebrew with honey last fall and was puzzled why I couldn't taste the honey. Thanks for taking the time to educate!

    BTW, I have a bottle of your Chocolate Stout in my fridge, and look forward to tasting it soon.

  3. I've been wanting to try this one (i grow huge amounts of basil,as well as living near a beekeeper, and want to brew this, and Bison seems to be the standard to strive for) but no beer place around here carries it yet :(

  4. You should brew it yourself. BYO Magazine published the recipe for this earlier this summer. It might be available on their website.


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