Restaurant, distillery to use honey from GW bees

by Leah Potter | Hatchet Reporter

Media Credit: Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer
Gabrielle Discafani, a senior, keeps bees atop Lisner Hall. Farmers and Distillers, which opens next week, uses GW Buzz's honey in select drinks on the menu.

Updated: Dec. 10, 2016 at 1:00 p.m.

If you visit Farmers and Distillers, a new restaurant by Farmers Restaurant Group that opens next week, and order a cocktail, you may be sipping on honey from GW’s bees.

Farmers Restaurant Group is the company behind local restaurants Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers. The newest restaurant – opening Dec. 13 at 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW – will serve “farm-to-table” food like the group’s other restaurants, but Farmers and Distillers is the first of the restaurants to craft their own vodka and amaro on site.

In addition to house-made spirits in their cocktails, select drinks and menu items will be sweetened with honey produced by GW Buzz.

GW Buzz is the undergraduate honey bee research and beekeeping group at GW. The group has a laboratory within the biology department and an apiary – which houses beehives – on the roof of Lisner Hall. Students who are involved with GW Buzz spend their days researching "colony collapse disorder," a largely unresearched problem affecting honeybees, and harvesting honey that is distributed to Farmers Restaurant Group locations.

Spicy lemonade is one of the new beverages at Farmers and Distillers that will feature honey from GW Buzz. The refreshing drink will incorporate grapefruit, lemon, turmeric, cayenne pepper and, of course, fresh honey, according to the restaurant group's website.

Valerie Zweig, a spokeswoman for Farmers Restaurant Group, said the relationship between Farmers Restaurant Group and GW Buzz benefits both groups because GW Buzz gets the materials they need and Farmers Restaurant Group is provided with fresh, local honey.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Zweig said. “We love the connection within the community and really love how the bees have inspired us through everything.”

Hartmut Doebel, an assistant professor of biology and the head of GW Buzz, said that in the past, the small apiary atop Lisner Hall has provided Farmers Restaurant Group with about 200 to 600 pounds of honey per year.

The partnership between GW Buzz and Farmers restaurant group began in 2010 when Dan Simons, the owner of Farmers Restaurant Group and an alumnus, reached out to the University after hearing about Doebel’s efforts to create a beekeeping program, Doebel said.

“We have really a wonderful relationship that supports the idea of undergraduate research," Doebel said. "The alumnus owner of Founding Farmers, Dan Simons, in a way gives back to GW by supporting us, and we will certainly give back with honey.”

In addition to providing GW Buzz with all of the materials they need to produce honey, Farmers Restaurant Group’s management firm, Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, provides GW Buzz with two summer stipends for the undergraduate beekeepers as compensation, Doebel said.

Doebel said that despite the large amount of honey they produce, the group can’t provide the amount required by each of the establishments.

“Six hundred or 700 pounds of honey sounds like a lot to you and me, but it’s nothing for restaurants,” Doebel said.

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