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Since 1973, the official state insect of Arkansas has been the honeybee. And with agriculture as the state’s No. 1 industry, bee apiaries and commercial bee production are woven throughout its economic story.
Family-owned Poulos Apiary in Tontitown is part of this story. They are doing their part to expand production of local honey and increase its consumption as they creatively connect with customers.
Nick Poulos is a trained mechanical engineer with experience in oil rigs, so producing honey and building beekeeping boxes seems way off his radar. But from an early age growing up in Northwest Arkansas, Nick learned integrity, character and hard work from his parents. As a trained engineer, he developed excellent problem-solving skills, and working on oil rigs in Pennsylvania taught him the grind of handling long days outside.
But it was the middle school and high school version of Poulos that built in him a determination and a hunger for what came next.
“As a high school kid, I’d find broken things, figure out how to fix them, then sell them for something. So somewhere in my mind is always the question: How could I turn this into a business?”
When the company Nick worked for closed in 2018, he came home to his parents’ land in Tontitown. While trying to figure out what was next, he worked with two hobby hives on the land and asked his dad, “What if we tried this?” He thought it would be cool to expand production, have free honey and maybe sell some.
But, in the Nick Poulos way, it became more extensive than that. Poulos took time to research the beekeeping business and found a mentor he could shadow.
“After unloading hives from trucks, feeding bees, managing bees and checking on bees, I stepped into commercial beekeeping and saw it was a much bigger industry.” Knowing he had a small window of time to figure it out, he bought 600 hives.
In a short amount of time, Poulos and his dad grew a respectable operation. He has learned the industry and perfected the art of quality control in Arkansas honey. Poulos Apiary exchanges about 70,000 pounds of honey annually, and partners with other local commercial beekeepers to fulfill supplies and orders while maintaining a pure quality standard.
One unique relationship dynamic for the apiary is connecting with local breweries. They sell a popular product: bourbon barrel-aged honey. The honey is aged for four months inside a bourbon barrel. The turning and heating process loosens the white oak barrel, and the flavors left behind soak into the honey. The honey is then entirely filtered before bottling to remove the oak specks and produce a one-of-a-kind flavor.
While Fox Trail Distillery in Rogers provided the first barrel, Poulos partners with different breweries in the Northwest Arkansas region to promote multiple businesses and build a partnership between two niche trades. The breweries love it because they get back a honey-glazed barrel they can then use for craft brews. In addition, each signature-designed bottle is hand-signed and numbered as part of a unique collection from the individual barrels.
The bourbon honey makes an excellent glaze for ribs. Another product, the honey-soaked pecans, are perfect when warmed and poured over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Depending on how the flavors are used, the whipped honey from cinnamon, jalapeno, or pumpkin spice lends itself to sweet or savory tastes.
6 large mint leaf sprigs, muddled
1 cup (about 4 large lemons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup water
honey simple syrup
16 ounces strawberries
¼ cup water
Wash and remove green tops from strawberries. In a blender, puree strawberries and 1/4 cup water. Blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a sieve to strain the seeds.
Honey simple syrup:
½ cup honey
½ cup water
Heat in a saucepan until honey is dissolved.
A little extra honey and sugar for serving glass.
Extra mint leaves
In a pitcher, combine the 1/2 cup water, lemon juice, muddled mint leaves, strawberry purée and honey simple syrup. Dip the top of a drinking glass in honey and press in sugar. Serve the drink over ice and garnish with mint leaves and sliced strawberries.
“Most recently there were 3,233 active registered beekeepers in the state with 5,634 active registered apiaries with a total of 48,514 colonies.”
Poulos confirmed there are still significant health benefits to consuming honey made with pollinators from your region. While it doesn’t have to be honey from your town, you want to make sure it comes from an area with the same types of flowers that would grow in your region. In addition, consuming honey rich with regional pollinators helps build your immunity and control seasonal allergies.
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