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Rooftop Beekeeping at Fairmont Hotels

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Rooftop Beekeeping at Fairmont Hotels

Think of it as a hotel within a hotel.

On more than 20 Fairmont hotel rooftops, beekeepers dote year-round on apiaries and bee hotels. A queen and her honeybee minions populate the hives, while pollinators, wild mason bees, take refuge in bee hotels, structures stuffed with natural materials riddled with small holes to mimic the nooks and crannies they love.

While honeybees primarily collect pollen from flowers and trees in a several-mile radius and turn that pollen into honey, mason bees play a different role: they are more effective pollinators than honey bees, fertilizing blooms to enable plants to produce fruit or seeds. The health of pollinators, which can also include birds, bees, bats, beetles and butterflies, correlates directly to the output of fruits and vegetables. More pollinators = more food for us.

Beekeeping is just one part – but a most engaging and tangible part – of Fairmont’s sustainable practices, which focus on the reduction of energy use, water and waste and improved environmental health at the individual property and community level. Guests directly benefit from rooftop beekeeping in a number of interesting ways.

The Bee Hotel - Rooftop Beekeeping at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
The Bee Hotel, photo courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

Fairmont Washington D.C.

At the Fairmont Washington D.C., approximately 105,000 Italian honeybees and Blue Orchard mason bees populate four hives and the bee hotel, producing about 150 pounds of honey each year. While this seems like an awful lot, all production is used within the hotel, baked into their specialty Honey Walnut bread or incorporated into savoury dishes, desserts, salad dressings and cocktails, like their signature BeeTini (see recipe below).

In the late summer/early fall, local D.C. beekeepers are invited into the Fairmont’s commercial kitchens for a honey ‘Bee,’ a communal honey harvest. Each keeper brings their own frames laden with honeycomb. The honeycomb is sliced off the frames and spun in an extractor, then the honey is strained for impurities and bottled. Any excess honeycomb is frozen in its frames, which can be defrosted and processed at a later time.

According to the National Honey Board, honey has much in common with wine: Its flavour and aroma is dependent on where the flowers have been grown.  With more than 300 varietals across the United States, including clover, blueberry, pumpkin and wildflower, each hive is a function of terroir – what’s in the local soils and climactic fluctuations in the region, neighborhood and individual gardens. As the Fairmont hives are located in a semi-residential area, the bees forage in backyard gardens and nearby Rock Creek Park. According to resident beekeeper Elizabeth Teuwen, the flavour/aroma of the honey can include mint, magnolias and assorted floral notes, but it will vary year to year and even within different parts of a single hive.

Hive tours are available to hotel guests by request, but are dependent upon the weather (not too hot, not too cold) and the availability of a beekeeper.

Rooftop Beeking at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
Honey Walnut bread with warm honey butter & black salt Photo courtesy of Fairmont Washington D.C.

Fairmont San Francisco

Across the country at the Fairmont San Francisco, climate and micro-climates produce a wealth of flavours across the region: blackberry, eucalyptus, lavender, pumpkin, mixed sage, mixed flower and orange blossom. Spencer Marshall, of Marshall’s Farm, is the Fairmont’s beekeeper and local apiary guru. Four hives of 200,000 bees and a bee hotel were established in 2010. But the number of resident bees are estimated to be as high as 250,000 and production ranges from 600 to 1,000 pounds a year.

In the beginning, the bees foraged heavily from the herbs, mixed flowers and lavender in the onsite chef’s garden. As more rooftop gardens and micro-gardens sprang up around the neighborhood, the bees moved farther afield and into Huntington Park, returning with other local flavors, especially eucalyptus and mixed flowers.

With generous production came a bounty of honey-based products and experiences. The Fairmont San Francisco works with a local brewer to produce a honey pale ale which is only available on tap in house. The honey is a feature of Afternoon Tea at Laurel Court, featured in honey-centered tasting menus, integrated into desserts including creme brûlée, and baked into madeleines, meringues and chocolate, as in-room amenities. Large and small jars of honey are available for purchase in Caffe Cento.

Honey-related in-house events include tastings, cooking demos, chef events and seasonal dinners for public and private groups.

Hive tours are available to hotel guests by request, but are subject to the availability of a beekeeper. They may also be arranged for corporate meetings, community groups and interested partners.

Beekeeper at Fairmont San Francisco - Rooftop Beekeeping at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
Beekeeper Spencer Marshall at work Photo courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

Fairmont’s Signature BeeTini

1 part tequila

1 part vodka

Honey syrup (to taste)

Fresh lemon juice (to taste)

Blend and strain; serve in a chilled martini glass with a garnish of honeycomb

BeeTini - Rooftop Beekeeping at the Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
Recipe and photo courtesy of the Fairmont Washington D.C.

Our Luxury Hotel Consultants Recommend

The Fairmont San Francisco is a national landmark that has been surprising and satisfying guests for over a hundred years. The hotel artfully combines the history, décor and opulent design of a turn-of-the-century property, with modern technology and upscale amenities. Perched atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont San Francisco provides an elegant escape and the perfect platform from which to discover this vibrant city.

Fairmont San Francisco - Rooftop Beeking at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
Fairmont Copley Plaza - Rooftop Beeking at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels

Since its opening in 1912, The Fairmont Copley Plaza has maintained its status as one of Boston’s most elegant hotels. The stately lobby with 21-foot high gilded ceilings, ornate chandeliers, and stunning marble floors is fit for royalty. It is no wonder this historic landmark has been the backdrop for many glamorous Hollywood films.

The Fairmont Washington provides world-class amenities and offers a timeless sophistication that few of the nation’s luxury hotels can match. The experience begins with the breathtaking atrium lobby that is bathed in sunlight and oozes elegance. The lush garden courtyard, luxurious guestrooms, and gracious service create a truly magical experience for every guest of this stylish West End hotel.

Fairmont Washington D.C - Rooftop Beekeeping at Fairmont Hotels - Magellan Luxury Hotels
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