Two mates on a mission
Ever since he was a young fella, Buzz Club co-founder Wilbur has had a fascination with bees. Sparked by a trip in primary school to a neighbour's farm, Wilbur's first memory of bees is with a frame being taken right from the beehive. Each kid poked a finger through the honeycomb to get a big scoop of fresh honey. The sweet honey and or sugar rush took hold and with it, Wilbur’s interest in bees.
Fast forward to 2016 and an opportunity to start beekeeping popped up, and Wilbur was taken back to that moment as a kid. Fair to say he was all in. His next summer was spent on the West Coast of the South Island learning from local keepers. Spare time for Wilbur was spent reading about bees, talking about bees, or convincing his mates to come to give him a hand for a few days working with the bees. Wilbur learnt a lot, and the next year he took over management of the hives.
What hooked Wilbur most was the symbiotic, perfect relationship between plants and bees. The bees received nectar and pollen from the plants, and in return ensured the plants were pollinated, and germination could occur. This made sure there was biodiversity in our forests, and more plants for the future, for the bees to receive food and plants could live on. What baffled him, even more, was the amazing bi-product of this all, honey.
After a few years spent keeping, issues in the industry became more and more clear. While mānuka was fetching record prices locally and internationally, 187 other native plants which rely on pollination from bees, such as kāmahi, rātā and kānuka honeys had been forgotten about. As a result market prices for these had plummeted, and keepers producing these honeys were having to walk away from their hives. Fewer keepers meant fewer bees and less of our native environments benefiting from pollination.
Wilbur saw a market that was reliant on one commodity, mānuka. He became determined to make a change and create a new value chain for our forgotten native honeys. Around this time he started experimenting with fermentation and got in touch with a lifelong friend, Edward. Buzz Club’s mission had started.
They started brewing in Wilburs dads back office. At the office, there was a room with a heat pump (perfect for keeping a constant temperature needed to control the fermentation) and a small kitchenette. Everything they needed. The odd days spent brewing soon became every Saturday, to every Weekend, before every opportunity they got outside of work. After hundreds of trials, they decided to put it to the test and approached a local craft brewery in Christchurch to help them scale up.
Not so surprisingly, the transition from homebrewing to a commercial batch size presented some challenges, but nothing at this point could deter them. They gathered all of their friends and family and put the mead to the test. Getting the feedback they needed to continue on to their next batch.
While supporting our honey producers and native tree pollinators, it is vital for Buzz Club not to sacrifice other areas of our environment in the process. We are committed to working towards the goal of working alongside bees in creating the world's most environmentally sustainable alcohol.