Drink a Beer, Save a Bee

Kevin Clark ’08 at Grey Sail Brewing in Westerly, R.I., where he brews Hive Beer.

The name came first. The support for honeybee research came several years and many barrels of beer later.

When Kevin Clark ’08 and Michelle (Kirms) Clark ’07 started dating, they brewed beer for fun. They called their apartment-based brewing hobby Hive Brewing, a nod to one of their favorite bands and a name that conjured a community gathering place and social hub where all are welcome. Bees weren’t on their mind.

The couple moved to Colorado for Kevin to attend graduate school, but there was something other than education pulling them west.

“Part of the allure of Colorado was that the brewing and beer scene was much more established, especially back then,” Kevin says. “We were excited to get into the beer scene as much as we could and explore a new area of the country.”

In 2011, Kevin and Michelle returned to Rhode Island, where Kevin started working as a software engineer and Michelle decided to take her interest in beer and go pro. She joined Grey Sail Brewing, based in Westerly, R.I., in 2012. More than a decade later, she has held many positions at Grey Sail, including head brewer.

Kevin got his first taste of brewing on professional equipment in 2018, when he used Grey Sail’s facility to make a batch of beer in honor of his and Michelle’s dog, Mahoney. Grey Sail sold the commemorative beer in their taproom, with proceeds going to canine cancer research.

Kevin calls the experience a “lightbulb moment” that got him wondering if he could fast-track his dream of launching Hive commercially by renting Grey Sail’s equipment. He pondered it for a while, and then the pandemic hit.

“Things were weird in March 2020. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the world,” he remembers. “But it lit a fire under me to get the ball rolling and do something I had always wanted to do.”

In May 2021, Hive Beer officially launched as an alternating proprietorship brewery. Kevin maintains his day job and runs Hive as a side project out of Grey Sail, where his beers are available in cans to go. You can also find Hive Beer at bars and restaurants throughout Rhode Island, including Mews Tavern in Wakefield and the Back 40—an early supporter of Hive—in North Kingstown.

Kevin, thrilled to see his dream coming true, wondered if he could use it to do some good. He knew of some companies that donated a percentage of their sales to a worthy cause. With a name like Hive, supporting bees seemed like a natural fit. But he wasn’t sure of the best way to do that.

In researching how to support bees, he came across an article on URI’s Bee Lab. Kevin emailed chemistry professor Matt Kiesewetter, a partner in the lab, along with entomology professor Steve Alm, and before long, he was on a tour of East Farm.

“I was aware of the farm as a student, but I never realized how massive it is,” he says. “Seeing the property and all the research going on there was really cool. Michelle and I saw the hives, picked some apples. And that was the start of a really fun partnership.”

“Once I learned about research at the Bee Lab, I was super excited to contribute to my alma mater and support research happening right here in Rhode Island,” he adds.

—Lauren Rebecca Thacker

Hive Beer, an alternating proprietorship operating out of Grey Sail, donates 1% of gross sales to URI’s Bee Lab.