portland's top honey, bee local
Originally posted October 14, 2016
Gheanna remains stateside as she trades her New York vibes for a more laid back mentality in one of the country’s hottest cities: Portland, Oregon. Here, she shares her encounter with beekeeper Damian Magista of Bee Local, as well as her general observations on the city.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Portland alongside my dear friend Emily Miller of Trends on Trends. As a born and bred Californian, I’m deeply familiar with the endless beauty the West Coast has to offer—but upon arrival at PDX, that first deep breath of fresh Pacific Northwest air made me realize I was really on to something special.
It was my friend Chris who contextualized Portland nicely for me over drinks at Expatriate: “Portland is like a big small town.” It’s absolutely true: the sense of community is immediately palpable, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why beehive owner Damian Magista of Bee Local loves living and working in Portland.
After receiving a beehive from a friend of his that quickly spiraled into two, and then three hives, Damian ended up testing raising hives in four different Portland neighborhoods. A quick taste test of the honey revealed that each hive had a unique flavor and texture, exclusive to its local surroundings. Damian launched Bee Local not long after this discovery in 2011, wanting to share the bounty of each Portland neighborhood with the city (and eventually the rest of the country).
When talking about Portland, Damian doesn’t hesitate to remind everyone that Oregon is The Pioneer State—it really is, as Portlandia shamelessly documents, a DIY place, and a destination for people who have an independent streak. If there’s something crazy that you want to do, you can do it. Oregonians—the original pioneers—will support it!
It was this enthusiasm to support each other that really struck me about Portland. Damian collaborates regularly with local chefs, brewers, distillers, bartenders, makers; his beeswax is used in balms and candles, and the propolis (the tree and plant resins collected by the bees) is used to make toothpaste. Everyone shares and gives back to each other. Nothing is forced. Nothing is wasted. Everything is earnest.
You can find Bee Local’s honey, bee pollen, and soon their sauces, in many specialty food stores across the country. You can also find it online, and most importantly, in Portland at their tasting room that they share with Jacobsen Salt Company. You’ll likely run into the makers themselves, who will passionately share their process with you and give you the insider’s scoop on where else to eat and drink in Portland.
For those of us who can’t hop over to Portland—and in the interest of supporting your local beekeepers—Damian does recommend doing your proper research to ensure that the honey you’re buying is really “local.” Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. (Bonus on buying proper local honey, and not “caramel colored syrup”: you’re preventing those pollen allergies from flaring up—a tablespoon of honey a day could keep the sneezing away!)
Below, Damian shares with us a refreshing margarita recipe featuring his honey. Live every day like it’s the middle of July.
Bee Local Honey
Good Quality Tequila or Mezcal
- Brew a strong 5 oz concentrate of hibiscus tea using hibiscus flowers and cinnamon chips.
- Strain into Mason jar.
- Sweeten with 2 teaspoons Bee Local honey.
- Add 2 ounces of tequila or mezcal.
- Fill mason jar to rim with ice.
Photos courtesy of Darrin Higgins.