Small bites: Madison County Beekeepers Association hosts honey tasting contest

HANDLING THE HIVES: Beekeeper Sarah McKinney will join the Madison County Beekeepers Association for a honey tasting contest, recipe competition and potluck. Photo by Orbital Socket, courtesy of Honey and the Hive

Local beekeeper Sarah McKinney‘s involvement in the bee scene began about 13 years ago when she enrolled in a class with the Buncombe County Beekeepers Club. Shortly thereafter, she got her first colony. Today she runs as many as 150 hives, depending on the needs of her Weaverville business, Honey and the Hive (formerly Wild Mountain Bees).

On Monday, Sept. 17, McKinney joins the Madison County Beekeepers Association for a honey tasting contest, recipe competition and potluck. During the event, McKinney will offer advice on preparing honey bees for the colder months. “Winter is the most stressful time for bees,” McKinney explains. “So it is important that they are ready … before it gets cold.”

Along with tips and techniques for preserving colonies, the event will also offer bee enthusiasts a chance to sample and vote on their favorite local honey and recipe created by members of the Madison County Beekeepers Association. Winners will earn bragging rights for the year, says association volunteer Rachell Skerlec. The gathering will conclude with a community potluck.

Skerlec notes that the event is free to attend, but hopes those who do will consider joining the Madison County Beekeepers Association, which hosts monthly events and has an annual membership fee of only $10 per family. “We encourage people to come if they are bee-curious and want to learn how to get started,” she says. “They can talk to other beekeepers, see who is in their neighborhood and learn who could be a mentor for them.”

For McKinney, participation in the event is an extension of her daily work at Honey and the Hive. “Though we are a retail store, our mission is to help bees by helping beekeepers,” she says. Along with selling jars of honey, equipment and accessories, the store offers free classes. “Because if [the bees] go, we go,” McKinney adds.

Preparing for Winter & Honey Tasting Contest runs 6-8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, at 258 Carolina Lane, Marshall. For more information and to sign up for the competitions, visit

Third annual Pedal to Plate

Pedal to Plate returns to the roads and farms of Madison County for its third year on Sunday, Sept. 16. Throughout the day, cyclists will travel 36 miles and tour five properties (Wendy Town Farms, Floating Leaf Family Farm, Echoview Fiber Mill, East Fork Farm and Root Bottom Farm), concluding with a farm-to-table dinner at Root Bottom Farm prepared by Asheville chef Dava Melton of Blessed 2 Cook. A portion of the day’s proceeds will benefit Community Housing Coalition in Madison County, a nonprofit that works to promote and facilitate healthy, safe and affordable housing through advocacy, education and resource development.

The third annual Pedal to Plate begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept 16, at Root Bottom Farm, 1201 East Fork Road. Full-day tickets are $75 and include the bike tour, dinner, farm tours, swag bag and refreshments along the course; tickets just for the ride are $30. To purchase, visit

Grapes, Grains and Graham

Highland Brewing Co., Biltmore Estate Winery and chef Graham House of Sovereign Remedies will join forces Sunday, Sept. 16, for a wine and beer dinner pairing that benefits MANNA FoodBank. Highlights from the four-course meal include muscadine and cucumbers paired with Highland Pilsner and Vitrus White; The American Pig porchetta paired with Clawhammer Oktoberfest and Vanderbilt Reserve Russian River Valley pinot noir; and buttermilk pie paired with Daycation IPA and dry rosé. “Our long-standing partnerships with these top-tier local businesses are because of their dedication to eradicating hunger,” says MANNA CEO Hannah Randall, who adds that for every $1 raised, MANNA can provide three and a half meals.

Grapes, Grain and Graham runs 5-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Tickets are $100 per adult, age 21 and older. To purchase, visit

Around the World in Wine

Around the World in Wine is a series of six Tuesday evening classes led by Andy Hale, director of the Asheville School of Wine. Courses begin Sept. 18. Topics and wine regions include: Wine Essentials (Sept. 18), France (Sept. 25), Italy (Oct. 2), The Iberian Peninsula (Oct. 9), Wines of the New World (Oct. 16) and Wines You Never Knew You Loved (Oct. 23). Each class is limited to 20 seats and will include wine-and-cheese pairings.

Around the World in Wine runs 6-7 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 18-Oct. 23 at MetroWines, 169 Charlotte St. Tickets are $25 per class or $125 for all six classes. For details and to register, visit

Food pantry for graduate students

Western Carolina University, Eblen Charities and Ingles Markets have teamed up to create a food pantry for the university’s graduate students. Located at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site, the pantry offers students full menu selections, with no expired or damaged goods on its shelves. Hygiene items, family and household needs are also available.

Western Carolina University’s Biltmore Park instructional site is at 28 Schenck Parkway, suite 102. For details, contact WCU’s Center for Service Learning at 828-277-7184 or

NCRLA Mixologist of the Year

Bartender Joe Nicol of The Times at S&W won Mixologist of the Year with his signature drink, Turn Left at Albuquerque, at the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association’s third annual Chef Showdown on Aug. 27 in Charlotte. The beverage’s name, inspired by a saying from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, features fresh-pressed carrot juice from local farmers markets, as well as Fainting Goat Spirits Emulsion gin, fennel cordial made with Fainting Goat Spirits Tiny Cat vodka, fresh-pressed Hendersonville apples, fresh pineapple and lime from JMJ Tomato Co. and honey syrup from Asheville Bee Charmer. “Carrots, to me, are a versatile ingredient not being used enough in cocktails,” says Nicol. “I think it makes a great end-of-summer drink and also brings to mind many fall cocktails.” The competition featured chefs, pastry chefs and mixologists from across the state.

The Times at S&W is at 56 Patton Ave. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday 5 p.m.-midnight. For more information, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.