Small bites: International Black Jar Honey Contest

SWEET EVENT: The Center for Honeybee Research will offer Ashevillieans a chance to taste raw honeys from around the world at the upcoming International Black Jar Honey Contest. Photo by Pat Barcas

“Natural beekeeping is a very new field in the world of academia, and it’s definitely coming off of a long beekeeping tradition of using pesticides, miticides and fungicides,” says Leonora Stefanile, volunteer at the Center for Honeybee Research.  But the organization, she says, is “trying to do research to prove that bees can resist diseases and pests like the varroa mite without the use of synthetic chemicals.”

To that end, the research center manages 20 hives in West Asheville, where alternatives like probiotics and selective breeding are explored as methods of strengthening bees rather than eradicating the diseases and pests that weaken their colonies. Another aspect of its mission involves educational opportunities and events, including the upcoming sixth annual International Black Jar Honey Contest on Saturday, Jan. 30. Proceeds will help the nonprofit continue its work.

The event takes its name from the blind tasting aspect. Over three rounds, 27 globally sourced honeys (pre-vetted by judges from a pool of 60 entries) are served, each on a black straw from within a covered jar to conceal all attributes except taste. Judges determine official winners, including the recipient of a $1,500 grand prize, while attendees vote for the people’s choice victor.

“There will also be someone talking about the center,” Stefanile says,  calling the organization a learning resource for beginner and amateur beekeepers. Another presentation will inform guests on how bees make honey and why the final products are so varied.

“Basically, honey reflects the nectar from the plant that the bees harvested [it] from,” Stefanile explains. “Different nectars have different chemical components … and there are all sorts of things that are unique to a plant that end up in the nectar. So you have a wide variety of different colors, tastes, densities and consistencies.”

Honey from the tupelo trees in Missisippi, for instance, doesn’t crystallize due to lack of fructose, “so it’s always going to be that beautiful honey consistency that’s pourable. A mesquite honey from New Mexico does have the fructose, but there’s something in the composition that keeps it really creamy, so it ends up being like a spread.”

All of the honeys at the contest are raw to preserve this expanse of terroirs in addition to maintaining natural enzymes and proteins, and select jars from this year and last year will be available for purchase. “This is a chance to taste honey in its natural form, the way bees would eat it and the way bees have made it,” says Stefanile.

The fundraiser is at the Renaissance Hotel, 31 Woodfin St., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. It’s free to enter as an observer, but tasting tickets are $10 at the door. Visit for details.

Asheville Brewers Supply’s upcoming events

Asheville Brewers Supply plans to ramp up its educational programming in 2016. To start, the store will host a free seminar for aspiring beer entrepreneurs, “Protecting the Pint: Insurance Basics for Brewers.” The class explores types of coverage, the documents insurance companies will request, pricing factors and how business models and coverage change with growth. Also forthcoming is the store’s Brewers Social, which typically occurs every fourth Tuesday of the month (but will next fall on a Wednesday). The event is BYOB (commercial or home-brewed) and includes pizza, beer trivia and prizes.

Asheville Brewers Supply, 712 Merrimon Ave., hosts its insurance seminar at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. The Brewers Social is 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27. Visit for info on upcoming events.

Oskar Blues Brewery collaborates with The Cheese Store of Asheville

The Wonders of Beer and Cheese, a collaboration between Oskar Blues Brewery and The Cheese Store of Asheville, features curated sips and nibbles for participants to enjoy while learning about the brewing and cheesemaking processes. The sampling event, which also covers pairing ideas, includes a brewery tour, prizes and access to a specialty beer made specifically for the event.

The tasting is 6-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, at Oskar Blues, 342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard. Information and tickets ($20) are available at

Fletcher’s 15th annual Chili Cook-Off

Hosted by the town of Fletcher, the 2016 Fletcher Chili Cook-Off highlights the fare of professional and amateur chefs alike. Once samples are distributed, awards will be determined in several categories, including Best Overall Chili, Best Individual Chili, Best Business Chili, Best Table Décor and People’s Choice. It’s free to attend and enjoy samples, and Parks and Recreation representatives will be accepting cash donations for the Fletcher Park Development Fund.

The event happens 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at Veritas Christian Academy, 17 Cane Creek Road, Fletcher. Visit for details.

Valet Gourmet’s expansion

Launched in Asheville in 2003 and expanded into Knoxville, Tenn., in 2014, Valet Gourmet recently announced a merger with Takeout Central of Chapel Hill. The partnership will put the joint venture in seven major markets across North Carolina and Tennessee, with 220 independent drivers facilitating an estimated 225,000 deliveries per year from 325 partner restaurants. The company will retain its Asheville employees, according to a press release from the company.

Visit for details.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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