Bee Local is Saving Oregon Bees, One Rooftop Hive at a Time
“It smells frickin’ amazing,” says Damian Magista, cracking open Bee Local’s hive on the roof of Hotel Lucia and shoving his face to within inches of a writhing mass of bees. “Like pure sunlight—like your mom giving you a big, warm hug.” What started as Magista’s backyard hobby has grown into an international brand: highlighting intense, unique honeys culled from specific hives across the city and state. The coveted little, single-origin jars—each with its own ineffable flavor distilled from the landscape around the hives—have become nearly as iconic as the wares of Bee Local’s recently acquired parent company, Jacobsen Salt. In 2013, Imperial chef-owner Vitaly Paley kicked off Bee Local’s collaboration with honey-smitten chefs when he asked Magista if he’d put a hive atop Hotel Lucia. The harvested honey, which boasted notes of chestnuts, strawberries, and eucalyptus in 2014 (but tastes more like rich caramel this year) has been a menu inspiration ever since. “I relish the fact that we have honey like nobody else has, and that’s thanks to Damian,” Paley says. “It takes an open mind to make something new.” Currently, the “bee whisperer” minds more than 100 hives across the rooftops of Portland, the Willamette Valley, and beyond.