A flight of local varieties.
Written by Natasha Bourlin
Photos of Hall’s Honey and Hidden Valley Honey jars by Jaci Goodman
Consuming local honey not only is mouthwatering, but also may be good for your health. Pollens collected by honey bees exist in the honey they produce, helping consumers build immunity to the many allergens in the area, according to every area honey producer.
But despite these commonalities, each one has its own unique flavor profile. Ready for a sampling? We’ve rounded up information on some of the most distinctive local honeys to get your tasting flight started.
Debbie Gilmore is a fourth-generation beekeeper — a tradition born in 1918 by her great-grandfather Fletcher Hall and kept alive by Gilmore and her husband, Andrew Joyner.
Together, Gilmore and Joyner harvest Hall’s Honey from their Mason and Smith Valley hives, then bottle it themselves. Gilmore entered beekeeping young, when she and her siblings used to extract the mostly alfalfa honey from the family hives in Winnemucca, Lovelock, and Jacks Valley six days a week during summer vacation.
After her father had sold the business in the ’70s, the duo revived her family’s beekeeping tradition, and Gilmore’s passion for it, in 2006. The following year, she founded the Mason Valley Beekeepers, a local hobbyist organization that puts on the annual Nevada State Beekeepers Conference. Members from all walks of life come together to celebrate their love for the small, flying pollinators.
Together, the organization’s members also assist other beekeepers as far away as Kenya by hosting donation drives to provide them with donated safety outfits and veils previously unavailable to them.
“I’m always thankful for my health, and for my mom and dad for feeding us so many peanut butter and honey sandwiches!” Gilmore says.
Hall’s Honey is crafted by bees who largely collect nectar from alfalfa plants, with some also sourcing the sweet honey base from clover, brush trees, and wildflowers. Hall’s small-batch lavender honey won the distinguished Good Food Award in 2017.
The red-hued signature honey is, in a word, delicious. It has beautifully balanced sweetness with some floral notes, perhaps from the bees’ multiple nectar sources, and it seems more concentrated than some of the others tasted. Its flavor lingers on the tongue and down the throat.
Find it in several garden and farm supply retail stores and Rexall Drugs in Yerington, Gardnerville/Minden, and Carson City. It also can be mail ordered from the website, Hallshoney.com.
As if spending 29 years as a schoolteacher and another 30 fighting fires weren’t challenging enough, Al Sindlinger decided to take on beekeeping.
“Bees kind of ground you, get you out into nature,” Sindlinger says. “It’s a challenge. I call myself a beekeeper, but I’d say the bees keep me, and sometimes I’m more of a bear keeper than a beekeeper.”
In 2019, among other years, he had some difficulties with hungry bears finding his hives — then decimating them. It’s collateral damage for beekeepers seeking to place their hives close to what they consider fruitful and flavorful nectar sources.
Sindlinger prefers to place his bees away from areas with potential for commercial agriculture due to the chemical sprays that can get into the ecosystem and hurt the hives. He places them around the region, with each locale’s floral source producing a slightly different flavor and color in the honey. Sometimes the bees winter in sunny California, until the Northern Nevada temperatures become tolerable for the small, winged creatures.
Sindlinger’s Pure Raw Sierra Nevada Honey is delicately sweet, with touches of both blackberry-like fruitiness and a more savory herbaceousness, due to his varied nectar sources.
Find Al Bees honey at local grocery stores, the Great Basin Community Food Co-op, and on his website, Albeesnevadahoney.com.
Hidden Valley Honey
Who knew a swarm landing in Chris and Karen Foster’s yard would turn into a full-time business? But that’s just what happened. Today, the husband-and-wife team produces Hidden Valley Honey on an acre of Reno land while also sourcing honeys from around the region and parts of California to affect the flavor. This is their 10th year in the business.
Among the sweeter brands tasted, Hidden Valley’s nectar sources aren’t as easily discerned. The other brands come across as distinctly fruity, floral, or herbaceous, telling of the bees feeding on fruit trees, wildflowers, or alfalfa and brush, respectively.
Hidden Valley’s raw honey is well-balanced in terms of those characteristics, with a pleasing, sugary finish, making it great to use as a sweetener for teas, coffees, and desserts, or even to balance spicier dishes. The Fosters also produce pollen, sold in small jars at many stores and online. They say these are potent in helping with allergies.
Find Hidden Valley Honey in a multitude of area grocery stores and retail outlets such as Whole Foods, the Great Basin Community Food Co-op, and Paul Schat’s Bakery in Carson City, as well as at Hiddenvalleyhoney.com.
Joy’s Honey Ranch
Leonard Joy got into beekeeping after serving as a Nevada apiary inspector from 1975-1999 for the Nevada Department of Agriculture. He learned much about bees, deciding to keep hives of his own upon retiring in 2002. Bottling and selling the honey produced from his hives located around the region and at his North Valleys home paid for the hives’ upkeep.
“One of the nice things about being a beekeeper is no one comes out to bother you because they’re afraid to get stung,” Joy says.
Similar in color to the others — a reddish tone garnered from the nectar sources — Joy’s Honey tastes earthier than the others, having woodsy notes to it without too much sweetness. It lingers long on the palate but pleasantly so. For people who want a less-sweet yet delectable honey, this is their jar.
Joy’s Honey is like a treasure, found only at select stores such as the House of Bread and Green’s Feed, both in Reno, and at The Village Market (in Reno) and Sparks United Methodist Church farmers’ markets in summertime.
Natasha Bourlin is a honey-loving freelance writer who had no idea how different honey flavors could be. See her work at Passportandplume.com.