Asheville, NC: a mountain town where we quickly found out everyone was much cooler and more trendy than us, and made us adamantly eager to be a part of it. The beer, the food, the art and the culture – all specifically finding a niche in one magnificent southern city.
My husband and I drove the seven hours from Frederick, MD to Asheville, NC on a beautiful Friday afternoon, getting us to our hotel around 10:00 PM. We stayed at the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Asheville, a unique hotel in a perfect location. The hotel was located on Biltmore Ave., a street that runs through the heart of Asheville, surrounded by local restaurants, great breweries, and unique art galleries. We met our friends who drove up to meet us from Virginia Beach, and decided that after a long day of driving, a drink at the hotel bar would suffice until we hit the ground running on Saturday morning. The Aloft had a hotel bar on the main level, where they also housed rescue dogs in hopes that visitors of their hotel would adopt the rescue animals. We would soon find that Asheville was a very dog-friendly town, something that made us like it even more.
Saturday morning started with brunch at Chestnut Restaurant and Bar in Downtown Asheville. This was located right across from our hotel, and had great menu options. I recommend the Avocado Toast, served with bacon and fresh fruit. Oh, and of course a Mimosa on the side.
Next up was The Amazing Pubcycle – which was the most surprising (-ly fun) part of our trip. My husband had booked it impromptu the day before we left for Asheville – four seats on a 12-seater bike that ‘pedals’ through Downtown Asheville with a tour guide and strict BYOB rules. Little did we know this would be such a highlight of our trip! The Pubcycle picked us up right at our hotel, and we climbed on with cans of local beer in tow. The four of us (and eight of our closest new friends) pedaled our way through Asheville, learning about monuments, parks and historic buildings. We were greeted on the pubcycle by our guide Danny, who showered us in funny jokes and classic hits of the 80s, 90s and today. The 40-minute tour only cost $15.00 per person, and was worth every penny. One and a half hour tours were also available, stopping at two breweries on the way. Since we had a full day ahead of us, I’m happy we chose the 40-minute ride, though I think my preferred mode of transportation from now on is absolutely group-cycling. We sang, we drank, we laughed – no better way to start our Saturday in Asheville.
After we begrudgingly exited the pubcycle, we began to make our brewery rounds. Hold on to your seatbelts, folks, because our little foursome covered a lot of ground and drank a lot (a lot) of beer over the course of the next two and a half days. Below are my reviews for our Saturday & Sunday circuit of breweries, including a mean taco stop, some out-of-this-world biscuits (we’re talking like Chris Pratt Guardians of the Galaxy ish), and an amazing experience at the famous Biltmore Estate.
Wicked Weed: One of two brewery locations in Asheville. This brewery had two levels, and an outdoor seating area. Of their two location, this WW offers a wide variety of beer selections, including stouts, Hefeweizens and some sours. Their downstairs level is a ‘themed’ level with servers dressed in ‘wicked’ attire; a sorceress, a hot wench, and a mythical creature were among the people who served us. There was an additional outdoor seating area on the lower level. The blueberry stout, and a fruity saison were among our favorites at this location.
Bhramari Brewing: Our favorite ‘small’ brewery of the trip. This was not a brewery we had heard much about, but we were so happy that we stopped in. Around the back of the building where you enter, there was corn hole, size-large drinking jenga and more outdoor games. We had two flights of delicious beer, and a delicious spent grain pretzel (made from the grain that they’ve used to make beer) served with a jalepeno cheese, and (duh) French fries. Among our favorite beers was an “All The Boys” ‘milk shake’ mango IPA, and The Good Fight – a sour pale ale. The Carolina Common was a seasonal beer we liked, and we were overall impressed by their selection of beers. Definitely make time on your trip to Asheville for this brewery.
Wicked Weed Funkatorium: The king of all sour brewery locations. This is the second location of two in the WW franchise, specializing in only sours. We tried five or six different sours in a flight and weren’t disappointed by any. The vibe of this brewery was great, almost like you were sitting in a medieval times meeting room, where everything was wood and the beer was just as solid. A favorite at this brewery was ‘Oblivion,’ a red wine barrel aged sour with blackberries.
Catawba – South Slope: One of our favorite sours of the trip was this brewery’s “Sour Zombie” which is a sour version of their “White Zombie” beer. This was a huge room with vaulted ceilings and an industrial feel, packed full wall to wall of people lining up to try their beer. We felt as though we were in a ‘fancy garage’ giving it a welcoming vibe to all who entered.
White Duck Taco: Imagine anything you could possibly throw onto a tortilla, and then imagine getting the thing you’ve always wanted on Christmas morning – this was White Duck Taco. From Steak and Cheese tacos (my personal favorite) to Spicy Buffalo Tacos, to the Pork Belly Tacos, you could literally fulfill any craving you’ve ever had at this great restaurant. The line out the door was both warrented and worth the wait. The four of us walked out with 10 tacos to share, and we all basically fell into a food coma after eating our weight in meat-wrapped-flour. A MUST-visit in Asheville. (Author’s note: there are positively no pictures of this stop, as the tacos were devoured before my brain could even process taking a photo. YUM.)
Green Man Brewery: This brewery started as a small, open air brewery and has now expanded into a large industrial building down the street. You don’t have to walk far to see both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ so I recommend trying to hit both. (Both have the same beers.) I had probably one of my favorite beers at this brewery (the ‘new’ location) Snozzberry Barrel Aged Sour; a beautiful pink/purple color with the right amount of fruit and a perfect amount of sour.
Burial Beer Company: This brewery had a great outdoor area, with a bar indoors as well as a bar and kitchen outside. We went around the twilight hour making the outdoor lights and picnic tables a desirable atmosphere. We recommend you try Deep in the Orbit Sour Pale Ale, or the Surf Wax IPA.
One World Brewing Co.: Located in the basement through an alley hidden away, this brewery is a great stop to have a beer if you need a cool place to take a break. With a basement like atmosphere, we’re happy we dropped in to end our night. Not necessarily a must see, but also not a bad selection of beers either.
(Author’s Note: It was extra hard to get up on Sunday morning after all of the
beer fun we had on Saturday… but we pressed on.)
Biscuit Head: This restaurant was recommended to us by several friends. We waited 45 minutes to get into this restaurant, but it was worth every minute of the wait. Do not miss this restaurant on your Asheville trip, and do not skip out on the Gravy flight. We tried a Sweet Potato Coconut Gravy, a chive and pork sausage gravy, and a fried chicken gravy in our flight. With so many options on their menu, it’s easy to divert to something interesting and unique, but I chose to stick to the classic choice: biscuits and gravy. I had the classic gravy smothered in two biscuits and a side of bacon – it was voted in our foursome as the best meal of the morning! Also, if you get just plain biscuits with your meal, there are several different jams and jellies – everything from sour cherry to bananas foster! Stick to the classics, or get a little crazy: at this restaurant, they can’t do anything wrong. Bonus: they have a “Put some south in your mouth” shirt; you may want to buy that as well.
Biltmore Estate, Home of the Vanderbilt’s: You could spend an entire day at the Biltmore Estate, originally built as a home for the Vanderbilt family. Spend the money to tour the house, a two our tour that will leave you in awe of one man’s vision and one family’s home for years before the Great Depression. You will see only 35 of the 255 rooms in the Vanderbilt home, but it will leave you speechless. My favorite part was the basement, where George Vanderbilt’s daughter and her husband hosted a New Year’s Eve party; they drew and painted murals on the walls according to their NYE theme, and the murals still cover the walls, untouched, today. George Vanderbilt also had a private bowling alley in his home, as well as an indoor swimming pool (shown below). On site restaurants and beautiful gardens make this an ideal photo spot (#selfielife), and a great way to spend a beautiful warm afternoon.
Antler Village Winery: This Village full of restaurants, shops and the featured winery offers much to anyone looking to stay on the Biltmore Estate property even after walking the house and the gardens. You can receive complimentary wine tastings, learn the history of the on-site winery, and participate in fun activities on the premises, such as a ‘grape stomp’ where you get to experience what it’s like to stomp on wine grapes. If you’re interested in staying on property, the Biltmore Village offers two hotels right on site for guests who wish to immerse themselves in the Biltmore Estate for the weekend. Definitely plan to spend a full day on the Estate to catch everything you’ll want to do!
Catawba – Biltmore Village: This is brewery number two in the Catawba brewery family, offering a great second location just minutes from the Biltmore Estate. The King Coconut porter was a favorite at this location, though we liked just about everything they had on tap. Similar to their original Catawba location, they had the White Zombie, an IPA you definitely will want to try.
Hi-Wire Brewing – Big Top: A close second when it came to our favorite small/local brewery in Asheville. The Citra Gose was my favorite beer from our trip, and that emerged from this brewery. They had corn hole, a food truck, and a great theme for the brewery that was built around a circus, hence the name ‘big top.’ Hi-Wire also has two locations, but we only made it to this one on our trip. Definitely a worth wile stop, with a patio for bringing your dog or sitting outside, or simply a nice open area to gather a group of friends.
Farm House Burger: A local, grass-fed burger place that stole our hearts with good burgers, good fries and great beer on tap. Hint: try an adult milkshake that’s made with one of the local beers on tap. You won’t be disappointed! (Author’s note: we went on National Burger Day! I think that made the burgers taste even better.)
Thirsty Monk: A great local stop with lots of local breweries beers on tap, as well as their own beer! Three different levels in this bar: a cocktail lounge with limited seating and a variety of specialty cocktails, the main bar with lots of beer on tap, and the basement which features a variety of styles in Belgium Beer. We stuck to the main level, but definitely try to hit all three!
Asheville Brewing Co: Great pizza, great logo (seriously, you’ll want a t-shirt). Not our favorite beer during the trip, but they’ve got a wide enough selection that you’ll be able to find something you like!
Hole Doughnuts: An adorable little hut in the Riverside district of Asheville, owned by a former Disney actress and her husband. The doughnuts are the size of your face, and are made hot and fresh right in front of you. Seriously, you can sit at the ‘doughnut bar’ and watch them be made. There’s only seating for about 20 people at a time, so you’ll wait in line to be served and to sit. Between the four of us, we ordered 14 donuts, and they were all gone within minutes. Tip: get there early to reserve your seat in their outdoor blue ‘doughnut bus’ – a table for four built into an old bus that sits on their property with their logo painted on the side. Our favorite flavor of doughnut was the cinnamon toasted almond doughnut, with the beignet doughnut taking up a close second.
Sierra Nevada: I cannot say enough about this marvelous brewery on the outskirts of Asheville. While it was mostly a walking town for us, heading to Mills River, NC took us about 20 minutes in a car. It was most definitely worth it. At first we were going to avoid any ‘large scale’ breweries, as we typically like to hit and support all of the local brewers on our trip. But as this was on our way out of town, we decided why not – let’s give this one a shot. Whether or not the Memorial Day Monday had anything to do with the popularity of this brewery, we’ll never be sure; however, this brewery had great food, great beer, live music on an impressive outdoor amphitheater space, an enormous fire pit, rocking chairs, outdoor seating, a wrap around bar indoors… the list goes on. Make sure you don’t miss this brewery, even if you have to drive just a little bit. The Otra Vez is their Gose, and it is delicious. My husband enjoyed the Tropical Torpedo, a seasonal twist on their Torpedo IPA. Bonus: they let us sample their new Oktoberfest beer that will be coming out in fall – definitely be sure to pick that up in stores! A flight is a way to go at this brewery on account of the mass amounts of beer they make at this brewery and taproom. Make sure to try the House Pizza and duck fat fries – you won’t be disappointed.
So if you’ve skipped to the bottom of this atrociously long blog post about the city of Asheville, here is the definitive ranking of our top 5 that you must-see and must-do in this mountain town:
- The Amazing Pubcycle – Downtown Asheville
- Biltmore Estate, House Tour & Winery Visit – Biltmore Village
- Biscuit Head – Biltmore Village
- Hole Doughnuts – Riverside District of Asheville
- White Duck Taco – Downtown Asheville
Here for the Beer:
- Sierra Nevada Brewery & Taproom – Mills River, NC
- Bhramari Brewing Co. – Downtown Asheville
- Hi-Wire Big Top – Downtown Asheville
- Wicked Weed & Funkatorium – Downtown Asheville
- Green Man Brewery (new location) – Downtown Asheville
This is a city we will definitely be traveling back to… after, of course, our livers recover from our first go’round.