Each year we celebrate the season of change by treating ourselves a trip to Asheville, NC. We drink a lot, eat a lot, and see the mountains while gaining more pounds than I care to mention in just 3 short days. Late Thursday night we arrived in Asheville and hit the hay early so we could enjoy our Friday properly. As we awoke on this beautiful Friday morning, the weather was a nice 70 or so degrees as we sipped mimosas and cooked breakfast in our rented bungalow sitting high on the mountain top.
With no cares or worries in the world, we relaxed and eventually made our way to the car where we started our journey of brewery hopping. The day was to be about nothing but drinking and enjoying the company of each other. Our first stop: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Fletcher, NC. Roughly a 30-minute drive from downtown Asheville, Sierra Nevada is a must see if you love beer. It's the Biltmore House of breweries.
As soon as you pull into the private drive of Sierra Nevada, the huge fermentation tanks light up the sky and instantly it's apparent you're in beer heaven.
Upon entrance, you can grab a beer in line at the huge bar in the middle that serves food as well. It's been crowded every time I've been here, so expect it, but know that there's plenty of room for you as well. We quickly grabbed some beers and headed upstairs where you can self-guide yourself through the brewery and view how it all goes down through huge windows overlooking the different sections of the brewing operations.
As you finish your tour and make your way outside, that's where the fun is. There's a garden you can walk through, a stage where they offer live music, plenty of seating and room for fun and games with your friends. This place is extremely spacious, and the beers are constantly flowing. You could spend your whole day here and have the best time.
We continued to drink and eventually made our way to the next stop: Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, NC. This took another 30 minutes or so to drive from Sierra Nevada and by the time we got there, they announced "FREE TOUR IN 30 MINUTES!!"
We grabbed a beer, and quickly jumped on the free tour when it was time.
What a great tour! The girl was so knowledgeable on everything and we learned so much about "Dale" the founder of Oskar Blues -- including his love for bicycles and the mountains. Although on a completely smaller scale than our first stop, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit at Oskar Blues. We grabbed a serving of fries from the on-site food truck to enjoy after the tour as we took in the fabulous weather and played a game of corn hole before heading to our next stop.
The final brewery of the day was in fact a cider house or cidery as some call it. Bold Rock Hard Cider is located in Mills River, NC and is about 30 minutes outside of downtown Asheville. We didn't stay here long, but grabbed a flight, a four-pack of apple cider, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery at the picnic table area before heading out. A much smaller place indeed, but a wonderful spot to check out with plenty of outdoor seating and a food truck.
We ended the brew tours here as dinner was calling and I had a belly for something delicious. We took the $5 UBER to downtown from our place after getting ready and ventured out onto a rooftop bar to pop bottles of Champagne and celebrate with some good friends, first.
Afterwards we made our way through the city stopping at the famous drum circle, danced a little, continued walking, and stumbled upon a place called Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro. From there, we ordered the most delicious 3 cheese Mac-N-Cheese appetizer I've ever had and as an entree' -- a wonderful Maitake Mushroom plater over cheesy polenta, pesto, and of course, a poached egg over top. We toasted Whiskey and Champagne and indulged ourselves like the Kings and Queens do.
Website here: http://www.stormrhumbar.com/.
The night was young, but we aren't in our 20's anymore. It ended early and we hit the pillows around midnight. The next morning, we prepared our stomachs for breakfast as we headed towards our favorite restaurant in Asheville -- HomeGrown.
With everything being locally fetched, you can't go wrong with a breakfast from here. You walk in, look at the menu on a huge chalkboard wall, and head to the register to place your order. They provide you with a number and you find a table -- soon your food gets delivered and you get to enjoy the best, arguably, breakfast you've ever had.
Website here: http://www.slowfoodrightquick.com/.
We decided to go explore some nearby hiking grounds and we stumbled upon Catawba Falls located in Old Fort, NC. About 30 minutes outside of Asheville, the Catawba River runs freely through this part of the Pisgah National Forest. We hiked the trail to the falls, but with Caroline by our side today, we didn't go to the top. We hiked roughly 2 miles and saw some pretty cool sites, however.
I must admit, the leaves weren't really the color I had hoped they would be this time of year in mid-October. The weather was hot at about 80 degrees this day, but the hike was beautiful and we really enjoyed what was laid before our eyes. It wasn't crowded, but there were plenty of people and other dogs on the trail as we made our way around.
Headed onto the next random destination, we found ourselves thirsty so we stopped to enjoy a beer at the local brewery, Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery in Chimney Rock, NC. About an hour or so from where the trail-head was at Catawba Falls.
We enjoyed a beer on the deck right alongside the Rocky Broad River, while Caroline basked in the sun and enjoyed free pets from the passerby.
We then ventured onto Chimney Rock State Park, since we were right there and grabbed a quick stamp in our passport. If you're wondering why we didn't hike Chimney Rock -- it can be easily explained. Caroline can't ride the elevator (it was temporarily shutdown for maintenance anyway), and there's about, oh, 500 stairs to the top. She wasn't going up that many stairs. We'll come back and I'll have a nice blog about it another time.
We started our way home, but came across a sign for a place called Hickory Nut Gap Farm and decided to make a pit stop for some ice cream and a souvenir. A great stop it was! This farm had everything -- cows, pigs, baby chicks, pumpkins, apples, and root beer.
We definitely enjoyed sliding down the slides built for the kids I'm sure, but, you know. The staff were very friendly and we enjoyed looking at all the animals and produce. A great little stop if you're in the area.
Website here: http://www.hickorynutgapfarm.com/.
Next we headed home to get ready for another evening on the town. We headed towards a restaurant called Jerusalem Garden Cafe in downtown Asheville. They specialize in Mediterranean food and I was looking very much forward to sitting on the floor to eat!
We split a bottle of wine (sticking to the popping bottles theme), had a Hummus appetizer, and I grabbed the special of the day -- Grilled Venison served over a friend rice cake and seared scallops on the side with Gouda cheese sprinkled over top and a bunch of other goodies tucked in. We also had some Tomahawk Lamb Chops and really, the food was amazing, the belly dancer was entertaining, and we loved the whole experience and atmosphere of this place.
Website here: http://jerusalemgardencafe.com/.
From there, we ventured to Green Man Brewery where a friend works, picked him up and preceded to bar-hop and drink all night.
The next morning we waited in line for 2-hours to enjoy brunch at a local place called Sunny Point Cafe. It's up to you if you want to incur a 3-hour brunch experience, but I will never return due to the wait. It's not THAT good, but it was good.
Website here: http://sunnypointcafe.com/.
From there we headed home and that concludes the infamous Asheville experience. It's always a fun time and a lot of money well spent.
Until next year!