Asheville’s Beer City, USA moniker is deserved–you can’t walk far without hitting an amazing brewery. But right behind its fantastic breweries are its amazing restaurants, quirky shops, gorgeous hikes…I could go on. We spent five days in early June exploring as much of Asheville as we could squeeze into each day, and we’ll try to give all of our favorites justice in a short blog post.
Quick disclaimer: This was our (Doug and Laura’s) first attempt at a family vacation, which means that for the majority of the brewery visits while Doug flew through flights, Laura parented and sipped some water. We appreciated kid-friendlier spots, took long breaks between breweries and were back at our airbnb by no later than a 6:40 p.m. bedtime each night…if you’re going for a real-deal-all-in beercation, it’s likely that our experiences will differ. But if you’re hoping to get a few weird looks while wrangling a toddler at breweries, this beercation post is right up your Goldfish-scattered alley.
We made the most of our five days in Asheville by trying as many breweries as we could between naps, hikes, splash pads, etc. While Doug paddled by day, I enjoyed bottles by night once the kiddo was snoring away. Our favorite breweries are listed below in the order in which we’d like to get a babysitter to go back. Take a look at a map, because most of these lovelies are just a short walk from each other.
Burial opens at 4, and we were one of about a dozen people standing outside at 3:50 waiting for the doors to open. Simply put, this was our hands-down favorite beer and brewery of the trip. The vibe is great, the beer was fantastic, and there is plenty of Tom Selleck/Sloth/etc. art to keep your eyeballs happy while dunking your donut hole garnish in your Skillet Donut Stout. At the time we were there they had no packaged beer to sell, which was a true bummer for everyone but especially me. Watch for a Horchata-inspired collaboration coming out soon from Burial and Hoof Hearted.
Stacks on stacks on stacks on stacks of barrels. The beer was amazing, the shop is amazing (we made several…uh…large purchases here), the food is amazing…the only thing that wasn’t amazing was that our server didn’t seem to care for us. I don’t know if it was our child, who happened be to super well-behaved in their provided high chair, or our overeagerness to take photos, but even with two different days here, we didn’t feel all that welcome. That being said, though, we both had what we considered to be the beer highlight of the trip at the Funkatorium, Garçon De Ferme.
We didn’t even necessarily intend to stop at New Belgium, but we were walking around the River Arts District and decided to hop by since we were in the neighborhood–and were thrilled that we did. This was by far our daughter’s favorite stop of the trip. (Well, unless you count water and food-based stops outside of beer.) The brewery is right on the river, which was perfect to watch the tubers, paddleboarders and kayakers float by. I’ve never in my life felt more genuinely welcomed by a staff than we did at New Belgium. They were so kind, in fact, that as we were paying our relatively small bill (sipping beers while watching Sesame Street on the iPad keeps the beer cost down) they gave us a free six pack to go. We decided the kindness, matched with the great beer in the beautiful space warranted a quick second stop on the way out of town, which was just as pleasant as the first.
Twin Leaf is right across from the Funkatorium, so we swung in to watch some giant Jenga and for Doug to sample a few beers. I was drawn to their promise of a honey beer after going down a rabbit hole to discover what the beautifully illustrated bee decals were on all the storefronts. What I had failed to realize is that the Pollination Celebration! that produced the honey beer was June 8…2015. Alas, the space was very nice, we got to watch some brewing action, and they were incredibly kind when we ran out during the kiddo’s end-of-day meltdown.
By far most of the off-the-wall beers of our trip came from Bhramari Brewhouse. Doug tried Root Down Saison, Black Honey, Night Sauce Stout, and Molly’s Lips Black Gose, none of which were similar to anything we’d ever had before. This is a stop right in the middle of the South Slope brewery area, so it’s worth a stop if you have the time.
Wicked Weed’s space is beautiful, and we’ve heard the food is fantastic. Our child was one of several, and she loved how many dogs hung out at Wicked Weed on the patio. It was here that I learned two important lessons: Beer samples were not going to work with a curious child, and the brewery was named after the Henry VIII quote that “Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed.” While the beer at the Funkatorium may have the nerds swooning (including me after the kid was in bed), Wicked Weed was far more comfortable and welcoming for us.
We stopped at Asheville Brewing Co.’s production facility while walking through the South Slope brewery area, and we thought the service was incredibly warm–even with child in tow. While we were initially thrilled with how comfortable the space was, we were also pleasantly surprised by the beers we had. Doug had a Brandy Barrel Aged Ninjabread Man, and I had a BerLemon Weisse. Both were pleasant and appropriately high and low in alcohol, respectively, and the pizza smelled and looked fantastic. We would make it a point rather than a pit stop to spend more time at Asheville Brewing Co. our next time in town, and maybe even check out one of their other two locations.
Green Man has changed quite a bit in the last few years. They’ve recently opened a 3-story packaging hall/brewtique/taproom that overlooks the original production facility next door. The original taproom and production facility looks tiny next to the behemoth next door. We spent some time at the new space admiring the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the third floor outdoor taproom. The space was beautiful and incredibly stylish, although it seemed like the character that had grown from the brewery’s start in 1997 was still next door in the original facility.
We stayed in West Asheville just off Haywood Road, so we passed Altamont every morning and every night on our way to and from our airbnb. One night we decided to roll the dice with the kiddo and have a dinner out amid a bit of a breakdown. Fortunately for us, Altamont was absolutely perfect. They had a huge outdoor area where the kiddo could play without getting in anyone’s way, the bartender was incredibly laid-back and welcoming, and Doug enjoyed the beers. The pizza was fantastic as it was made from housemade dough and sauce. If you happen to find yourself on Haywood Road, which you’re likely to do with its concentration of fantastic foods, a stop at Altamont should be included.
You can’t miss Hi-Wire when you walk through the South Slope area with its giant circus mural on the side of the building right next to the conspicuously cool Ben’s Tune Up. The taproom is surrounded by tanks, and the bartenders and space were incredibly comfortable. Hi-Wire seems to be a soccer spot, so if you’re in Asheville and hoping to catch a match, this is likely to be your spot…as long as the game is late enough for the brewery to be open.
Wedge Brewing Co. is right in the heart of the River Arts District of Asheville; in fact, it’s on the lower level of the Wedge Studios, which is a three-story warehouse next to the railroad tracks. Wedge itself is a work of art. Every piece down to the barstools is interesting and creative, and it would be easy to spend your time examining just the brewery and beer garden. But despite how interesting and cool the space was, we were greeted by so many rules for people with kids “If your child is more than 10 feet from you, you will be asked to leave” sort of things that we didn’t really feel comfortable to stay more than 15 minutes. If you’re without child, this might be the most fantastic neighborhood bar ever. But with the kiddo, we felt like we weren’t a good fit, so we kept rolling.
I feel like we only scratched the surface when it came to Asheville’s food scene. The bummer about days is that there are really only three major opportunities to eat–and if you eat like we do at two of them, there’s just not room in the body left for a third. Moderation sounds like a tomorrow problem.
We LOVED Tupelo Honey. Their location in downtown Asheville is the original, so if you’re hoping to hit only original spots, you can fudge the rules that this at least started as their only spot (I think…I’m not digging any deeper). They serve brunch every day, and I can’t say enough for how much all three of us loved the food, including the delicious housemade biscuits.
The menu at The Funkatorium pairs perfectly with some of the best beers I’ve ever had. We tried more or less the entirety of the small plates and tapas options, and we were wowed by every option we had. The chorizo and marinated tomato small plates were especially fantastic.
Biscuit Head is a delight. We enjoyed breakfast at the Haywood Road spot to start one of our mornings, and we were thrilled by the kids’ corner that included toys and a small table and chairs perfect for our little one. I will absolutely be ordering the cookbook as my Brisket Biscuit was the perfect balance of everything I want in a breakfast–flaky, a bit spicy, light yet filling. They’ve got a jam and gravy bar (!!!) as well as plenty of syrups and butters to choose from. Biscuit Head is great for breakfast lovers of all ages.
I had no idea how much I would love Hole, but holy cow, am I glad we stopped in. I’m a fan of sharing beer and donuts with others, but I rarely seek out just donuts for myself. The fresh, yeast-raised doughnuts at Hole are made right in front of your drooling face, and we went with all four flavors available the day we stopped in. The Indian Spice donut was particularly impressive, but all four were a hit with our trio. This is another gem on Haywood Road with limited hours, so check ahead and try to make it one of your stops.
Chai Pani was our first official stop after our drive down to Asheville, and it was a refreshing beginning to the trip. Their fun take on Indian street food amid the bustling Asheville downtown provided the perfect backdrop to our trip’s beginning. We shared a handful of the smaller options and were in love with it all, and the kiddo enjoyed the combination of nearby dogs and street performers throughout the meal.
We got in line 10 minutes before 12 Bones opened, and it was worth the wait. While I wasn’t totally in love with the blueberry chipotle sauce on my ribs, I appreciated the creativity. The sides were great, and the huge shaded patio of picnic tables was casual enough that no one minded when our strong-willed daughter decided that would be the day to learn how to use a fork to eat (and fling) macaroni and cheese.
The food menu at Altamont Brewing Co. was simple and accessible, but the pizza was honestly fantastic. The space was comfortable, the beer was solid, and the location was convenient. The bartender was more than happy to strike up a conversation regarding each beer and menu item, and the clientele was incredibly friendly.
We decided to have a quick 90-minute stop at New Belgium on the way out of town so I could have my chance to sample beers for the first and last time of our trip. (These 90 minutes were awesome for me. Seriously.) Fortunately a fun food truck that offered both Mexican and Korean, El Kimchi, had set up shop that day. I had some delicious Bibimbap while Doug and Violet enjoyed the Mexican side of the menu.
We hit up White Duck Taco for dinner at the River Arts District location. Doug and I enjoyed the Korean Beef Bulgogi taco and the Thai Peanut Chicken taco while the kiddo enjoyed the quesadilla. I will admit that we’re big enough pigs that even with several tacos under our belts, we wished we’d had more. I’m sure we followed it with some very healthy logs of cheese once back at our airbnb, but just be ware that the tacos don’t go as far as we’d assumed for the price.
The Early Girl is cute and quaint and had all the delicious farm-to-table Southern goodness that should have made it amazing, but we were greeted by an annoyed hostess during a hot afternoon, and that started us all off on the wrong foot. A grunted greeting flavors the entire visit poorly, but I would be willing to give it another shot based upon all of the rave reviews I’ve heard.
We truly only dabbled in all the awesome that Asheville has to offer. But here are a few spots we visited and would recommend, listed in order of our favorites.
I can’t recommend the arboretum enough. Honestly, it’s a fantastic deal ($12 a family regardless of how many people fill the seats) and it’s gorgeous. We got a nice five miles of hiking under our belts while enjoying several fun surprises, like their Bonsai exhibit. Plus it’s right by Lake Powhatan as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’ve got kids and want to experience nature or just spend some time driving, this is a great area to explore.
This is just one example of the many impressive studios we walked into during our visit. Most of the artists work in the open in their studios and welcome visitors, so you can watch the work, ask questions and shop at the same time. The Lexington Glassworks studio stands out the most to me because I lusted after so many of the vases, but really there are dozens (hundreds?) of fantastic spots to discover.
We spent a few hours just walking up and down the River Arts District enjoying watching artists and galleries open throughout the day. We stopped for a relaxing coffee and an AMAZING Nutella muffin at the Clingman Cafe between studio visits and enjoyed watching herbs and fruits being planted in the beds next to us on the cafe patio. To sound like a total butt, the experience felt quintessentially Asheville to me and offered a nice look into the art that helped make Asheville what it is today.
If you’ve got kids, this is a great pit spot for 30-60 minutes to cool off with no cost or obligation. If you’ve got no kids, you probably could use a break from the beer, and there are plenty of shaded benches and cool grass patches to enjoy for some lazing between beers.
Biltmore is PRICEY. The house itself was a quick visit for us with a kid screaming loudly as the 60+ set was trying to admire the Vanderbilt family fortune, but we did really enjoy touring the gardens and grounds. We accidentally hiked the entirety of the estate on the various trails while I wore a sleeping child strapped to my chest, and it was gorgeous. I can’t say I’m sure the cost for hiking was worth $60+ a person when we enjoyed similar trails for a much smaller price the previous day at the arboretum.
Since, and you may have noticed me mention this, we were visiting Asheville with a child, it was important for us to have a place where we could relax after the kiddo went to bed since she goes to bed by 7:00 p.m. at the latest. We ended up glamping in The Silver Bettie in West Asheville not far from Haywood Road. We had plenty of space to ourselves, and our closest neighbors were goats and chickens, which felt like an authentic experience to us and was fun for the kiddo. We had a hot tub and a decent wi-fi signal so I could work (BOO) every morning and night. For us, this worked fantastic despite requiring a drive to get anywhere. If we were going back without the kiddo, I’m sure we’d find a spot right in the heart of the action, either downtown or near Haywood Road.
Again, this was far from an all-beer beercation, but Doug definitely did his darndest to do some drinking during our family trip. We will absolutely be back to Asheville, with or without child, as it was a charming, friendly town. We hope you have a chance to enjoy it, too!