It was October 2016, and the West Coast Trip crew was back together again! Being a huge fan of craft beer, I was very excited to visit Asheville, which I’d heard has some of the best breweries in the country!
Flights from Rochester to Asheville were quite expensive. Since we were going to rent a car anyway to drive to Chattanooga and then to Nashville, we figured we may as well fly into Charlotte, rent a car there and make the 2 hour drive the rest of the way to Asheville. We had even found flights that arrived from Rochester (for Rachel, Hilary, and me) and from San Diego (for Alena) within 2 minutes of each other!
Not pointing any fingers, but a missed flight in San Diego thwarted our Charlotte rendezvous 🤔. But it’s all good – everybody made it, eventually…
Day 1 – Saturday
The Rochester crew landed in Charlotte around 9:30am, and drove through the outskirts of an incoming tropical storm to get to Asheville around 11:45am. Our first order of business was to get some Carolina BBQ for lunch. We stopped at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Arden, about 15 minutes outside of Asheville.
Everything was superb, but my favorite was the pulled pork sandwich. For sides, definitely go with the jalapeno cheese grits and the corn pudding (which was definitely a new concept for me).
Our stomachs now full, we still had an hour or so until we could check into our Country Inn and Suites. Normally I like to pick an Airbnb, but in Asheville (at least at this particular time) they were much more expensive than the decent hotels in the area, so we went with the chain accommodations.
We drove around the city a bit to kill some time, exploring some neighborhoods in the rental car until it was time to check in. After check-in, it was time to go to the South Slope area for some brews!
South Slope is a small but very cool neighborhood. With 10 or so craft breweries in a very concentrated area, there is plenty of beer to be drank within walking distance, even if it’s a little rainy. We chose Burial Beer Co first, where we quickly noticed that at least 75% of Asheville has an awesome dog, and that same 75% plus probably 15% more is wearing flannel. This is my kind of place. Not to mention their Ammunition Horchata Dark Ale is 👌.
From there we walked over to Catawba Brewing, taking note for the next morning that Vortex Doughnuts was right next door. Another short walk away was Wicked Weed Brewpub, where we had a great supper as we waited for Alena to arrive, before calling it a night…
Day 2 – Sunday
Sunday started off the only way a Sunday should: with donuts. Or doughnuts. Vortex Doughnuts, to be exact.
The donuts were crazy good, and the coffee and cappuccinos were great as well. Just what we needed to fuel up for a day of walking around the Biltmore Estate. The most well-known attraction in the city, the Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in America, and it is truly stunning. The mansion itself, as well as the vast gardens and lands surrounding it are breathtaking.
At $75, tickets were a bit pricier than what I would usually pay for a tour like this. It was remarkable, though, and I would especially recommend it if you enjoy visiting historic sites and learning about earlier times. I would recommend setting aside more time than we did to see more of the grounds and really get your money’s worth, but for those on a tight schedule, we did a complete walk-through of the mansion and the gardens in about 2.5 hours.
It just seemed wrong that it was already 2:30 in Asheville and we hadn’t had a craft beer yet, so our next stop was Wedge Brewing in the up and coming River Arts District.
In terms of atmosphere, this was probably my favorite brewery that we visited. It was supremely hipster, in a warehouse situated between railroad tracks and the river, next to an art studio, with junkyard art and furniture everywhere and a food truck right outside. One girl even had her pet parrot with her. On top of that, the cherry raspberry wheat beer was pretty good too.
Don’t forget now, this was a football Sunday. The Seahawks were on a bye week, but Hilary and Alena, two Rochester natives, being diehard Buffalo Bills fans as all Bills fans are, wanted to see their terrible team play. In my research I had come across a local Bills bar about 15 minutes outside Asheville, so we put on our Bills gear and headed to 32 Ice Bar for the game (the Bills actually won!). The bar was all right; if you’re just visiting Asheville, it can be skipped, unless of course you are a Bills fan and they are playing.
If you like sour beers, you definitely must check out the next place we went: Wicked Weed Funkatorium, back in the South Slope neighborhood. This is the same Wicked Weed whose brewpub we had visited the night prior. This location does all sours all the time, and all of them that we tried were sublime. The Montmaretto, a sour brewed with almonds and cherries, is to this day the most outstanding sour I’ve ever tasted. They also have a little shop in the back – I got a hat 😎.
We were getting pretty hungry, and the next stop on the #steintinerary was some southern comfort food at HomeGrown. The short drive from downtown was well worth it. The food was great (fried chicken with cheesy grits and gravy, with some sweet tea), and very reasonably priced. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at The Hop Ice Cream Cafe for dessert, before turning in to watch the Trump v. Clinton presidential debate. Oh, how long ago that seems…
Day 3 – Monday
We were up and at ’em early on Monday, with a decent drive and some hiking ahead of us. But first, there were biscuits to be had. At Biscuit Head, I had a catfish biscuit with a poached egg and red eye gravy, with a gravy flight on the side – it was fantastic. If you go, there will likely be a line out the door, but it is absolutely worth the wait. Possibly the best part was that they also served Genny Cream Ale – Rochester’s finest. It was indeed a proper send-off to the next leg of the trip.
Day 3 to be continued in an upcoming post on the Blue Ridge Parkway drive, hiking, and Chattanooga…
- Vortex Doughnuts
- Burial Beer Co
- The Asheville dress code
- Biscuit Head
- The whole thing really – I love Asheville.
What are your favorite spots in Asheville?