A long time ago, way back in history
When all there was to drink was nothing but cups of tea
Along came a man by the name of Charlie Mops
And he invented a wonderful drink and he made it out of hops
He might have been an admiral, a sultan, or a king
And to his praises we shall always sing
Look what he has done for us, he’s filled us up with cheer
Lord bless Charlie Mops
The man who invented beer
~from the old drinking song “Beer, Beer, Beer”
Last September, on our first year wedding anniversary, we planned a weekend trip to Asheville, located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. With an abundance of shops, food, street performers, and festivals, Asheville has been named one of the top travel destinations and places to live in the United States. For the past 4 years, Asheville has competed with rivals Portland Oregon, and now, Grand Rapids Michigan, in claiming a title that may be a surprise to some, “Beer City USA.” With ten breweries and over fifty brews to sample, Asheville has become a center for craft beer, having more breweries per capita than any other city in the US. Aside from that, there are countless nearby hiking trails, outdoor activities, waterfalls, and mountaintops to explore. With our growing interest in craft beer, along with a hot air balloon ride voucher we had purchased to fly over Asheville and the surrounding area, we planned the perfect weekend trip to celebrate our anniversary in Beer City, USA.
Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival (sold out before we could get tickets), was scheduled for the same weekend, so many bed and breakfasts had already been booked. We were lucky to find one room available at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, located in Asheville’s historic Montford district, and built in 1901 by Richard Sharp Smith, a supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate. We booked the Cardinal Room, featuring rich red walls, a mahogany four-poster queen size bed, a gas log fireplace, and a private whirlpool bath. Upon arrival, we were greeted by James, one of the friendly innkeepers. He and his wife, Susan, are two well-traveled, fantastic hosts, and they keep their home cozy, clean, and inviting to all of their guests. We enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and wine before heading out to dinner, getting a chance to meet some of the other guests staying at the bed and breakfast.
For dinner, we ate at Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB), as we had planned to visit all of the breweries in Asheville during our stay. After dinner, we ventured out to Green Man Brewery, as well as Asheville Brewing Company. Together we shared beer flights at each brewery, rating and discussing each beer sampling on our handy beer app, although we soon called it an early night for our scheduled hot air balloon ride in the morning.
The next morning brought cloudy skies and low visibility, so our flight with R.O. Franks Hot Air Balloon Company was cancelled. We didn’t want the cancellation to ruin our day of fun, so we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and chatted with the other guests, eventually deciding we would ride out to Chimney Rock State Park, about 25 miles outside of Asheville. Chimney Rock is a 535 million year old monolith, where from the top, you can see 75 mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. You can either hike or ride the elevator to the top, and there are also gift shops along with a cafe and deli. Scenes from Last of the Mohicans were filmed in Chimney Rock Park, including the climatic flight scene at the top of Hickory Nut Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. After our hike, we stopped in Chimney Rock Village to grab lunch and take a stroll through the 1920s and 30s style mountain village, complete with shops, restaurants, fudge, and ice cream.
On our way back to Asheville, we visited the fourth brewery on our list, French Broad Brewery, located near the Biltmore Village area. We soon decided to head back to the bed and breakfast, taking a short rest before going downtown for our anniversary dinner. We ate dinner at The Lobster Trap, which is also home to Oyster House Brewing Company. We found this brewery particularly unique, because the Moonstone Stout is actually brewed with oysters, shell and all! After dinner, we visited both Craggie and Wedge Breweries. Craggie Brewing Company had a band playing and a very lively crowd. We were able to snag a booth and sample a flight, while admiring the photos on the walls of Western North Carolina’s historical culture. Wedge Brewing Company was really hard to find, located below Wedge Studios in the River Arts District of Asheville. Their brewmaster, Carl Melissas, was once the head brewmaster for Greenman Brewing Company.
Although we stayed out late the night before, we made sure we woke up in time for our last delicious meal at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. Before we checked out of our room, we made list of a few historical places we wanted to drive by before heading back home. These included the Thomas Wolfe House, O.B. Wright House (now the Wright Inn and Carriage House), Highland Hospital, Brexton Boarding House, Grove Park Inn, and Homewood (a massive stone-like castle house). Other wonderful nearby sites to see are the Biltmore Estate, Blue Ridge Parkway, Lake Lure, Sliding Rock, Pisgah National Forest, Craggy Gardens, and the WNC Nature Center. The 3 Asheville breweries that we didn’t get a chance to visit, but definitely worth mentioning are Pisgah Brewing Company, Highland Brewing Company, and Thirsty Monk, the city’s newest brewery.
Did you know?
The Hunger Games, Dirty Dancing, and Last of the Mohicans were all filmed in and around Asheville, including Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock.