Tucked in the mountains, Asheville, NC is a beautiful destination only a few hours from Atlanta. From Atlanta, you can go either through Greenville or up through the mountains, which offers incredible views. Our visit focused around two primary activities-the Biltmore & breweries.
To start our brewery adventure, we stopped in the quaint little town of Sylva, NC at the adorable and delicious Heinzelmännchen Brewery. Heinzelmännchen translates to gnome-like creatures found in the Black Forest. The delightful gnome-creature is throughout the brewery and on their glasses. The rest of the brewery is not overly decorated and feels more like a small warehouse, with light wood and silver tanks making up the primary interior. The beer, however, is in no way simple. Even though it is served in plastic cups, it is delicious, and the brewery has a great variety of styles. Heinzelmännchen’s beer is not extremely experimental, but they brew to style and do a good job of it. For those who wanted some solid beers, Heinzelmännchen is great little gem along the way to Asheville or simply stopping in Sylva to enjoy the quaint, mountain life.
1) Downtown Asheville-Asheville is most known for the Biltmore and its downtown district that is comprised of shops, breweries, historic buildings, galleries, and a plethora of stores selling homemade goods. The city has a very distinctive, laid-back, and eclectic vibe. Downtown Asheville is an ideal place to simply walk around, venture into some shops and restaurants, and relax. The heart of the Downtown Asheville scene is a couple of streets that go on for several blocks, but provide visitors with a vast array of activities and interests.
2) Double D’s Coffee & Desserts- A little delight in the downtown Asheville area is a double-decker bus that serves delicious coffees. We visited during Christmas time when the streets were full of lights and Christmas decor. Double D’s provided us with a warm place to stop off, get a delectable coffee, and views of the beautifully decorated Asheville streets. The bus doesn’t seat a lot of people, but the atmosphere is definitely a warm, cozy vibe making it ideal to snuggle up on a little seat inside the ornately decorated double-decker bus.
3) White Duck Taco Shop-The White Duck is located in the heart of the downtown district in an unassuming building, but the taqueria is one of the best places in Asheville for tacos. The creative menu features tacos made with jerk chicken, korean bbq, lamb gyro, and a plethora of other options allowing visitors to choose from a wide range of funky, yet tasty, tacos. If you’re looking for authentic Mexican, you might want to look elsewhere, but if you’re in the mood for an imaginative spin on your standard taco and to make your food fun-the White Duck Taco Shop is a must.
Breweries: Asheville is well-known for its large selection of breweries, and some are known throughout the beer world for their creative and experimental brews. There are many breweries in Asheville and the surrounding area, so these are only the few we tried. Although it depends on what styles of beer you prefer, we recommend Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium for its cozy, less-crowded atmosphere and their world-class sours.
1) Wicked Weed-Wicked Weed is perhaps best known for their sour beers, many of which are highly sought after as some of the best sour beers in the United States. However, Wicked Weed also produces other styles of beer. Wicked Weed has two locations, a brewpub and a second facility called the Funkatorium (see below). We ate dinner at the brewpub-the burgers we ordered were delicious-and sampled several of Wicked Weed’s more traditional offerings. Our favorite was their Freak of Nature DIPA, loaded with tropical flavor. While the beer and food were excellent, the restaurant did not include very many of their sour beers (there is a bar downstairs with a few more options). In addition, the restaurant was crowded and noisy, which is expected at such a trendy locale, but was not conducive to a more intimate experience.
2) Funkatorium-Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium is a second location devoted to their barrel-aged beers, mostly sours. The Funkatorium was much more casual than the brewpub, which we enjoyed. Nearly all of the beers on tap are sours or other barrel aged beers, so it makes for a unique brewery experience. Again, the beers were excellent, while the atmosphere was more in line with what we like at a brewery.
3) Green Man-Green Man is located in a rather unassuming building a couple blocks from the downtown area. The interior was dimly lit with an eclectic decor. The tap room was less crowded than other breweries we visited, making for an environment more ideal for conversation. The brewery only had a few beers on tap, all of which were more traditional styles. As we normally do, we purchased a tasting flight in order to sample as many beers as we could. All of Green Man’s beers were good, although not as eye-catching (mouth-catching?) as other breweries we tried.
4) Burial Beer-Burial is also located a couple blocks away from the main downtown area and is in a building that looks as if it was once used for farming. The decor was very rustic, in some ways too much so as the old farming equipment looked as though it belonged in a horror movie. We enjoyed the beer more than the brewery’s interior-Burial served basic beers that were traditional and less experimental.
Biltmore Estate: The Biltmore is a residence of the famous Vanderbilt family that is the largest privately owned home in the United States. The chateau was built between 1889 and 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt, and it provides visitors with a look into the history and the lavish amenities of some of the Vanderbilts. The Biltmore Estate is comprised of expansive land, gardens, and a mansion that are open to the public (for a fee of course) to tour the grounds, dine in refined restaurants, and purchase a few elegant trinkets. The estate is situated amongst the mountains, providing impeccable views. During Christmas time the Biltmore is especially a delight as the entire mansion and grounds are exquisitely decorated, emerging visitors in the feeling of wealth and Christmas merriment.
1) Biltmore House & Gardens-While the chateau itself might not compare with some of the homes in Europe, the Biltmore Estate is quite a sight to see in the United States. The chateau is beautifully framed by mountains and large swathes of forest behind the estate, providing a secluded and rustic setting. The tour of the house includes the living and dining areas, sitting areas, several bedrooms, and the downstairs kitchen and recreation areas. Each room is large and ornately decorated, from the wall decorations, to the furniture, to the small details of the room like the flowers and trinkets on the tables. A few highlights include: the Banquet Hall, with 70-foot ceilings, three fireplaces, and a table to sit 64 guests; a two-story library holding over 10,000 volumes; an indoor, heated pool; and an indoor bowling alley. Beautiful tapestries adorn many of the walls, and the rooms boast beautifully carved tables, chairs, bedroom sets, and other furniture. While the house is always stunning, the Christmas decorations throughout the house make the Biltmore especially festive during the holiday season-visitors are treated to dozens of Christmas trees throughout the house, along with garland, poinsettias, holly, and other accoutrements. Below the house are some of the estate’s private gardens. The gardens match the house as they contain walking paths amid manicured flower beds surrounding greenhouses filled with exotic plants.
2) Antler Hill Village: Situated on the Biltmore Estate is an area called Antler Hill Village that has a variety of activities including shops, brews, wineries, and craftsman workshops. The village, just as the estate, has a wintery vibe with trees, intricate ornaments, bows, and Christmas wreaths.
3) Biltmore Estate Winery-A feature of Antler Village that continues to resemble the refined and expensive taste of the Vanderbilts. On the way to the winery, visitors walk through the tunnels in which the wine was previously housed. The winery has a large selection of wines and we found them to be absolutely delightful. Although there were several wines we really enjoyed, one of our favorites that we got a bottle of was the Sangiovese.
4) Cedric’s Tavern-Our Asheville brewery tour continued even at the Biltmore Estate with a visit to Cedric’s Tavern. The brewery only has a few choices, however, they were each basic, good beers and tasted quite refreshing with an array of tasty snacks that Cedric’s Tavern offers. Cedric’s Tavern not only offers beers, but has a large menu to grab a bite to eat. We both enjoyed a bite to eat and brews after exploring the expansive and beautiful Biltmore.
Our trip to Asheville was an enchanting vacation. We enjoyed the grandeur of the Biltmore and the laid back atmosphere of downtown Asheville and the breweries. Although Asheville may be a great destination year round, we recommend visiting at some point during Christmas time to explore the charm and extensive effort that is placed on creating a Christmas wonderland. The combination of exquisite beauty and sipping brews was the perfect balance between exploring and downtime.
Side Note: Historic Biltmore Village is just outside Biltmore Estate and is a local area that has a variety of shops, restaurants, and hotels that all resemble a German village. Even the McDonalds looks like a fancy establishment! During Christmas time the village, just like the Biltmore Estate and downtown Asheville is decorated in a plethora of Christmas decor.