Friday, March 22, 2019

8 Unique Breweries to Visit in the US

The United States has had a long love affair with beer. Supposedly, Native Americans had their own recipe to brew beer. And the first brewery in America opened in 1632 on the island of Manhattan at the Dutch West India Company. As of last year, there are some 7,000 breweries in the US. Here are a few unique ones that you can visit - and enjoy a beverage at.

 Pelican Brewing Company, Pacific City, Oregon
Pelican Brewing Company brews beer "Born at the Beach" Started in 1996 in Pacific City, Oregon, Pelican now has 3 locations along the coast of Oregon. The original location, often found on "Best Breweries" lists, is right on the beach and you can enjoy sipping your beer with your toes in the sand looking at a haystack rock.  I think it ranks right up there with one of my favorite all-time breweries I've visited. You just can't beat that view.

Yuengling, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
D.G. Yuengling and Son is America's Oldest Brewery. It has been continuously family owned and operated since 1829. You can visit either of their locations - Pottsville, PA or Tampa, Fl - and tours are free for all ages. The tours last about an hour and you may receive, with proof of age, a free sample in their Yuengling pub. On the tour you will learn the history of the brewery including how they survived Prohibition and see some of the bottling operations.

Brew Dog - Dog Tap, Columbus, Ohio
Brew Dog Brewing was started in 2007 in Northeast Scotland and now includes breweries and beer pubs worldwide including Australia,England and the US. This Columbus, Ohio location (Canal Winchester, Ohio actually) is the world's first craft beer hotel, where you can wake up inside a brewery. (I know, I know - a dream come true for some) From your room you can "see, hear and smell" beer being made. And your room has it's very own BrewDog tap. Not only that, but there is a shower beer fridge, locally made craft beer soaps and some rooms are dog friendly! (And there is a dog park on property for your fur pal to get some exercise) So if that is your dream come true, then book now and get thee to Columbus.

Ska Brewing, Durango, Colorado
Ska Brewing is one of five breweries in the Durango area but what makes it unique is that you can drink beer in a shipping container with framed views of the San Juan Mountains. It's a "modern day tasting room experience with a casual food truck culture." Not all breweries have restaurants but this one does and it's beer and food receive high marks.

Fredericksburg Brewing Company, Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg Brewing Company, located in the small town it's named after, includes the unique qualification of being a "Bed and Brew". Located above the brewing company and restaurant are 11 rooms with private baths and central air. You can park for your entire stay while enjoying Main Street and the brewery.Then when you're ready to turn in for the night, just walk upstairs. No driving necessary. And each guest receives one pint of beer per stay - hence the "Beer and Brew" moniker. 

Skagway Brewing Company, Skagway, Alaska
Skagway Brewing, "the little Alaskan Brewery & Restaurant with the big green heart" is located in that far north state, Alaska. It's open year-round which is unique enough, but it's open in the winter in a town of only about 1000 residents. So it's there to serve locals and tourists. It prides itself on it's sustainability - their boiler runs on bio-diesel fuel that they converted themselves from used vegetable oil which heats their building and their water - and being around since the Stampede Days of 1898. I personally spent an incredibly rainy afternoon perched on a stool here and can attest to the friendliness of the staff - and locals.

Hunter-Gatherer Hangar, Columbia, South Carolina
In 1929 the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service built an airplane hangar at Owens Field, a municipal airport 3 miles from the city (at the time) The airport was dedicated in 1930 with an airshow with some 15,000 spectators. Today the Columbia airport is located elsewhere but small planes still use Owens Field. And that airport hangar is now half of the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery (the other half is located downtown) You can enjoy beer, a small menu of pizza and apps while sitting in the hangar or sit on the rooftop deck to watch planes take off. 

New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
New Belgium, located in Ft. Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina, was started by Jeff Lebesch after a stint riding his fat tire bike around Belgium visiting various breweries in 1988. Upon his return to the States, he married Kim Jordan and they collaborated in creating Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing. It's quite the success story. Ownership in the company is now awarded after one year of employment - and you get a brand new fat tire bike, too. You can tour New Belgium by appointment - it usually fills up weeks in advance - with beers that you taste picked by your tour guide. The tours last 90 minutes and you can slide down the twisty slide from the second floor to the first and learn about their "minister of fun" position. If you'd like to try their seasonal ales, sours or the classic Fat Tire, there is a bar if you don't want to take the tour. Be sure you find the postcards to mail to your loved ones at home for free in the lobby

And a bonus brewery.... Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge, Georgia
I'm including this brewery just because I love the name. Grumpy Old Men is a micr0-brewery in Blue Ridge, Georgia started by - you got it - two retired beer enthusiasts who first brewed in an outdoor shower. Moving on to an actual brewery, they then decided it was too much work and sold to "a grumpy old man and his crabby old lady." It's located in an old gas station and includes outdoor space with giant jenga and other games. Dog friendly.

How about you? What's the most interesting brewery you've been to?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Exploring Asheville's Biltmore Estate - A One Day Visit

The Biltmore Estate, conceived of and built for George Washington Biltmore, is the largest privately owned home in America. It's a chateau-style mansion, based on the French Chateau de Blois, sitting on 8000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Once considered the most visited spot in the state - the Biltmore no longer tracks visitor attendance - it's still a crown jewel of a place to visit and spend an entire day, or weekend. I recently was able to visit due to the generosity of my  sister-in-law who invited me along to spend the day tagged on to her annual pass. Come along as we visit George and Edith's place on a crowded and rainy Saturday.

First off, admission prices to the Biltmore are steep - prices run from $60 to $85 depending on the season and day. Your fee includes admission to the grounds, gardens, garden hothouse, the house, the small history exhibit about the house and the Vanderbilt family and to Antler Hill Village which includes a playground, small farm with animals, blacksmith shop, restaurants, shops and the Biltmore Estate Winery which includes a free wine tasting. You may also purchase several different add-on tours including a guided audio tour, an actual guided tour, a rooftop tour, a premium tour or specialty wine experiences such as a behind-the-scenes winery tour. And that's not all! You can also participate in outdoor activities at the Outdoor Adventure Center such as land rover expeditions, bike rentals and clay shooting.(for an extra fee) If you're hungry there are no less than 14 places that you may purchase food including 2 ice cream shops, a wine bar, a bistro, a tavern, a restaurant, 2 cafes, a market and a bake shop. Whew! Maybe it would be better if you had a whole week here instead.

You enter the estate through the main gate off of Biltmore Avenue and there are several parking lots (parking is included) with a few that have shuttle bus service that takes you directly to the house.( And if it's your first time visiting the estate, that first view is a doozy. It's so very majestic.) We parked and took the shuttle to the house where we found we needed a timed entry reservation - which we didn't know about - but that was easily remedied and we entered the house some 15 minutes later.

 One of the cool things that Biltmore does is have ongoing exhibitions so you can see something different each time you visit. Currently there is a costume exhibit of mannequins wearing clothes that were recreated from photographs of the Biltmore's and their guests by a team led by a Hollywood fashion designer. I really enjoyed seeing the clothing exhibit. It brought some of that time period to life. (Last year they presented a Chihully exhibit) 
The indoor swimming pool
Not sure why the bowlers are headless?
We took our time walking through the guided pathway through the house - I think it took us about an hour and a half to go through not using the audio headsets. The self-guided tour takes you from the conservatory to the grand ballroom to bathrooms and the servants quarters downstairs (its' very Downton Abbeyesque) so you get a glimpse of quite a bit of this incredibly large house. Vanderbilt was an avid art collector and that's evident as you tour the house seeing his collections.

Next we moved on to the Stable Cafe in the former stables which also house a few gift shops and a snack bar, where we had a delicious lunch ( I highly recommend the pimiento mac n cheese fritters) with no wait. The ambience and food at all the Biltmore restaurants is just a treat and that rings true at the Stable Cafe, also. 
Fancy taking home your own gargoyle?

Even though is was raining we took a walk down through the gardens and into the garden hothouse. There are loads of plants available to see from cacti to orchids and it was a nice respite from the rain.

We shuttled back to the parking lot to drive to Antler Hill Village which includes the winery, farm and The Biltmore Legacy, an exhibition that includes treasures from the Biltmore family and insights into their lives in Asheville.
George in Venice - what a cool photo!
 We waited in line for a short bit to do the wine tasting which is free and includes 5 tastings though if you request more they won't deny you. We walked through the exhibits and then saw some of the chickens though the farm was closed for the day. It was already 5 o' clock and we had been here since 10am. How time flies when you're having fun! 
The tasting bar at the most visited winery in America

Biltmore Village
George Washington Vanderbilt was ahead of his time. He hoped for the whole estate to be self-sufficient. And he built a model village just outside of the estate for all of the estate's workers. Here you can see the All Soul's Church and several other buildings built here which are now stores and restaurants. We ate dinner here at the Village Wayside Bar & Grille which is housed in an old train depot right on the tracks. It's a unique spot with good food - we both liked our choices of fish & chips and curried chicken salad.

Where We Stayed
Though we visited the Biltmore for a day, we decided to get a hotel room so we weren't driving back late at night. We stayed at the Clarion Inn right down the road from the entrance to the Biltmore. Our rate was $75 and we had a hot breakfast in the morning plus a clean room with 2 queen beds. The property was in great shape - very clean - the staff was helpful and there was even a small bar open in the late afternoon and evening if we want to hang out there. I'd highly recommend what you get for your price and the proximity to the Biltmore.( The only drawback was parking and access to the hotel as you had to enter through the Texas Roadhouse parking lot next door and it was packed. Very hard to do on a Saturday night)

It was a fun getaway and I'm glad you thought of taking me along, M! Thanks!
Us and George and his dog, Cedric

How about you? Have you visited Biltmore Estate?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand, Our World Tuesday and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!