As we had prepared for this weekend we were looking for some options that would involve physical activity that all could participate in. When we’d visited a few years back with friends for a beer based weekend, one of the couples had gone rafting on the French Broad River. With this in mind we located the company they had used and made reservations in advance for a kayak trip at 11:00 am on Saturday morning.
Suited up and ready to get wet, we arrived at Asheville Outdoor Center about an hour before our scheduled time so that we could turn in our waivers, go through the safety talk, and relax a bit before we hit the river. We’d booked the 7-mile float trip with the choice of moving down the river in a two man or single Kayak. For $38, they would shuttle us up to the starting point, supply us with our kayak and let us enjoy a 2 to 3-hour paddle/float down the French Broad, taking us through the heart of the Biltmore property.
It was an overcast day with the threat of rain (they cancel trips if thunderstorms are forecast) which didn’t deter us as we’d likely be getting a bit wet anyway. Our shuttle driver was a young and irreverent fellow, full of good humor leaving us primed for a fun experience. We off loaded at the put in site, waited our turn to climb into our two-man kayaks and soon shoved off for fairly lazy trip down the shallow but navigable river.
We set off downstream, working on getting the timing of our paddle strokes down so that we complemented, rather than offset each other. It’s not particularly hard work, but can get a bit tiring if you’re not used to the repetitive motion of dipping the oar in and the pulling it back through the water. We’d float a bit, then paddle, paying attention to the rocky sections of the river, of which there were quite a few. This was exacerbated by a low river level; I’m not sure if this is normal for the French Broad or a result of the drought like conditions we’ve experienced this summer.
About halfway through the journey we were able to spot the Biltmore House but unfortunately came upon it to quickly to get the Go Pro out to capture an image. As we neared the end of the trip, we came upon a couple of large contingents of folks floating along in large inner tubes lashed together, many with floating coolers. This looked like an extremely enjoyable way to spend and afternoon, one we’ll have to consider in the future.
We finished up on the water, hauling out back at the Center, grabbing a cold draft beer or two and hastily consuming a small bag or two of potato chips. We packed up the car and returned to the house, showered and changed clothes, downing a snack while there to get us ready for another run into central Asheville for more beer adventures. This time we parked on Millard Avenue, not far from the intersection with Coxe Avenue.
Our first stop was Burial Beer Company known for their traditional Belgian ales styles, farmhouse beers and big American Stouts. The outdoor patio was completely full and we just managed to find four seats inside, allowing us to spend some time savoring Burial’s excellent products. Feeling a bit hungry and ready to try more beers we walked up Collier Avenue to Buxton and turned right, immediately running into the French Broad Chocolate Factory and Tasting Room.
We took a quick tour of the plant and then picked up a few pieces of chocolate to sample then and hold for later in the day. We walked a short distance down the street to Green Man Brewery, an Asheville legend, brewing since 1997. By now quite hungry, we were happy to see a pretty substantial looking food truck, Melt Your Heart, set up for operations next door to the outdoor patio of the brewery. We grabbed four seats and while Kris and I went inside for a round of beers, Jessica and Joanna hit the food truck for our lunch.
We split a Love at First Bite (Tavern Ham, Smoked Gouda, Stout mustard and caramelized onions) and the Firebird (Hickory Smoked Turkey, bacon, Vermont Cheddar, tomato and chipotle mayo), each with a side of slaw (one Asian and one chipotle). These were undoubtedly two of the best grilled sandwiches I’ve ever had. Expertly cooked, hearty portions, enough to fill the four of us and leave us seeking more liquid refreshments.
We walked over to South Lexington Avenue and up a few blocks towards Biltmore Avenue, stopping in at Double D’s for a coffee. Housed in an old English double decker bus, it’s been a fixture on the corner for as long as I can remember. We started back down Biltmore and made a stop at the Diamond Brand Outdoor shop in the new Aloft Hotel that sits on what used to be the large surface parking lot we’d use when visiting in the past. This is a nice shop, full of the clothing lines I tend to shop for. I was able to find a nice bright green short sleeve shirt by Mountain Hardware; one I’d not seen at any of the places I normally shop. I picked it up and have received a number of nice compliments when I wear it.
We began to work our way back to the car with one stop in mind, Catawba Brewing on Banks Avenue. One of the first of the craft brewers to can their beer, we set up shop in the back of the tap room, close to the small secondary bar that was pouring a number of their barrel aged high gravity beers. They were good, but not outstanding, leading to our conclusion that the best beers of the day had been at Burial. Just before we arrived at the car, I made a stop at the Tasty Beverage Company, a well stocked bottle shop with taps, to pick up a couple of selections for later that night.
Our plan for the evening was to rest up a bit at the house and then return to downtown Asheville for the 4th of July fireworks display. Mother Nature had something to say about that though and skies that had threatened most of the day let loose about the time we needed to decide whether to go back or stay home. With plenty of good beer in the refrigerator, some food we could munch on and a movie or two to watch it was an easy decision to relax at the house and enjoy the evening quietly. Sometimes quiet is just better.
Asheville Outdoor Center: http://www.ashevilleoutdoorcenter.com/
Burial Beer Co.: http://www.burialbeer.com/
French Broad Chocolate Factory: https://frenchbroadchocolates.com/
Green Man Brewery: http://www.greenmanbrewery.com/
Double D’s: http://doubledscoffee.com/
Diamond Brand Outdoors: http://www.diamondbrand.com/commerce/
Catawba Brewing: http://catawbabrewing.com/#
Tasty Beverage Company: http://avl.tastybeverageco.com/