Brewgrass Festival 2011

Craft beer lovers were in a state of bliss this Saturday as Brewgrass Festival 2011 transformed Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Asheville, NC into a beer tasting paradise. Regional craft brewers Like Southern Appalachian Craft, Highland, and Green Man Ales teamed up with many other popular brewers such as New Belgium, Brooklyn and Lagunitas. Get the complete list here.  Food was provided by local restaurants like Barley’s and Doc Chey’s, and a talented lineup of Bands kept the crowd energized.

One of the greatest things about Brewgrass is the festival goers.  Everyone is there to have a good time and you always leave with new friends.; and the level of beer knowledge among the crowd is truly impressive.  The brewers were equally friendly, and wouldn’t hesitate to discuss their brewing techniques, private reserves and plans for expansion.  The economy may be struggling, but craft brewing continues to be a boon for Asheville, Hendersonville and other markets with a craft brew presence.

For those new to craft brew, it’s basically a dedication to making excellent beer with high quality ingredients, usually in much smaller quantities that mass produced beers.  Love for the process is a big part of the craft brewing.  Many beers adhere to the traditional Ale styles, Stouts and Belgians.  Limited quantity cask brews were a big hit this year including Green Man Ale’s coconut firken.  Southern Appalachian Brewery‘s IPA and Belgian Blonde were very popular along with the Copperhead Amber and Black Beer Stout.

Considering the 40+ brewers with an average of 4 to 6 beers per brewer, the only way to truly understand the beauty of craft beer is to be lucky enough to get a ticket to next year’s Brew Grass Festival.  Tickets go fast, so once the sale is announced, you have to move fast.  Hope to see you next year.

North Carolina Apple Festival

The NC Apple Festival is upon us once again.  Always taking place over the Labor Day weekend, this year’s event runs from September 2 – 5, 2011 on Main Street in downtown Hendersonville.  Apple Festival has been a tradition for family apple growers for some 60 years.

Henderson County is the largest producer of apples in the state of North Carolina with over 200 growers and 5000 acres.  Gala, Golden, Fuji, Empire and Honey Crisp are but a few of the varieties grown here.  You will be able to sample and purchase fresh apples, cider and many tasty dishes made with locally grown apples.

The NC Apple Festival is more than just produce.  Crafts, free live entertainment and fun for the kids transforms Main Street into a pedestrian fair.  Between the food court and downtown restaurants, there is something for every palette and budget.  And you won’t want to miss the King Apple Parade on Labor Day.

Don’t let downtown parking keep you away.  Shuttle service will be provided from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from parking lots at 1250 Seventh Ave. East., $2 for adults, $1 kids.  Click here for the location.  Hope to see you there!

Another Reason To Love Western North Carolina

Hurricane Irene has been all over the national news this week.  West coast relatives have been calling with concern over the threat of Irene.  Although we have had heavy rain from hurricanes traveling through the gulf, Western North Carolina  is quite a safe distance from the North Carolina Coast.  In fact, it’s actually a closer drive to the South Carolina coast, specifically Charleston.

Looking to escape Atlantic coast hurricanes?  Look no further than the mountains of North Carolina.  While storm surges breach sea walls, you could be enjoying waterfalls.  Is your favorite restaurant boarded up until the storm passes?  Asheville has some of the finest dining in the southeast.   Avoid the shelter and stay in a historic bed and breakfast in Hendersonville.

Be safe.  Be smart.  Now would be a good time to visit the mountains!

Bele Chere Festival 2011

Who is Bele Chere and how did she get her own festival?  Belle Cher is some chick on Facebook, but Bele Chere is an annual event in Asheville, North Carolina.  It is always held during the last weekend of July.  According to the organizers, Bele Chere means “Beautiful Living” in an ancient Scottish dialect.  I’m not ancient Scottish, so I’ll take their word for it.  It’s a fitting name, however, as the event meanders through the blocked off streets of beautiful downtown Asheville.Bele Chere 2011Free live music is a staple at Bele Chere.  Multiple stages are setup at different points throughout the festival map.  Genres of virtually every type can be heard at the 3 day event. The wide array of talent, offers something for everyone.  As one attendee said, If you don’t find fun and music you like at Bele Chere, then you don’t like fun and music.

Asheville is known for it’s diversity, and people watching is part of the fun.    A few dress in costumes and there is never a shortage of eclectic attire.  Bele Chere has sort of a Mardi Gras air about it, but with a western North Carolina flair.  Local Street musicians and performance artists display their talent as an integral part of downtown culture.

Music Stage at Bele Chere

What you can expect to experience:

  • Free Live Music
  • Art In All Forms
  • Crafts
  • Food
  • Local Craft Beer
  • Crowds
  • A Child Friendly Area
  • Diversity
  • Fun

Performance Artists

You are asked not to bring any pets to the festival.  This sounds like a real drag as a dog lover, but after watching the City of Asheville’s video explanation, I fully support the position.  The Ultimate Air Dogs attraction continues to bring enjoyment to the event, however.

A few pictures and a short write up can’t possibly describe such a wonderful event.  The sounds, motion and mood is unique to Asheville.  In short, if you have a festive spirit and don’t mind a good crowd, then the Bele Chere Festival should be your destination next July.

Click here
to see a quick slideshow.

Echoview Farm 2nd Annual Hops Festival

Echoview FarmNorth of Asheville just passed Weaverville, we set out for the eagerly anticipated Echoview Farm 2nd Annual Hop Festival.  We were privileged to attend last year’s successful event, and this year was equally successful.  As we entered, we picked up our reusable bags complete with literature and tasting glasses.

This year, Echoview Farm provided several home brews made exclusively with Echoview hops;  our favorite was the brown ale.  Pisgah and Asheville breweries were also on hand.  The food tent supplied hot dogs, bratwurst and veggie dogs with all the trimmings.   Music was provided by the award winning High Windy bluegrass band.

We enjoyed some hops Q&A with Stacy the grower.  With multiple varieties, including Cascade, Centennial, Magnum and Brewers Gold, we learned the challenges of growing hops in this climate.  The complexity of soil pH, nutrients, temperature and rain are but some of the challenges to growing hops in western North Carolina.

The concept of buying local produce and goods is well known in these parts.  For one thing, it just makes sense that when dollars don’t leave, they get reinvested in the community.  There is also a sense of connection to those that live and do business together.  Echoview Farm certainly understands this.

View from hillAs the craft beer brewing industry in the greater Asheville area exploded, the need for hops and malt became greater.  A few savvy individuals like Julie Jensen saw this need and set out to fill the niche. With a commitment to sustainable farming, Echoview Farm is setting a good example of how modern farms should operate.  Ironically, it’s how many farms in the “olden days” always farmed.

We wish Echoview Farm continued success and look forward to next year’s event.

For more pictures go to http://youtu.be/Qild3MgMJjU

Linamar – New Jobs For Asheville Area

Manufacturing has always been a large part of the economic development of western North Carolina, specifically in the Asheville area.

As the U.S. had seen a steady decline of manufacturing jobs in the last few decades, that trend is slowly changing.  A week American dollar has one bright side:  Manufacturing jobs are starting to return.

Linamar is a Canadian company who manufactures components for the automotive industry, and is well diversified in other markets.  They recently announced the opening of a plant in Asheville, NC with plans to hire nearly 400 employees over the next four years.  For more information, click the link below.

WMYA MY 40 News :: Top Stories – Perdue Announces New Jobs For Asheville Area.

Hidden History High Above Flat Rock

View from Big Glassy MountainToday we decided to venture over to Flat Rock for a short hike up the Big Glassy Mountain overlooking the Carl Sandburg home.  Stopping by the Fresh Market, we packed a nice lunch to eat at the top of the Mountain.  The weather was warm and humid.

Big Glassy Mountain is accessed via a trail system starting on the Carl Sandburg home grounds between the house and barn area; it is well maintained and marked.  The face of Big Glassy is an outcropping of solid granite.  In the winter, it truly looks glassy, when it becomes glazed by ice.

The trail is 1.3 miles long with benches nicely spaced along the way.  We took a few water breaks as the humidity had us sweating profusely.  Families with children and dogs passed us occasionally, but for the most part, the trail had little traffic. It was nice to finally make it to the top and relax on the wooden bench overlooking the valley below, as a gentle breeze cooled us down.  The haze of the afternoon obscured much of the view, but it was beautiful nonetheless.   After enjoying our lunch and re-hydrating, we started back down the trail.Mausoleum of Roger Richardson Hill

A short way back down the trail, there is a small trail that exits the main trail to the right.  Taking this trail for only about 50 yards, it suddenly opens up to a small rock building surrounded by a wrought iron fence with granite columns. Upon closer inspection, the house is actually a mausoleum; the windows and door are permanently rocked up.

It’s one thing to come across a historic old family cemetery in the mountains of western North Carolina – they are relatively common.  But a lone mausoleum in the woods on a mountain is a rarity, indeed.  The name above the mausoleum door said “Hill”.  I was able to zoom in through the fence on a plaque which gave more detail.  It states: Roger Richardson HilRoger Richardson Hill Memorial Plaquel, Born Saginaw, Michigan, December 13, 1882, Died El Paso, Texas, January 1, 1927.  So now we have the grave of a man who was neither born nor died anywhere near the locations of his final resting place.  I found this to be even more interesting, so after taking additional pictures, we set home and I set out to get more information on Roger Richardson Hill.

The information I was able to find was that Mr. Hill attended both University of Michigan studying Timberland and Mining and also attended Yale earning a LL.B. degree.  Apparently  being of poor health, he commissioned the building of his mausoleum while still alive, and asked his brother to make sure he was laid there when he died.  Unfortunately, I found no information to  explain how he came to Flat Rock, or more specifically, his place on Big Glassy Mountain.

For a complete slideshow of our Big Glassy excursion, click here to watch our slideshow.