The first brewery tour I ever took was the Pabst Brewery on our honeymoon in Milwaukee Wisconnsin thirty-two years ago. Since then, I’ve been on dozens more. Tours in Europe, tours all over the US, and many tours in the Northwest. Probably not quite 100 breweries but closing in on that century mark.
Every tour is different and I learn something new each time. Some are forgettable, most are not, but the most impressive brewery I’ve been to must be Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico California. So impressive in fact that I drove all the way to Asheville, North Carolina, to check out their new facility just down the road in Mills River to share with Hali the Sierra Nevada experience.
Also just down the road is the Biltmore Estate. The largest privately owned house in the country and the biggest tourist attraction in Asheville. And even though we tend to be attracted to off the beaten path road attractions, we thought we’d check it out.
It’s massive, the gardens and grounds are gorgeous. How would we know? We went to the ticket counter to buy tickets. A day pass to take a self-guided tour of the house and grounds with tax was $67. For the two of us it would have been $135. But there were three of us, counting Carlos. Yeah, he was welcomed on the acres and acres of beautifully landscaped gardens but not in the house.
It felt like a Disney attraction not only with the Disney-like ticket prices but also with the maze of chain lined people queued up for admission. Obviously Carlos couldn’t tour the house but we were hoping at least the front and back yards. Nope, there are no “gardens and grounds” tickets.
So we grabbed the FREE glossy guide and took the self guided tour from the van. And we’re glad we did because we learned that photos inside the house are prohibited AND photos of the exterior and grounds are prohibited from being published due to proprietary rights. What? So you’ll have to search Google images of the Biltmore House to see any bootlegged photos. Or you could look at AND taste this…
When Ken Grossman started with his hand-built 10-barrel brewing system in 1979 his goal was to brew beer we wanted to drink. He chose both sites in California and North Carolina essentially for the more than 90% ingredient of his beer- water. Both locations have some of the best water qualities for brewing beer in the world. The motto here at Sierra Nevada is People, Planet, Product. It was obvious by our tour guide’s enthusiasm and knowledge that working at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company each employee embraces that motto.
We spent three hours here touring the massive brewing facility as warm wort wafted through the grounds of Sierra Nevada. There’s a maze of solar panels, a dog park, trails, sustainable gardens, huge outdoor patio and music venue. The entire tour was FREE which included nearly two pints of nine sample brews. Plus, on the way out our tour guide, Stephen, handed us beer swag: coasters, stickers, bottle openers, postcards. I didn’t even have to ask. Not once did we have to ask permission to take a photo.
My advise for a visit to Asheville is to stay OFF the beaten path of the interstate and Biltmore Estate and veer ON the path to The Blue Ridge Parkway and Sierra Nevada Brewing. Take the FREE tour first, have lunch, then explore the impressive grounds. AND take as many pictures as you’d like. Then publish them.