Bhramari Brewhouse Serves Up the Best Brews & Bites
To the outsider’s eyes, the Asheville brewery scene may seem saturated. After all, we’ve got just shy of twenty breweries pumping out barrels within our city limits, and plenty of new ones on the way. But to us insiders, we know there’s always a new, innovative way to brew a beer or run a business. Take, for example, Bhramari Brewhouse.
Poised on a prime corner of Lexington, just behind the Orange Peel and straddling the cusps of downtown and South Slope, Bhramari opened its doors in January of 2016. Like a bee to honey, the beer lovers of Asheville and beyond have flocked to this new brewery and restaurant. With an airy tasting room, ample space for dining and events, and a bistro light-laden patio decked with bag boards and giant jenga (plus a real parking lot), it’s easy to trace the roots of Bhramari’s popularity. But the real source of their success lies, of course, in their beer—and their food.
When Josh Bailey hungered for a more personal brewery stop to conclude his Asheville Brewery Tours, he imagined a small tasting room: a couple of barrels, a few stools, maybe some bar snacks. He turned to his longtime friends from his time at Zambra, Gary Sernack and Josh Dillard, for inspiration. Two years and multiple investors later, they found themselves with a 6,000 square foot space in downtown Asheville—definitely a little more than they’d bargained for.
But the trio certainly weren’t dissuaded or even intimidated. Over the course of the year they transformed the office building into a brewhouse and full kitchen. Down went the cubicles, in went a 15-barrel brewhouse, a beautiful single-slab bar, a 27 tap system and an infusion tower.
Though you can attribute much of Bhramari’s success to its creative and quirky ales by Head Brewer Sernack (upcoming brews will include the Honey Pie Rye, an imperial vienna rye with local honey; Smoking Fox, an imperial smoke ale with peaches; and Wit Dream, a blueberry basil witbier), the surprising show stealers at Bhramari come straight out of the kitchen. Whereas Bailey had initially envisioned casual bar snacks, Head Chef Dillard developed a menu that distinguishes Bhramari from the other run-of-the-mill breweries ‘round town.
“As we developed our plan and started looking at this space and this scope of business, a big part of what we’ve been trying to do is the integration of beer and food,” says Allison Simpkins, head of marketing and wife to Gary. “Our menu is appropriate for pairing all the time. A lot of the time there are products of the brewing process in the food that we serve. We’re still working on a way to describe that to people— it’s not just beer mac’n’cheese. We’re making so many of our main ingredients in-house: truffled hop smoked American cheese, saltine crackers, spent grain pretzels. If our spent grain doesn’t go to the kitchen, it goes to Morgan Farms, a farm in Leicester where we source our beef.” According to Allison, Bhramari’s daily offerings are akin to the special, monthly dinners you’ll find at other breweries. “We love the ideas of beer paired dinners, but honestly we do it all the time,” she says with a laugh. “That’s our bread and butter.”
As you might expect, it’s a menu that changes daily, depending on the ingredients on hand and in season. You can usually start with their pickled egg: a boiled, pickled poultry egg paired with a sweet and savory orange marmalade, herb aioli, machismo sauce and house-made saltine. For entrees you’ll find complex layers and flavors in dishes like their pork belly and tenderloin. As for dessert, sip a smokey IPA or order up a fancy grilled cheese paired with that most magical condiment, Nutella.
Even beyond those incredible brews and bites, Bhramari has a lot to offer, like live music three to four nights a week, a retail space rife with quirky souvenirs and house-brewed kombucha, plus a barrel-aging program that’s slated to begin in the next few months. “Bhramari” is the Hindu goddess of bees (hence the company’s logo), but at this rate, it’s also destined to be the goddess of brews.