Hendersonville – Blue Ridge Beer Garden is bubbling with 25 brews at a time, warm breezes, music, poetry, and laughs at the southern edge of Downtown Hendersonville.
The taproom at 402 S. Church St. is open daily. It has much open-air seating, fans, many picnic tables, standard tables, yard games, flower boxes, and colorful rain/sun-shielding awnings.
The Beer Garden’s greatly-renovated site originated as a gas station in the 1950s. It is at the southeastern corner of Church and East Caswell streets, across Caswell from Wells Fargo. Parking after bank hours is allowed and free — unlike other nearby parking.
Blue Ridge Beer Garden (BRBG) officially opened on Sept. 17, after its three owners took turns hosting friends to figure out what works best. Those equal-share owners are Adam Justus, Joe Dinan, and James Miller. Miller has run several businesses. Like Justus, he has “great vision” for commercial enterprise, Dinan said.
Dinan said, “The space is incredible. It’s wide open. It feels like you’re hanging out in your best friend’s backyard for a barbecue on a Sunday. You get to enjoy this gorgeous N.C. weather.”
“Join us for a beautiful night of great beer, great music, and delicious food” from a food truck, General Manager Josh Marks said.
Justus, a “fireman by day,” originated BRBG’s outdoorsy concept. “You step into a very green outdoor setting. We’re bringing the Blue Ridge Mountains to Downtown Hendersonville.”
Frequent patrons such as Dr. Rick Humiston praised bartender friendliness. He calls the atmosphere “inviting, clean, and relaxing. It feels very open.”
Co-owner Justus noted that to keep patrons warm in winter, there will be large heaters. A drop-down curtain to enclose heat, and can be roll up on warm days. Though adjacent Church Street traffic is often busy, several patrons said that road noise is usually a minor distraction.
Craft Brewery Hub
Hendersonville has 14 craft breweries, with more in Asheville. Dinan calls this area the Southeast’s craft brewery “king,” with the third most breweries per capita nationally. Justus said diversification avoids over-saturation locally. “Each brewery offers a different-styled beer.” He sees collaboration more than competition. “We’re a community, like a partnership. If we run short on beer, we can call others to buy a keg.”
BRBG is the base for Justus’ Hendersonville Pedal and Brews beer “pub-cycle” trolley tours of Downtown Hendersonville.
Dinan is the brewmaster of the three co-owners. He owns and runs nearby Oklawaha Brewing Co. as its head brewer. “We’re excited to be partners with Joe,” Justus said. Dinan is developing a house lager and an IPA by year’s end, for BRBG to exclusively sell. The co-owners are inputting the flavors. Justus prefers a “more piny West Coast IPA.”
G.M. Marks “does a great job of ordering beers that get high reviews,” Justus said. “Breweries are judged by their beer. We bring in the best of the best — local, and from across the nation.” A dozen mainstays are mostly craft beers, also cider and name-brand and non-alcoholic beers. Others rotate. Or, they are seasonal such as juicy orange or tangerine IPAs in summer, pumpkin flavors in fall, and darker wintry beer.
Live musical acts are on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Dinan said that their sound is more “laid back and relaxed” than at his Oklawaha Brewing, which has much harder-edged, louder bands and jammed crowds.
Seasoned event host Chisolm Leonard, Jr. hosts open mic every other Tuesday evening starting at 6:30 p.m. Sign-in starts at 6 p.m. Typically, 10-20 people each perform two songs or routines, qualifying for a free drink coupon. Most play acoustic guitar and sing. A few read poetry, do comedy, or tell stories such as about “artifacts” special to them, Marks said.
Leonard can accompany an open mic performer on guitar, or with hits he plays instrumentally on his karaoke machine. Tim Kyukendall can simultaneously play both guitar and a harness-attached harmonica.
Humiston is another open mic regular. He dusted off his childhood harmonica a year and a half ago. “Now I have seven harps for different song keys.” The open mic is a “relaxed way to practice what I learn, in a public setting. It’s like learning a new language. Yet, it’s very rewarding, and fun.” He often plays country blues or soulful sounds.
“Family fun” is how Leonard describes the open mic. He has two rules – “no profanity, and no politics.” Leonard, a longtime woodworker, is also among the Beer Garden’s dozen “beer-tenders,” as Justus playfully calls them.
Some teens have participated in open mics, Leonard noted. “They’ve been exceptional.” He said that aspiring musicians gain a “great educational experience in a safe, comfortable, supportive environment.”
Team Trivia on Mondays has history, music, movies, television, sports, and science as topics. Open-air craft markets are monthly at BRBG on third Saturdays. For more info on BRBG, call 595-2844 or check https://blueridgebeergarden.com.