During the full blaze of a southeastern summer day, tubing the brewery-packed French Broad River is the holy grail of outdoor adventure, blending cold beer with a lazy day on the river better than the country top-40 countdown.
Cradled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, NC, is a small city that packs a big punch: It’s filled with off-road trails, huge whitewater, mellow rivers, and more craft breweries per capita than any other place in the country. In the summertime, the most popular of its breweries, bars, and eateries are the ones located on the banks of the French Broad River, which winds its way through the eclectic and colorful River Arts District just west of downtown.
Believed to be the third oldest river on the planet, the French Broad is calm and placid by the time it reaches town, with a few ripples and a continuous current that makes for a languid float. Your biggest obstacle will be a blast from the water cannon on the banks outside the Asheville Adventure Center. Other than that, you’re free to relax and soak up the sun as you glide downstream toward an afternoon of cold beer and good food.
The core float trip is approximately five miles long, which translates to a few solid hours on the river. With so many great watering holes to check out along the way, however, this will certainly be an all-day affair.
The most popular launch spot is the Carrier Park put-in. For a longer float, begin at the Hominy Creek River Park just downriver of the Biltmore Estate, and if you’re extra thirsty, knock off some miles by starting at Jean Webb River Park. Gear rentals and shuttles can be arranged at Asheville Adventure Center, Zen Tubing, and Asheville Adventure Rentals, which are all conveniently located along the river.
Your first stop on this thirst-quenching tour will be the Wedge Brewery, just up the hill on river right. Strings of white lights and quirky metal sculptures decorate a vast outdoor patio, where tourists and locals alike gather over bottomless roasted peanuts and pitchers of Iron Rail Porter. If you’re ready for an early afternoon snack, food trucks dish out fancy grilled cheese, tacos, and Asian street food.
But don’t fill up! Right across the river stands the sparkling new campus of New Belgium Brewery. Within the outdoor community, this employee-owned, bike-loving company has become an icon of sustainability and adventure-inspired craft beers. It’s “Liquid Center” tasting room is sure to be bustling every day during the summer—beat the parking frenzy by gliding right up to the gates.
Relax on the patio as you enjoy a frosty pint. A Blue Paddle pilsner or a citrusy Slow Ride IPA would be appropriate for the occasion, but then again, so would the Skinny Dip and the Sunshine Wheat…even the Fat Tire, if you’re cruising in old-school fashion.
Once you’re all sun-warmed and dry, that’s a good indication that it’s time to keep cruising. The Smoky Park Supper Club is just around the bend. This newly minted event space and restaurant is constructed entirely out of shipping containers, creating an eco-chic vibe that’s hip and welcoming, much like Asheville itself.
Allow yourself plenty of time to explore all that the Supper Club has to offer. Its menu takes a creative approach on southern favorites, including brisket and blue cheese empanadas, plancha-seared brussel sprouts with browned butter and crispy country ham, and wood-roasted sunburst trout. Kick back on the lawn with an icy gin and tonic, or catch the first set of the evening’s live music inside the Boathouse, a spacious riverside music venue. The good people at the Supper Club even offer tube-side food service.
The sun will be just starting to sink as you finally tear yourself away and pull back into the current. The final stop on the French Broad pub-crawl is the Bywater Bar, otherwise known as the dreamiest take-out in the history of river trips. You will emerge from the water and into something that resembles an adult summer camp, complete with campfires, horseshoes, burgers on the grill and a full cocktail menu.
At the Bywater, you can transition seamlessly from epic day to swinging nightlife. After a few rounds of corn-hole on the riverbank, swap your bathing suit for a sundress and head inside for a cocktail. On the screened-in porch, bluegrass and salsa bands play late into the evening and the dance floor is always hopping. A few times each night, a freight train rumbles by just a few yards away.
As you stand by the water sipping one last beer, the strains of music drifting away into the night breeze, it may all start to feel too good to be true. But here in Asheville, it’s just another day on the river, and it last all summer long.
Originally written by RootsRated for Kelty.
Featured image provided by Melina Coogan