Bhramari Brewing is “Asheville Weird” in All the Right Ways
By Joe Pye
A quirky taproom serving funky beer in the Southslope Brewing District.
Asheville, North Carolina has more breweries per capita than any other city in the country. How do you make a buzz in a big beer city like that? Gary Sernack opened a bee-themed brewpub with a name many struggle to pronounce and spell.
In 2015, Sernack and business partners opened Bhramari Brewing Company in the Southslope Brewing District in Asheville, North Carolina.
On the corner of Lexington Avenue and Hillard is a red-brick building. Its outside honeycomb mural with an illustration of a bee-swarmed skull draws you in and the creative liquid makes you want to hang around.
“It’s a really competitive market out there. You got to have something eye-catching and identifying,” Sernack, co-owner of Bhramari Brewing Company, tells me during a recent visit. “It was really important to me to have a cohesive and artistic perspective and branding.”
While touring the place, I can definitely say it has a quirky personality that can’t be duplicated. Bhramari Brewing Company’s tagline is “Creative. Whimsical. Delicious.” Here’s why I feel it nails all three in a “keep Asheville weird” kind of way…
Buzzin’ in a bee hive
The second you walk through the doors, there’s work from local artists hanging on the wall to the right. Most of the color pattern inside and out is gray, gold, and black and lit up by hanging light fixtures that resemble bee hives.
The menu has an extensive variety of award-winning beer styles: Rauchbier, Belgian, and Lambic styles. Then they just have some out there fun stuff that’s pushing boundaries like cocktail-inspired pastry sours, milkshake IPAs, and fruited hard seltzers called “Bhong Water.”
“We make everything from straightforward German beer to what I affectionately call ‘fuck boi beer,’” Sernack says. “It’s no-holds-bar, we just fuck around.”
I tried three weird variations of old-world beer that were surprisingly good:
- Smoked Hefeweizen
- Bourbon barrel-aged pilsner
- Black Kölsch
The labels on all canned and to-go beer are illustrated by local tattoo artists.
A hive was always in mind
The brewery is named after the Sanskrit word for bees but it’s also the name of the Hindu goddess of bees. The owners originally wanted to use “Hive Mind” but the mark belonged to Forbidden Brewing in Chicago.
Although the Chicago brewery was cool with them using the name, it would’ve limited their distribution mark to North Carolina only.
“We had some branding already done and were searching for a name in the realm of bees. We figured no one was going to have the name Bhramari,” Sernack says. “I joke we wanted to name the brewery something nobody could spell or pronounce.”
The bee-theming appears on the brewery’s logo and all throughout the taproom. Outside there are bee stencils spray painted on the sidewalk leading up to the door.
When I asked, “why bees?” Sernack laughed and replied, “We like imagery and bees. It’s really nothing deeper than that.”
Sernack is a life-long chef. He says his first cooking job was in his father’s New Jersey kitchen at the age of 7.
He studied at Johnson and Wales after high school. That degree got him into fine dining, which eventually lead him to San Francisco, California, where he first took interest in making beer.
“In 2004, I started home brewing under the tutelage of an old hippie named Grizz, who owned a homebrew shop in the Richmond District,” Sernack says. “I started on a stovetop and ‘Brew in a Bag.’ Then I went down that rabbit hole and invested in equipment.”
He likes to bring that culinary background to his beers. So much that he’s used the brewery’s in-house deep dish pizza in a collaboration beer with a local artist who goes by “Pizza Ships.”
“It was a nice hazy Pale Ale,” Sernack says. “We leaned on hops that have a little bit more of like an herbal profile. And, yeah, we put pizza in the boil.”
Sernack and business partner Josh Dillard both have an extensive culinary experience that they bring to their menu.
The best way to describe the food is upscale gastropub fare.
They don’t skimp on burger and chicken sandwich portions. And there are some unique small bites like Cheshire pork rangoons and pickled eggs.
“We try to have diversity on our menu at all times,” Sernack says. “I love the experience when people come in and don’t like beer or don’t know what they like. That’s a really wonderful opportunity for us to kind of challenge that. There’s a seat for every ass.”