TO A TEA: Barista Nathan Lily makes the chai at Tod's Tasties from scratch. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Chai love: Asheville embraces India’s ancient healing drink

When ordering a chai in the Western world, a customer may receive any number of concoctions. A simple black tea with spices is one possibility, but it is significantly more likely that the beverage will be prepared with a powdered mix of sugar and corn syrup solids, with tea nowhere to be seen on the ingredient list. Fortunately for Asheville residents, local businesses are taking the making of chai back to the basics.

THE WILD SIDE:Carolina West RibFest organizers say the revamped festival will offer a more eclectic blend of entertainment than past events , including sideshow acts and cancan girls. Photo courtesy of AKA Entertainment & Media

Small bites: RibFest gets a makeover

As in summers past, WNC residents can expect a barbecue rib festival to happen this month at the WNC Agricultural Center. But this year there’s a new RibFest in town. What has been called since 2007 the Carolina Mountain RibFest will now be known as Carolina West RibFest and will sport an edgy new look aimed at appealing to a broader, more alternative audience.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE: Joe Ervin of Neanderhogs Up in Smoke BBQ of Greer, S.C., prepares for battle in the 2014 Blue Ridge BBQ Festival competition. Photo by Cindy Kunst

No holds barred: Blue Ridge BBQ Festival sees both fierce and friendly competition

By the time we come down from the clouds that cling to the mountains, and pull into Tryon, the rain is hot on our heels on a Friday afternoon. Not good news for the 73 competition barbecue cookers that have come from as far away as Texas and Missouri to try their hand at yet another trophy, this time at the recent Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival.

RANCH-STYLE: Oskar Blues will refurbish many of the original buildings on the property of its REEB Ranch in Hendersonville for use as guest lodgings. Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues

Beer scout: Oskar Blues launches its first off-site project in WNC

In Colorado, Oskar Blues has plenty of side-projects. There’s CHUBurger, which is their take on a fast-casual burger joint. There’s Cyclhops, a bike cantina, where they combine a taco and tequila restaurant with REEB Cycles, their own brand of bikes. There’s the Bonewagon, a smokehouse on wheels. And they even have a farm, dubbed Hops & Heifers, where they grow hops and raise cows on spent brewing grain for their restaurants.