What do soup dumplings, North Carolina florals, draft beers, and architecture books have in common? You can find them all at Brewery Bhavana, an unconventional brewery that just opened in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Brother and sister duo Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha are behind the dreamy 9,000-square-foot outpost, which offers much more than its name implies. Behind an unassuming brick facade, the stylish brewery is also home to a dim sum restaurant, flower shop, and bookstore.
The idea started out as a standalone brewery but quickly morphed into much more. “It evolved into something more dynamic and colorful,” says Vansana Nolintha. “All of the offerings—dim sum, books, and flowers—surfaced because of the people and makers that were already in our lives and we wanted to create something that honors all of those passions and relationships.”
The Nolinthas, who also own the wildly popular Laotian restaurant Bida Manda, bring an airy, design sanctuary to the capital with their latest venture—a space with every intention to evoke creativity and spark inspiration. “We longed to create a space that is multidimensional, one we can linger for hours connecting with a friend, the same space where it is encouraged to sit alone with a glass of Saison,” Nolintha says. “A space where a 50th-anniversary dinner coexists comfortably, and with ease, next to a table of two old friends reconnecting.”
Every aspect of the design is intentional, with natural elements playing a key role in harmonizing the space. Features like 20-foot tall fig trees, a living wall in the dining room, a chandelier light sculpture made of natural wood, and a skylight ceiling bring it to life. Repetition also plays a key design role. “Whether repeating the moon-like light globes 100 times or repeating the books in our library 4,000 times, they become a mantra,” says Nolintha.
An impressive, eye-catching 40-foot raw granite bar serves as focal point on the brewery side, where Belgian-style beers are the focus—all brewed by down the street at Bhavana’s private production facility. The portfolio currently includes 20 beers, with 10 being regular, and 10 provisional beers that change seasonally.
Roxanne Bellamy, a bartender, also holds the dream job title of “chief executive storyteller.” Bellamy pulls inspiration from the chefs, brewmasters, and more, to create beautiful, inspiring stories-turned menu descriptions. Bloom, a dry cardamom Tripel style beer, tells a beautiful story of Patrick Woodsen, head brewer's time in Kerala, India. Storytelling is a common theme here.
If hunger strikes, grab a seat in the airy dim sum restaurant, a mere few steps away from the bar. A leather bound menu, which feels more like a journal of poetic thoughts, features an array of dishes that encourage sharing. Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings with steamed crab and ground pork) and Nasi Goring Crab Fried Rice, one of Nolintha’s favorites, do not disappoint.
It’s hard to leave without a bouquet or single stem when the floral shop presents itself on the way out. “[Flowers] are inspired and designed according to what’s in season,” says Nolintha. “We also arrange and design pieces that are specific to an occasion or a specific person.”
“These custom pieces are very special to us—it is a living form of art that deals with memories and experiences.” The shop focuses on local North Carolina growers, and some of the summer’s best-kept secrets are ruby silk ornamentation grass, amaranths, rudbeckia, cosmos, gomphrena, zinnia, trumpet pitchers, funnel blossoms, and wild nicotia.
The bookstore doubles as wall decor, with a curated collection of titles that range from art and design to food to conflict studies and peace—all meaningful to the staff.
“Our in-house library is a collection of about 4,000 books that are donated by family, friends, mentors, and strangers,” Nolintha says. “Some of them have personal notes written in the books sharing why those books are meaningful. It’s a living archive of the hopes and dreams, of the soul of the people that live in this community.”
“Each book can be wrapped in Saa paper made with mulberry tree bark and dried local flowers that [my] mom sent from Laos,” he adds. “These are handmade by women in Luang Prabang (my hometown) along the Mekong River. It has been such a gift to be able to tell their stories and the stories of Luang Prabang through this beautiful paper.”
Brewery Bhavana is hard to define in words, so we suggest hightailing it to Raleigh to check it out for yourself. Because where else can you wash down Pork Bao buns and Peking Duck with a sour ale and scoop up a single stem flower and a cool book on architecture all under the same roof?