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Brewery Bhavana opens doors Wednesday in downtown Raleigh

Posted March 29

Brewery Bhavana is a lot of things - a tap room, a flower shop, book store and dim sum restaurant.

"These are four things we love and we want you to love them too," co-owner Van Nolintha said Monday.

While the four concepts might not seem to go together, the minute you walk into Brewery Bhavana, you get it. It is a feeling that washes over you when you walk in and see the sun peeking through the skylights onto dewy flowers being arranged in a glass vase. The smell of fresh dim sum floating from the kitchen.

"You have to be here to feel it," Nolintha said.

Brewery Bhavana's opening date is here The restaurant, located at 218 S. Blount St., will open at 5 p.m. Wednesday, but in a limited capacity. The tap room will be fully operational, but the dim sum restaurant will have limited service for a few days.

It is the realization of more than two years of work for Nolintha, his sister, Vanvisa, and business partner, Patrick Woodson.

When the siblings opened the award-winning Laotian restaurant Bida Manda in 2012, they had no plans on expanding. But, Van Nolintha said, the relationships in your life at any given time can shape your direction. When they met home brewer Woodson, who had just returned from a Peace Corps trip with his wife to Uganda. While traveling the world, Woodson collected rare spices for brewing.

In 2015, the Nolinthas and Woodson struck up a partnership to open a brewery. At the time, they said they wanted the venture to have a food concept to pair it with and also wanted the space to have a community feeling like an old coffee shop.

Later that year they were searching for a space when Tir na Nog owner Pete Pagano decided to close the Irish pub at 218 S. Blount St.

Being neighbors already, the decision was natural for the Bida Manda owners to take over the space. (Last year, Tir na Nog reopened at 108 Hargett St. in the extension to London Bridge Pub.)

"It is very important to me that the space continues to be a gathering place shared by the community and fortunately this is going to happen," Pagano said at the time.

Brewery Bhavana

At the time, the venture was dubbed Plenty, but that name didn't stick. Bida Manda is Sanskrit for "father and mother." So, the group started looking at other Sanskrit words for the business. Woodson's wife sent him a list of Sanskrit words to look over and he forwarded the list to Van, who immediately picked out Bhavana. Meaning "culivating," it was a word the Nolinthas said they grew up hearing a lot.

Van Nolintha immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 along with his sister. The two used to work in restaurants to pay the bills. Missing their home cuisine, they would get takeout from Thai restaurants and use it as a basis for traditional Laotian dishes.

Nolintha, a graduate of North Carolina State University with degrees in chemistry and art design, said food is truly a passion for he and his sister, which makes opening their own restaurant so important.

(This video was shot in 360 degrees. Use your mouse to grab the screen and move it around to see different angles.)

'Like a dream'

Brewery Bhavana's open floor plan and soothing color scheme makes the space seem bigger. It hasn't been expanded, they just took out the large bar that was the centerpiece at Tir na Nog, instead replacing it with small tables space between a flower shop and retail book store.

The idea for a flower shop came from the shop's creative director Deana Nguyen, who was a server at Bida Manda. She used to help do the flower arrangements at Bida and traveled to California to study floral design. Laura White, who manages the book shop, used to work at Bida Manda as well.

"We are just a group of friends and dreamers that dare to dream big," Van Nolintha said.

In addition to the retail book shop, there is also a community book shelf on the back wall featuring thousands of donated books. Owners specifically sought out books that people said were important to them. The hope is for the wall to be a living representation of "hopes and dreams" of the people living in the community.

Brewery Bhavana

Beer that goes well with dim sum

"I strive to do beer that goes well with food," Woodson said, while standing behind the marbles granite bar at Brewery Bhavana.

There are 40 taps that will be filled with a mix of core and provisional beers from Bhavana's large brewing facility on Bloodworth Street.

While Woodson specializes in Belgian beer, his recipes are based on his travel around the world. Glean, a Mango Peppercorn Saison, was inspired by his time in Uganda, where mangos are in season for only three months each year.

Woodson said he wanted to create "dry beer" that can be enjoyed with food and not overwhelm the palate.

As for the food, expect a mix of Chinese dim sum dishes from Low Mein and soups to chicken feet. ​


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