by Bonnie Williamson
After 42 years, changes have taken place at the Bavarian Inn, a famous resort in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. However, owners Christian and David Asam, stand by the adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While a lot of big changes have happened, the real situation is that nothing important has changed at all.
“We are still the European-inspired country inn and boutique resort people have always known,”says Christian. “We didn’t want to alienate our core, people who have been coming here for years. We are simply offering our customers more options. With our expansions, we are making better use of our space.”
The Bavarian Inn is the creation of Erwin and Carol Asam, the brothers’ parents. The Asam brothers began running the Inn themselves in 2008. The Asam side of the family has a colorful, as well as influential German history, specifically in the Bavaria district. In the mid-1700s, Cosmas Damian Asam, a painter and architect, and his brother Egid Quirin Asam, a plasterer and sculptor, worked together, making a name for themselves in the art and architecture world. They built the Asam Church or Asamkirche in Munich, German, considered to be one of the most important buildings of the southern German Late Baroque period.
This devotion to the German heritage has been carried on at the Bavarian Inn through the resort’s architecture, as well as the German dishes served. Seventy-two rooms are available to accommodate overnight guests. There are 300-seats in the fine dining area. A more casual atmosphere is available in the Rathskeller, an old-world pub, located downstairs in the Greystone Manor where guests register and the dining center. Even the name Rathskeller has a German historical link, indicating a bar or restaurant located in the basement of a city hall.
Guests can continue to find all of these amenities, but the Asam brothers wanted even more.
Changes began taking place around six years ago. The swimming pool became an infinity pool, where the water flows over one or more edges, producing a visual effect of water with no boundary.
“We began to see a new market type,” David said. “People seemed to want a more relaxed atmosphere. We changed the Hunt Dining Room into a soft seating lounge where the bar is located. A more casual atmosphere.”
The outdoor space was expanded. People can not only sit outside on the patio, but a fire pit was added.
“We even have the makings for s’mores, that traditional nighttime campfire treat. The fire pit has been extremely popular,” David said.
S’mores consist of marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker.
Christian says while attending a tourism conference in Charleston three years ago, another amenity for the Bavarian started to take shape.
“During discussions, it sparked an idea. We could brew our own beer, another German niche,” Christian says. “We also wanted to offer another dining experience. Many people these days don’t want to spend two to three hours over a meal.”
“Again, a more casual experience, more fun,” adds David.
The Brew Pub Room next to the lounge area opened in January of this year. The room has large glass windows with a view of the majestic scenery surrounding the Inn.
While they eat, guests can also partake in the view of something else new for the Bavarian Inn: the brewery. Through large glass panels, diners can see the operation of the brewery with its six metallic tanks, two containing 90 gallons of brew, two with 60 gallons and two with 30 gallons. The brewery has a three-member brew master team.
“We don’t sell the beer to other businesses. It’s served here. Customers can take growlers, special containers, home with them,” David says.
Christian and David have named this new venture Bavarian Brothers Brewing, but it’s not named after them. The Bavarian Brothers in the title are those 18th century ancestors.
“Bavarian Brothers Brewing has as its logo the same sunburst symbol that was on the door of the church built by Cosmas and Egid Asam. That same symbol is also above the fireplace in the lounge room,” says Christian.
As a tribute to their other relatives, Erwin and Carol, beers have been named in their honor. Erwin’s Angry Ale is a nod to the brothers’ father. Its write up says: “it’s whimsically named to celebrate Erwin’s fine ‘German engineering.’He is known to be a man of incredible work ethnic, vision and of course his velocity of speed to accomplish all tasks.”
The brothers’ mother Carol gets her name on a beer in honor of her English heritage, “that she is very proud of,” Christian says. Carol’s Royal Stout, says the brew’s description, “is a beer celebrating the Queen of the Bavarian Inn. A native of Sheffield England, Carol’s proud British accent has filled the halls of the Inn for the past 40 years.”
The other brothers’ brews include Mecklenbrau German Pilsner named after Mecklenburg, the original name of Shepherdstown founded by German settlers; Zwei Bruder Hefewetzen, which translates to two brothers’ wheat beer, named for the 18th century Asam brothers; and Sozial All Day Ale. Sozial is the German word for social, to help people socialize is what this easy going beer is all about. Eight draft beers are also available at the bar, along with an assortment of cocktails and wines.
The brothers are also cognizant of doing what they can for the environment. In 2016, 105 solar panels were installed on the roof of the Inn’s Black Forest building. The system produces enough energy to offset an estimated $4,500 in annual electricity costs. The Inn also added two Tesla charging stations and two electric car charging stations in the main parking lot.
Christian and David not only pay homage to their German ancestry, but try to do the same for West Virginia as well.
“We embrace our roots and want people to become familiar with West Virginia products, the local ingredients we use in our dishes. We want people to get a sense of place,” says Christian.
Both brothers say they are partnering with many of the area businesses to let guests know about local activities so guests will extend their stays even longer, which helps those businesses and the Inn. Those partnerships include promoting things like German Street shopping and coffee shops in Shepherdstown; biking and hiking on the nearby C&O Canal; pedal and paddle bike and boat rentals; encouraging visitation to historic sites like the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland; Harpers Ferry National Park; River Riders Adventure Park also in Harpers Ferry where visitors can use zip lines and go on canopy tours; letting guests know about local breweries and wineries; or giving them information about the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
“One of the main things we want people to know is that we are a family-owned business. We’re not a cookie cutter kind of corporate facility. We care about family, ours and others, and we care about our home, the Bavarian Inn,” says David.
“And I know our father is proud of what we’ve done here. He lives on the property and checks up on us,” Christian says, smiling.
For more information, go to the website at www.bavarianinnwv.com.