Beer City USA
“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
With around 50 microbreweries and brewpubs in the Asheville and WNC area, and with two large national craft breweries (Sierra Nevada and New Belgium), plus a large regional brewer, Oskar Blues, having their East Coast headquarters here, Asheville has won national online polls as “Beer City USA.”
New Belgium Brewing broke ground in April 2014 on its $175 million East Coast brewery along the French Broad River in West Asheville and the River Arts District. It began producing Fat Tire and some other brews at its Asheville location in April 2016. When in full operation in , it will be Asheville’s largest brewery, with140 workers and a capacity of a half million barrels annually. In late 2015, it was reported that New Belgium may be up for sale for around $1 billion; should a sale occur, it's unclear how if at all this will affect the Asheville operation.
The new Sierra Nevada brewery is on a beautifully landscaped 190-acre site in Mills River about 20 minutes south of Asheville. The California-based craft brewery is turning out a number of beers at its North Carolina brewery. Sierra Nevada has a restaurant and tasting room and also offers brewery tours. The tours often are booked far in advance. Sierra Nevada also puts on music shows with national groups four to six times a year.
In March 2015, Deschutes, a Bend, Ore., brewer, decided against Asheville for its Eastern U.S. brewery, choosing Roanoke, Va., instead. The president said Roanoke reminded him of Bend in the late 1980s, when the area was depressed due to the shutdown of most of the lumber and timber industry. Sounds like smart corporate strategic thinking to us!
Cider is also a growing industry here. As of late 2015, the Asheville area had seven hard cider facilities.
Especially notable spots are highlighted in RED.
Andrews Brewing Company (565 Aquone Rd., Andrews, 828-321-2006, www.andrewsbrewing.com.) Andrews Brewing produces amber ale, IPAs, a blonde (summer only) and other beers. There's live music on weekends.
Asheville Brewing Co. (77 Coxe Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-255-4077; www.ashevillebrewing.com) makes beer at its downtown microbrewery, pub and music club. It also sells its suds in a converted movie theater in North Asheville, Asheville Pizza & Brewing (675 Merrimon Ave., 828-254-1281). Here you can enjoy a second-run movie ($3, and often sold out), a pizza or burger and a freshly brewed beer, seated on sofas and reclining chairs. At the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup in Denver, Asheville Brewing Co. won a gold medal in the brown porter category with its Ninja Porter. An expansion in 2014 increased the brewery’s capacity to 13,000 barrels a year.
Bearwaters Brewery (130 Frazier St., #7, Waynesville, 828-246-0602; www.bwbrewing.com), formerly Headwaters Brewing, has five craft beers always on tap in its tasting room, including four ales and a Belgian wheat beer, plus other of their brews offered on a rotating basis.
Biltmore Brewing Company (1 Approach Rd., Biltmore Estate, 828-225-1333, www.biltmore.com) sells a line of Biltmore Estate beers called Cedric, supposedly named after one of the Vanderbilt family dogs. However, the beer is not brewed by Biltmore locally but by another company for Biltmore.
Blue Ghost Brewing Company (125 Underwood Road, Fletcher, www.blueghostbrewing.com). Located in a 4,000 sq. ft. building in Henderson County near the Asheville Regional Airport, Blue Ghost Brewing plans to open in February 2016. It has a 1 1/2 barrel brewing system and is awaiting its federal brewing permit. When it opens, it plans to have a dozen taps in its tasting room and brew four year-round beers, including an oatmeal stout and a West Coast-style IPA.
Blue Mountain Pizza and Brewpub (55 N. Main St., Weaverville, 828-658-8778, www.bluemountainpizza.com), a Weaverville bar that recently added brewing, specializes in Belgian and American ales. The bar has live music many nights.
Bold Rock Hard Cider (72 School House Rd., Mills River, 828-595-9940, www.boldrock.com) in late 2015 opened its 22,500 sq. ft. cidery off I-26 not far from Sierra Nevada. An expansion of a Virginia-based cidery, Bold Rock uses apples exclusively sourced from Henderson County. It ships bottled, canned and draft cider to customers in both Carolinas and in Tennessee. Its tasting room is open 11-6 Mon.-Sat., noon-6 Sun.
Brevard Brewing Company (63 East Main St., Brevard, 828-885-2101, www.brevard-brewing.com) says it is the only brewery in the area to specialize in producing lagers. It does German-style lagers but also brews some American ales.
Burial Beer Co. (40 Collier Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, www.burialbeer.com), owned by folks who moved here from Seattle, opened a small one-barrel system in Asheville in mid-2013, starting with about a half dozen regular brews. By mid-2014, Burial had expanded to a 10-barrel system, with the ability to produce some canned beer that is sold in Asheville, Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle areas. In early 2016, Burial Beer said it will open a second location, with a 20-barrel system, at the edge of Biltmore Village at 16 Shady Oaks Drive. The new location will also have a restaurant. The new brewery will cost around $1.8 million.
Catawba Brewing Company (63 Brook St., Biltmore Village, South Asheville, 828-424-7290, and on the South Slope at 32 Banks Ave. next to Vortex Doughnuts and Buxton Hall BBQ, 828-552-3934, www.catawbabrewing.com), originally from Glen Alpine and then Morganton, where it still has a location at 212 S. Green Street with a capacity now of up to 15,000 barrels a year. Catwaba brews a selection of ales, such as Farmer Ted's and White Zombie, year-round, along with several seasonal beers. Its brews are sold on tap in its tastings rooms, in kegs and in cans. Most pints in the tasting room are only $4.
Dry County Brewing Company (585 Oak Ave., Spruce Pine, 828-765-4583, www.drycountybrewing.com) is a small brewpub/pizzeria in downtown Spruce Pine.
Fahrenheit 828 (17 Lee St.., South Asheville) is expected to open just off Hendersonville Road at Skyland in the late spring of 2016. The microbrewery, focusing on standards such as IPA, pale ale and some seasonal brews, will have about a dozen taps with its own and guest brews and a pour-your-own dispensing system. It plans to serve stone-cooked New York-style crispy pizza and chicken wings.
Fonta Flora Brewery (317 N. Green St., Morganton, 828-475-0153, www.fontaflora.com; also opening in Nebo) has a small brewery and taproom (open daily except Tuesday) in downtown Morganton. In 2015, Fonta Flora Brewery purchased an expansion property in Nebo in partnership with the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Lake James State Park. With the purchase of a 49-acre dairy farm, Fonta Flora says it will become the first farmhouse brewery in Western North Carolina. The Nebo operation, which will have a 15-barrel production system, is expected to open in late 2016.
French Broad Brewing Company (101-D Fairview Rd., near Biltmore Village, 828-277-0222 www.frenchbroadbrewery.com), established in 1997, brews lagers and specialty ales. Wee-Heavy-Er, a Scottish ale, is a best seller. The tasting room has live music some nights. French Broad is being sold to the local Thirsty Monk pub chain, which currently brews its beers for its three bars at Open Brewery in South Asheville. The sale is expected to close in the summer of 2016. This will add to Thirsty Monk's brewing capacity. Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik says he will continue to brew the French Broad brews, but it is unclear how this will impact the current French Broad location.
Frog Level Brewing Company (56 Commerce St., Waynesville, 828-254-5664, www.froglevelbrewing.com) is a new brewer in the up-and-coming Frog Level section below downtown Waynesville. One of its beers is named Lily’s Cream Boy, after the owner’s sphinx cat, and another beer from rye is called, uh, Catcher in the Rye. Frog Level has live music on weekend evenings.
Green Man Brewery (27 Buxton Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, 828-252-5502, www.greenmanbrewery.com) is one of North Carolina’s oldest microbreweries, having opened in 1997 as a brewpub, part of Jack of the Wood bar. In 2010 new owners turned Green Man into an independent brewer specializing in ales. Green Man expanded in 2012 with a 30-barrel system and in 2013 began bottling its beers in 12-ounce bottles. The company expanded again in March 2015 to the tune of $5 million, with tasting rooms on top and bottom floors of its new three-story South Slope building. Each tasting room has 18 taps. There's a packaging area in between, and Green Man also has a faster bottling system. The upper tasting room has room for 400 thirsty customers. The company also has a new distribution center on Tunnel Road in East Asheville. Green Man's best-known product is the very hoppy Green Man IPA. The Green Man image historically is a representation of a man’s face made of leaves and vines, often seen in churches in Europe. It is a popular name for pubs in England; there’s a Green Man Pub in the basement of Harrods in London.
Heinzelmännchen Brewery (545 Mill St., Sylva, 828-631-4466; www.yourgnometownbrewery.com), run by German-born brewmeister Dieter Kuhn, concentrates entirely on ales in two-liter glass growlers or in 5- or 15-gallon kegs for carry-out. The ales must be kept refrigerated.
Highland Brewing Company (12 Old Charlotte Hwy., Suite H, South Asheville, 828-299-3370, www.highlandbrewing.com) is Asheville’s first (1994) and largest microbrewer. Highland’s five year-round brews including Oatmeal Porter, Gaelic Ale and Black Mocha Stout and its 18 seasonal and small-batch beers are available in many restaurants and in supermarkets around the Southeast. A 2014 expansion boosted capacity by about 50% to more than 50,000 barrels. Brewery tours are offered daily (hours vary). There’s no charge for tours. The taproom also is open daily, with varying hours. An outdoor entertainment area features live music shows, usually with no cover charge. In-season there's music indoors or outdoors about four days a week.
Hi-Wire Brewery (197 Hilliard Ave., Downtown Asheville, and at 2 Huntsman Place in Biltmore Village, 828-575-9675, www.hiwirebrewing.com) in mid-2013 took over the site of the late, lamented Craggie Brewing, which closed in late 2012. Hi-Wire has taken off and in mid-2015 opened a new, larger, 27,000 sq. ft. facility it calls the Biltmore Big Top. Tours are available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the new location, at a cost of $5 including beer.
Lazy Hiker Brewing (188 W. Main St., Franklin, 828-349-2337, www.lazyhikerbrewing.com.) Lazy Hiker has a 15-barrel system and produces traditional and black malt IPAs, a golden ale, a stout, several porters and other brews. There's live music on weekends.
Lexington Avenue Brewery (39 N. Lexington Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-0212, www.lexavebrew.com), locally known as LAB, is a popular brewpub and restaurant. In late 2013, LAB brought in two new brewers and is changing its mix of brews. It also plans an expansion next door. Open daily with live music many nights.
Nantahala Brewing Company (61 Depot St., Bryson City, 828-488-2337, http://nantahalabrewing.wordpress.com) opened in 2010 near Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot in Bryson City. Its inaugural and flagship beer is Noon Day IPA, and it also offers the easy-drinking Bryson City Brown. Its tasting room is open daily (hours vary) March-October, with reduced hours the rest of the year.
Noble Cider (356 New Leicester Hwy., West Asheville, 828-575-9622, www.noblecider.com) uses Western North Carolina apples to create a variety of gluten free, dry to semi-dry hard ciders, made with no artificial ingredients. Noble Cider is sold on tap throughout the area. Noble's taproom is open Thu.-Sat. 3:30–10 pm and Sun. 2–8 pm.
Oskar Blues Brewery (Railroad Ave., Brevard, www.oskarblues.com) is a Longmont, Colo., craft brewer that in late 2012 opened a new 30,000 sq. ft. brewery and a separate restaurant in Brevard. Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis chose Brevard in part because he has long mountain biked in the area. In 2014, the company bought 145 acres near the brewery that will be used as a bicycle park. Oskar Blues is the third largest national craft brewery in the Asheville area after New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.
Bee City USA Asheville is Beer City USA, yes. But it’s also officially Bee City USA. In June 2012, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to become the inaugural Bee City USA. Bee Cities follow a set of standards for sustainable pollinators. It is legal to keep bees within the Asheville city limits as long as the beehive is 100 feet or more from the home of anyone except the beekeeper, and the beekeeper must get a permit ($25). No permits are required for Buncombe County residents. Among the beekeeping organizations in the area are the Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter (www.wncbees.org) and Henderson County Beekeepers Association (www.hcbeekeepers.com).
Oyster House Brewing Company (625 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, www.oysterhousebeers.com) is associated with the Lobster Trap restaurant. It moved to a location across from Sunny Point restaurant in mid-2013. Its Moonstone Stout is brewed with oysters.
Pisgah Brewing Company (150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain, 828-669-0190, www.pisgahbrewing.com) just east of Black Mountain is a certified organic brewer that puts out around 10 beers, ales and stouts, not including seasonal brews. Its best-known product is probably Pisgah Pale Ale, available in half-gallon growlers. Free brewery tours are offered at 2 and 3 pm on Saturdays.
Riverbend Malt House (99 Pond Rd., West Asheville, 828-670-0092, www.riverbendmalt.com) doesn't brew beer. Instead, it provides local and regional craft breweries wiith locally sourced grains for their brewing. In 2016, it expects to provide a half-million pounds of barley, rye and wheat to nearly 200 breweries in the region.
Sanctuary Brewing Company (147 First Avenue East, Hendersonville, 828-595-9956, www.sanctuarybrewco.com) is located in a 4,000 sq. ft. space in downtown Hendersonville. It brews small-batch artisanal ales including a 3.5% ABV Hendo Weisse and a 7.2% ABV Hop Pig West Coast-style IPA. Its taproom has a limited food menu of pizzas and other dishes and is open Tue.-Thu. 4-10, Fri. and Sat .12- 11, Sun. 12-8.
Southern Appalachian Craft Brewery (822 Locust St., Hendersonville, 828-684-1235; www.sabrewery.com), formerly Appalachian Brewery in Fletcher, has a dog-friendly tasting room in downtown Hendersonville serving their pilsner, blonde and amber ales, IPA and stout beers on draft, along with pretzels.
Sweeten Creek Brewing (1127 Sweeten Creek Rd., South Asheville, www.sweetencreekbrewing.com), Opened in December 2015, Sweeten Creek is a one-barrel micro that only sells its black IPA, a brown stout and a pilsner from their tasting room and sandwich shop. It's open 11:30 to 9 Monday to Saturday.
Thirsty Monk/Open Brewing (2Town Square Blvd., Biltmore Town Square Park, South Asheville, 828-687-3873, www.monkpub.com) has a small brewing system at its Biltmore Town Square pub. Its location Downtown at 92 Patton Avenue is a bar with 60 tap lines with a rotating list of draft beers. This also has a cocktail lounge upstairs. Thirsty Monk also has a pub in Reynolds Village at 51 North Merrimon Avenue, Woodfin, in the North Asheville area. In May 2016, it was announced that Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik plans to buy French Broad Brewing Company near Biltmore Village.
Tipping Point Brewing (190 N. Main St., Waynesville, 828-246-9230, www.tippingpointtavern.com) is a tavern and brewpub in downtown Waynesville.
Twin Leaf Brewery (144 Coxe Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, 828-774-5000, www.twinleafbrewery.com) is a brewpub that opened in 2013. It has five house beers on tap plus a rotating selection from around 10 other brews. Its taproom is open Mon.-Thu. 4-10, Fri.
2-midnight, Sat. noon-midnight and Sun. 1-9.
UpCountry Brewing, formerly Altamont Brewing Company (1042 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2400, ) is now owned by a successful Athens, Ga.-based brewery, Terrapin Beer. It also operates UpCountry Eatery next door, formerly Nona Mia.
Urban Orchard Cidery Co. (210 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-774-5151, www.urbanorchardcider.com) offers three flagship hard apple ciders on tap with a rotating selection of seasonal batches. All Urban Orchard Ciders are naturally gluten-free. Its taproom is open Mon. 2–10, Tue.–Thu. 2–11, Fri.–Sat. noon-midnight and Sun. noon-10. (Hey, couldn't you make the hours a little more complicated?)
Wedge Brewing Co. (125B Roberts St., River Arts District, 828-279-6393; www.wedgebrewing.com) brews artisan beers in the River Arts District. In good weather, you can join the crowds in a picnic area outside, where there are also food trucks. Movies are sometimes shown outside under the stars.
Wicked Weed Brewing (91 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-9599; www.wickedweedbrewing.com) won the “Peoples Choice” award at the Brewgrass Festival in September 2012 even though the brewery wasn’t yet open at its location next to the Orange Peel. After opening in late 2012 it instantly became one of Asheville’s most popular brewpubs. There’s a good restaurant upstairs, serving pub food and a little more, including steaks and trout, in a beautifully built out space with raw brick and a glassed-in open kitchen. Prices are a good value. The tasting room and brewery are downstairs. In October 2013, Wicked Week took home a gold medal for one of its wild yeast brews, the first for an Asheville brewery, at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver. At the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup in Denver, Wicked Weed won a bronze medal in the imperial red ale category with its Tyrant Double Red. Wicked Weed also operates the "Funkatorium," a 12,000 sq. ft. sour beer barrel storage center with a small tasting room at 147 Coxe Avenue Downtown. It also ihas a production/shipping facility in Enka.
Zebulon Artisan Ales (8 Merchants Alley, Weaverville) opened in February 2016. It is a limited production microbrewery that initially is open only two days a week, Friday and Saturday 1-6, for takeout sales only. Owner Mike Karnowski is starting with two bottled beers. One is a traditional European farmhouse saison and the second is a smoked stout made with coffee from Mountain Air Rosters.
Asheville Brews Cruise (828-545-5181; www.brewscruise.com) takes beer fans on tours of three or four local breweries for $59 per person. Van tours, daily except Monday (less frequently in winter), last about three hours and include samples of around a dozen beers and ales. Offered some days are walking tours, also $59 per person. This company was established in Asheville and now operates in more than a dozen cities.
The Amazing Pubcycle (828-214-5010, www.amazingpubcycle.com) is a bicycle made for 14 that peddles its way (you have to help peddle) through Downtown, past various pubs and other sights. Regular guided tours, which should be booked in advance, last about 1½ hours and cost $23 per person. A shorter “nomad tour” is also available. The 40-minute tour costs $13. Tours, which leave from the Aloft or Renaissance hotels, are BYOB, but glass containers aren’t permitted.
Asheville Brewery Tours (828-233-5006, www.ashevillebrewerytours.com) offers walking and van tours of a number of Asheville breweries. Tours last about three hours, include sample tastings, and deluxe tours cost $59 per person.
Brew-Ed Asheville Brewery and History Walking Tours (828-278-9255, www.brew-ed.com) has walking tours of several Downtown breweries on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Tours usually start at Asheville Brewing Co. on Coxe Avenue. Tickets cost $50 for a three-hour, three-stop tour. Some walking tours are $37.
The city has several beer festivals. Beer City Fest (www.ashevillebeerweek.com) is a part of Asheville Beer Week, sponsored by the Asheville Brewers Alliance and held in late May and early June at Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville. Brewgrass Festival (www.brewgrassfestival.com) on a Saturday in mid-September showcases more than 40 microbrewers in Martin Luther King Park just east of downtown Asheville, along with a line-up of bluegrass and country musicians. Asheville’s own little Oktoberfest (www.ashevilledowntown.org) is a one-day happening in mid-October on cobblestoned Wall Street downtown. Winter Warmer Beer Festival (www.ashevillebeerfest.com) is held in late January in the US Cellular Center in downtown Asheville, with around two dozen local and regional brewers participating. Thirsty Monk, (www.monkpub.com) a local brewery and pub chain, also puts on a beer fest, (Not So Big) BIG Beer Fest in early June at its warehouse at 92 Thompson Street in Biltmore Village.
For news and information on the beer scene in Asheville, read Tony Kiss (“the Beer Guy”) in the Asheville Citizen-Times. He’s the most knowledgeable local writer on the subject.
Taverns and Shops with Great Beer Selections
Though they don’t brew beer onsite, these Asheville bars and taverns are known for their large selection of craft beers. Many also offer wines and liquors in addition to beers.
Asheville Growler (660 Merrimon Ave.,828-774-5115, www.ashevillegrowler.com), opened in fall 2013 specializing in selling and refilling growler beer bottles. It stocks about 20 kinds of craft beers.
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria (42 Biltmore Ave., 828-255-0504, www.barleystaproom.com) has more than 40 draft beers on tap. The restaurant, main bar and stage for live music are on the first floor. On the second level is the Billiard Room with four regulation billiard tables and five darts lanes.
Bier Garden (46 Haywood St., 828-285-0002, www.ashevillebiergarden.com) offers about 200 different beers, including around 30 on draft, most priced at $4 to $5 for a pint.
Bruisin’ Ales (66 Broadway St., 828-252-8999, www.bruisin-ales.com) is a package store, not a bar. It claims to sell 1,000 different beers. Closed Monday.
Bywater (796 Riverside Dr., 828-232-6967, www.bywaterbar.com), a unique combination of picnic grounds and bar near the French Broad River, has 18 mostly local beers on tap, served in 20-ounce portions. Bring your own food and cook it on one of the charcoal grills beside the bar, or buy from a rotating food truck. Bywater is set up as a private club, due to licensing laws, which essentially means one member of your party must pay a $5 membership fee. Live music most nights.
Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave., 828-252-5445, www.jackofthewood.com) is a Celtic-style bar that features English ales from Green Man Brewery along with many other microbrews.
Pack’s Tavern (20 S. Spruce St., 828-225-6944, www.packstavern.com), in a historic building facing Pack Square Park, offers more than 30 local and other microbrew beers on draft, along with a full menu.
Thirsty Monk (92 Patton Ave., 828-254-5470, www.monkpub.com) has around 60 tap lines with a rotating list of draft beers. It claims that over the course of a year the bar serves more than 1,200 different beers. Upstairs at this location is another bar with beer and craft cocktails. Thirsty Monk also has a location in Biltmore Park in South Asheville, where it brews a few of its own beers, and at 51 N. Merrimon Avenue in Reynolds Village in Woodfin (North Asheville.)
Westville Pub (777 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-225-9782, www.westvillepub.com) has food and a decent selection of local craft beers.
Winery Tours Tours of area wineries are now offered by French Broad Vignerons, a group of about 14 area wineries, using small air-conditioned buses from Hendersonville’s The Trolley Company. Tickets may be booked online through a national wine tour and events management company, LocalWineEvents (www.localwineevents.com) or locally contact The Trolley Company (email@example.com, 828-606-8606.) Currently there are three different tours weekly, all leaving from the Westgate Shopping Center in Asheville and lasting around six hours. Tours, including Catawba Valley Wine Trail Tour, Elevations Wine Trail Tour and Gourmet Wine Trail Tour, typically each visit three wineries, with tastings of several wines at each winery. Cheese or other food tastings are included on some tours. For example, the Elevations Tour visits Burntshirt Vineyards, Parker-Binns Vineyards and Mountain Brook Vineyards, with tastings of about five wines at each winery, plus a cheese tasting. Ticket prices, including state tax and a ticket fee, range from around $100 to $110 per person.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.