Ever since Oscar Wong opened Highland Brewing in the basement of Barley’s Tap Room in 1994, the stage was set for Asheville’s rise as one of America’s top beer cities. With more breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., it is no wonder Asheville is called “Beer City U.S.A.” In 2022, Asheville’s mature craft beverage community has clearly embraced sips and fermented drinks of all sorts. From natural wine to hard cider, kombucha to mead, sake to whiskey, and even mocktails, Asheville has expanded into a destination for (free) spirits of all kinds.
- Become a Sommelier on Vacation: For the connoisseur, the professional or any lover of wine, the newly opened North Carolina Wine Academy is an indispensable and inspiring new destination. Located downtown on charming Wall Street, the Wine Academy offers a curated selection of fine wines with a special focus on burgeoning North American wine regions like Virginia and North Carolina. In the back of the shop, oenophiles may enroll in a variety of one or two-day Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) classes, taught by Master Sommeliers, to learn everything from preparing charcuterie to intensive 1-day classes that move attendees towards internationally recognized wine qualifications.
- Bob Ross-Inspired “Hoppy Trees” Bar Opens in Weaverville: With nostalgia and ironic tributes to the public television personality reaching a fever pitch, it was only a matter of time … Welcome to a Bob Ross-themed bar! Like its inspiration, the newly opened Hoppy Trees in Weaverville (a quaint yet colorful town 10 minutes north of Asheville) is warm, welcoming and a little wacky. Featuring a seasonal menu of craft beer and spritzes (its current Autumn Spritz consists of Aperol, Prosecco, club soda and sweet vermouth infused with nutmeg and cinnamon), Hoppy Trees lines its walls with local artwork — and the occasional Bob Ross quote — making it a fun and friendly destination.
- Unusual, Upcycled Beer Garden in the River Arts District: The RAD Beer Garden is the third Asheville location for Hi-Wire Brewing. Located in the River Arts District (RAD), the new, 5,000-square-foot beer garden is composed of nine repurposed metal shipping containers. The containers’ walls are cut out to create open-air seating in this colorful, street-art adorned urban courtyard. Recently opened, this unique beer garden offers quick access to Asheville’s newest riverside greenway in this buzzworthy arts and entertainment district.
- Bartender Opens New High-End Mocktail Bar: Asheville bartender Ron George has an impressive resume, award-winning credentials and a genuine love for his craft. He also doesn’t drink. Who better to capitalize on the growing trend of drinks without booze? That’s why, in 2022, George is opening Edge, a downtown mocktail bar that will match the rest of Asheville’s night spots in location, flavor and vibe – minus the alcohol. The menu at Edge will include “mock-a-ritas” made with Fluere Smoked Agave, a mescal alternative, as well as the Touch Me Gin-tly, crafted with house-made star anise aquafaba and Blue Thai Flower extract, which is said to be a mood enhancer. The bar will also serve electrolyte-enhanced beverages for those looking to hydrate, as well as nonalcoholic beer and wine, including brands that have won gold medals in competitions with alcoholic spirits. Edge mocktail bar is slated to open as a permanent brick-and-mortar establishment in summer 2022. Until then, curious imbibers can follow @avledge on Instagram for pop-up announcements.
- Natural Wine and Cider Trend in Downtown Tasting Rooms: The Asheville area is one of the richest and most dense places in the country for craft beer. In 2022, new tasting rooms expand the fermented landscape with options for craft sips beyond beer. Burial Beer has opened a tasting room in South Slope for their natural wine brand, Visuals, which includes reds, whites and rosés, but also floral cordials and vermouth. Bold Rock Hard Cider recently opened their fourth cidery and taproom occupying 8,000 square feet on Lexington Avenue. Plēb Urban Winery sources their grapes right here in the Appalachian Mountains and uses minimal processing to create expressive, natural wine varieties. Plēb’s new downtown tasting room, The Aventine, showcases their wine and other producers who focus on the local terroir.
- Largest Collection of American Craft Sake Comes to Asheville: Ben's American Sake, located in the popular Ben's Tune Up bar on the South Slope, will host the American Craft Sake Festival this year. On May 28, 2022, the largest gathering of North American sake brewers in the country will descend on Asheville for a day of tastings, lectures and celebrations of this traditional Japanese rice wine. In addition to sake lovers and brewers, the American Craft Sake Festival will be attended by Consul General Kazuyuki Takeuchi, Japan's top-ranking representative in the Southeast.
Want more 2022 news? Click here to view 22 (and then some!) transformational travel stories for the year ahead. Beyond the “what’s new” factor are the ever-inspiring histories, untold stories and trailblazers leading the way in this lively mountain city.