12 Beers That Take You On A Tour of Asheville
By Cat Kessler
A Tale of the City Behind the Famous Craft Brews
It could be the water, the welcoming community, or a little bit of mountain magic. But for some reason, Asheville has become a craft brewing mecca in the Southeast. On any given day, hundreds of local craft beers are on tap and sold in bottles and cans around town, and many of them help tell the story of Asheville.
Here's a 12-pack sampler from among the area's 30+ breweries that is the perfect pairing with Asheville's history, outdoor offerings, attractions and culture.
1. The Hills Are Alive
The flagship beer of Asheville’s oldest brewery pays homage to the early Scots-Irish settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains, who were drawn to the geography that reminded them of home. We also have these early residents to thank for the area’s musical heritage — Western North Carolina’s traditional sounds have given rise to bluegrass and old-time genres that continue to influence popular music.
2. America’s Largest Homes
Once upon a time, a well-known visitor named George Vanderbilt chose to build his BIG house in Asheville. In fact, the 250-room Biltmore is the largest privately-owned home in America. More recently, one of the nation’s BIGGEST craft brewers, Sierra Nevada, also chose the area for a new brewhouse. Sierra Nevada’s flagship beer and Biltmore both have a devoted fanbase — more than 1 million people plan a visit to Biltmore each year to enjoy a taste of life in the Gilded Age.
3. From Flights to Flying High
Talk about a high wire! Asheville’s zipline tours boast some of the highest, longest and fastest ziplines in the Southeast. And nothing works up an appetite for a cold beer like flying through the trees amid stunning mountain views. Hi-Wire now has two Asheville locations.
4. South Slope on the Rise
The legendary Green Man symbolizes rebirth and renaissance, and Green Man Brewery’s 1997 opening has certainly brought all that and more to Asheville’s nascent “brewing district,” the South Slope. Green Man has recently added a "brewtique" with a top floor tasting room and balcony. This neighborhood is now home to nine breweries, plus bottle shops and taprooms.
5. Take a Hike
The Asheville area boasts more than 2,000 miles of trails for hiking and biking, quick access to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the highest peaks of the East. The perfect place for a post-adventure brew is New Belgium's Liquid Center, sitting above the banks of the French Broad River. The classic amber ale, named in honor of a bike trip, pairs toasty, biscuit-like malt and hoppy freshness.
6. Arts and Craft Beer
Being named the favorite local IPA in hop-heavy Asheville is a big deal, and so is everything that’s happening in the River Arts District neighborhood that Wedge Brewing Company calls home. The brewery just opened its second RAD location, moving into the Foundation building, with famed barbecue restaurant 12 Bones. The Iron Rail takes its name from the industrial buildings and train tracks that line the French Broad River. But like the Wedge’s popular outdoor patio, the district has blossomed into a vibrant-yet-edgy mix of galleries, restaurants and 180+ artist studios.
7. Expect the Unexpected
Whether this is your first or tenth visit to Asheville, it’s safe to say there are some things you just won’t see coming. Whether it’s a male nun riding a 10-foot bicycle, or world-class food served at a cinder block dive bar, it’s best to just expect the unexpected.
8. Drinking Buddies
Look east toward the nearby town of Black Mountain, and you’ll find Pisgah’s tucked away taproom and notable concert venue, this year hosting the likes of Phuncle Sam and Andy Ferrell. Like Asheville, the brewery’s year-round IPA brings a touch of West Coast sensibility and a whole lot of refreshment. And beer is not the only hidden treasure in Black Mountain — stick around post-pint to discover unique shopping and artisans, and tasty small-town dining.
9. Breakfast + Beer
What goes together better than donuts and coffee? It’s no question that Burial has found a great pairing inspired by South Slope neighbor Vortex Doughnuts. This breakfast-themed stout is a sweet reminder of how much this "Foodtopian Society" loves its local eateries, and any opportunity for collaboration.
10. Get Funky
Asheville likes to get funky, from the Friday Night Drum Circle to Moog Music Factory to street musicians who play instruments ranging from the spoons to the digeridoo. Try the sour aged blonde with pineapple, mango, guava, and papaya at The Funkatorium, the first funky beer taproom on the East Coast.
11. Make a Splash
The French Broad River flows through Asheville, offering the opportunity to tube, kayak, stand up paddle, and Bellyak -- an Asheville-invented watersport where you ride on your belly. The surrounding areas also offer whitewater rafting. Catawba's Astral Bootie IPA celebrates a kayaking tradition where a paddler drinks beer from a water shoe after flipping in the rapids. Astral Designs, an Asheville company, makes padding shoes, life jackets and more for getting out on the water.
12. Rotating Tap
Ginger's Revenge, recently opened in the River Arts District, offers their original spicy ginger beer along with variations like pear rosemary and honey chamomile. The brewery joins a crew of recently-opened breweries including Bhramari Brewhouse in the South Slope district, Habitat Brewing near downtown, and Whistle Hop in Fairview. Coming soon: Turgua's farmhouse brewery in Fairview and a brewery at White Lab's new Asheville location.