By Jason Tarr
There’s plenty to celebrate in Beer City USA, and Asheville certainly rolls out the red carpet for its favorite brews. From the musically-inclined Brewgrass Festival, to the nine-day celebration of Asheville Beer Week, the parties are as unique as the breweries themselves.
Festivals are a great way to introduce yourself to a variety of beers and to pick out that one ale, lager, stout or porter that will keep you coming back for another pour. And Asheville isn’t afraid to share the love — festivals welcome regional brewers from across North Carolina and the Southeast.
- Asheville Beer Expo, February 24, 2018 (2-7 p.m), The Masonic Temple in downtown Asheville.
The Asheville Brewers Alliance showcases all elements of craft beer production from raw ingredients to brewing, from packaging to distribution. Of course, you'll also have the opportunity to taste some of Western North Carolina's finest beers.
- NC Small Batch Festival, March 10, 2018, Hi-Wire Brewing
Specialty beers get their chance to shine at this festival at Hi-Wire Brewing. Local breweries have the chance to show off their creative spirit and see if certain beers have what it takes to make their full-time lineup. No styles are off-limits as long it is a one-off product. Good food and good music also are highlights of the event.
- Sour Fest, March 12-16, 2018, Thirsty Monk Downtown and Biltmore Park
This week-long festival at both of Thirsty Monk's locations challenges you to pucker up for a celebration of sour beers from some of the nation's best breweries.
- North Carolina Beer Month, April 2018, Multiple Locations
With nearly 40 area craft breweries, Asheville is the perfect place to enjoy North Carolina Beer Month. Choose from a number of local celebrations throughout April.
- Tour de Fat Asheville, May (2018 dates to be announced), New Belgium Brewing Company
Tour de Fat is New Belgium's philanthropic festival of bikes, beers, and fun. Dress in costume and watch an ensemble cast of performers including musicians, circus performers, vaudeville acts, magicians, comedians and more.
Asheville Beer Week, May 25-June 2, 2018, Multiple Locations
Be a part of this festival which dedicates nine full days to celebrating all things beer in Asheville. Taste great local craft brews, pair beers with a smorgasbord of delicious food, and learn about brewing at events around town. More than 40 breweries participate.
In the middle of Asheville Beer Week (May 30, 2018), enjoy the "Not So Big BIG Beer Festival." At Thirsty Monk's Thompson Street warehouse in Biltmore Village, this small-scale beer festival will have several rare and one-off beers in one location.
- Beer City Festival, June 2, 2018, Pack Square Park
Asheville Beer Week features the popular Beer City Festival in Pack Square Park, which celebrates the local brewing industry with taps from dozens of breweries and plenty of live music.
- Burning Can Festival, August 10-11, 2018, Oskar Blues REEB Ranch
In nearby Brevard, Oskar Blues brewery hosts a two-day outdoor beer and music festival. The event also raises money for the brewery's nonprofit foundation, Can'd Aid. More than 50 breweries participate. Outdoor events like BMX bike riding, river paddling, and a beer relay trail run have been part of the lineup in past years.
- Brewgrass, September 15, 2018, Memorial Stadium
Showcasing more than 120 different beers from 40+ regional breweries as well as national and regional bluegrass musicians, it’s no wonder that this festival has become a local favorite. In 2017, Brewgrass was nominated by USA Today 10Best as one of the nation's best beer festivals.
- Thirsty Fest, September 3-7, 2018, Thirsty Monk
Each year, Thirsty Monk dedicates an entire week to "the scarce, the exceptional, and the downright unusual," filling their taps with unique beers hardly ever poured in Western North Carolina. The festival is held at both Thirsty Monk locations in Asheville.
- Asheville Oktoberfest, October 6, 2018, Pack Square Park
Brush up on your keg-rolling skills for this fest, which transforms downtown streets into a traditional German party featuring tastings from local breweries. Live “oompah” music and local foods complete this fall tradition.
- CiderFest NC, October 13, 2018, Salvage Station
CiderFest has to be one of the sweetest fall festivals. Since it began in 2013, CiderFest has become North Carolina's premier hard cider tasting event. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 day-of at Salvage Station.
- Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, October 13, 2018, Mills River
Wear your lederhosen and hoist a stein in celebration! Sierra Nevada's Oktoberfest features great food, costumes, dancing, music and more! This annual celebration draws thousands of beer lovers!
- Burnpile Harvest Fest, October (2018 dates to be announced), Burial Beer Co. taproom
Burnpile celebrates the harvest season with seasonally-inspired beers from more than 20 breweries. Many beers are brewed just for the event. The festival also features a strong lineup of live music performances.
- New Year's Eve Keg Drop, December 31, 2018, Thirsty Monk South (Biltmore Park)
In New York City they drop a ball, in Asheville (Beer City USA), we drop a keg! Join in this fun tradition to see a two-story golden, lighted keg descend at midnight to ring in the New Year. The keg drop party is free to attend.
Top photo by Emily Chaplin. Keg drop photo provided by Thirsty Monk.