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.
- Winter Warmer Beer Festival, January (2018 dates to be announced), U.S. Cellular Center
More than 40 area breweries help warm up Asheville in the heart of winter. This popular festival brings together local and regional breweries with special guests, live music and delicious food. The Winter Warmer festival often sells out so purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
- Asheville Beer Expo, February (2018 dates to be announced), The Venue
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 (2018 dates to be announced), 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 20-25, 2017, 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 2017, Multiple Locations
With 28 area craft breweries, Asheville is the perfect place to enjoy North Carolina Beer Month. Choose from a number of local celebrations throughout April. Beer Month kicks off April 1, 2017 (1-5 p.m.) with the Burly Beers and Barleywines Festival at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in nearby Mills River. More than 50 breweries from across the country gather with rare beer, food and live music. Celebrate spring with either a 5k or 10k race in nearby Black Mountain on April 8, 2017. Participants in the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge receive a pint glass and the opportunity to enjoy finely crafted brews from Pisgah Brewing. Pisgah Brewing of Black Mountain throws a party April 22, 2017 (3:30-11 p.m.) for its 12th anniversary. Or, test your knowledge during a blind taste test, April 13 and April 14, 2017, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at The Conundrum's Beer Tasting in the Dark.
- Tour de Fat Asheville, May 20, 2017 (4 p.m. to 9 p.m.), 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. In 2017, Third Eye Blind headlines the party.
Asheville Beer Week, May 26-June 3, 2017, 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.
- Beer City Festival, May 27, 2017 (1-6 p.m.), Pack Square Park
Asheville Beer Week features the popular Beer City Festival on May 27 in Pack Square Park, which celebrates the local brewing industry with taps from dozens of breweries and plenty of live music. $45 tickets for the Beer City Festival will be available at select local businesses beginning April 15. Tickets are available online for $50 beginning May 1.
- Burning Can Festival, July 21-July 22, 2017, 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 16, 2017, 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 11-16, 2017, 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.
- CiderFest NC, October 7, 2017 (1-5 p.m.), 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.
- Asheville Oktoberfest, October 7, 2017, 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. Tickets are $40 per person and include a complimentary tasting mug.
- Burnpile Harvest Fest, October 21, 2017, 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, 2017, Thirsty Monk South (Biltmore Park)
A tradition now in its fifth year, a two-story golden, lighted keg descends at midnight. The keg drop party is a free and fun way to ring in the new year.
Top photo by Emily Chaplin. Keg drop photo provided by Thirsty Monk.