The Blue Ridge Mountains, drum circles on Friday evenings, beer. You must be in Asheville, North Carolina. Home to over 50 breweries and known as the city with the most breweries per capita in the United States, it's safe to say that the city's craft beer scene can be absolutely overwhelming. I've lived here in the "Beer City" for about four years and there are still countless breweries that I have yet to visit.
Why Are There So Many Breweries in Asheville?
Appalachia, specifically Asheville, has always been seen as a place for healing, well-being, and picture-perfect scenery. As far back as the 1700s, Native Americans brought their sick to the area to heal in the hot spring (about 30 miles north of Asheville). The late 19th and early 20th centuries brought thousands of tuberculosis patients seeking healing in the many sanitariums the city boasted (one of which Zelda Fitzgerald lived and died). The reason was the "optimum combination of barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and sunlight" which Dr. Joseph Gleitsmann believed was the best cure for tuberculosis.
For brewers, the stipulations were quite similar. A great environment, intriguing quality of life, and most importantly of all, water which is fed by a 20,000-acre protected watershed located in the Great Smoky Mountains. It's one of the most protected watersheds in the nation and can be seen, but not visited, on the Blue Ridge Parkway around Mileposts 335-370. Beer is 90% water, so if you want to make the best beer, you've got to have the best water, and this is it.
The Perfect Downtown Asheville Brewery Hopping Tour
Due to the sheer number of craft brewers, I've decided to round up the best breweries to hit up in the Downtown area instead of sending you on a wild goose chase through the entire region of Asheville. So no breweries in the River Arts District, Biltmore Village, West Asheville, or South Asheville (where Sierra Nevada's campus resides). It's all about downtown, mainly on South Slope.
This brewery hop takes around 2-3 hours, depending on how long you stay at each. There is food at three of the four breweries and a rotating food truck at the fourth. Each brewery has indoor and outdoor seating, making this tour dog-friendly! Depending on when you go there could be live music, so check with each individual brewery beforehand if you are in the mood to rock and groove.
None of these breweries serve flights however you can ask for 4 oz pours.
This is, hands-down, my favorite brewery in Asheville although I might be biased because it's also where my husband and I had our first date. The beer list changes constantly with a few flagship beers, such as the Surf Wax IPA taking charge as one of the popular beers on the list. It's packed full of fruity hops and tastes like sunshine. Recently I tried Fall of the Rebel Angels, a fruited sour made from locally harvested chokecherries, and loved how it reminded me of cherry pie.
Opened in 2013, Burial beer has now expanded to include taprooms in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Forestry Camp, which is located in the Biltmore Village area and features very delicious American dishes such as Crispy Buffalo Pig Ears and Ramp Bratwurst.
The brewery's outdoor seating is vast and includes a few refurbished cars that act as bench seats and make perfect Instagram spots.
Beer: Surf Wax IPA, Where Everything Was Perfect In The Pits Of Aimless Dissatisfaction (Stout), Fall of the Rebel Angels (Sour)
Food: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Confit pork shoulder, mustard bbq, fried egg, on a sesame seed bun)
Green Man Brewery
Opened in 1997, Green Man Brewery is one of the oldest brewing companies in Asheville. Green Man beer is brewed with all-natural ingredients, with the main ones being malted barley, hops, water, and yeast. There's no funny business here!
Step into the Green Mansion, a 3-story, 20,000 square foot packaging hall,"brewtique" retail shop, and a top floor tasting room. Visit on the weekdays and you'll get a chance to see the brewery in action as you watch with a glass of ESB in your hand.
This location does not have a kitchen but food trucks are usually found outside where guests can grab a snack and eat on the patio.
Down the street lies Dirty Jacks, Green Man's original (and Asheville's first) taproom, where Asheville soccer fans can watch the game on three screens. Like the name implies it's a bit grungy and local, making it a fun outing if you are a visitor.
Beer: Green Man ESB (Amber Ale), Trickster India Pale Ale, Green Man Lager
Food: They sell bags of chips so hit the food truck or Pie.Zaa instead.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Wicked Weed has been slinging beers since 2012 when it opened up its original brewpub location in Downtown Asheville. Today the beer company runs four taprooms and one fine dining restaurant located next to their sour beer-dedicated taproom, the Funkatorium.
One thing to note is that this brewery is popular with beer lovers, which means that you may have to wait a few minutes before a table opens up at this craft brewery. However, it's very popular for a reason— the beer (and food) are fantastic.
Named after a quote from Henry VIII calling hops "a wicked and pernicious weed", Wicked Weed has perfected the art of hoppy beer with their Pernicious brew made with 6 types of hops.
Beer: Pernicious (IPA), Fresh Pressed (Wheat Ale), Oaxacan (Smoked Sour)
Food: Chips & Beer Cheese, Carolina Bison Burger, Pork Rinds
Highland Brewing Taproom at the S&W
While the main brewery is located a few miles outside of downtown, we couldn't round up our favorite Asheville beers without mentioning Highland Brewing. Known as the first craft brewery in Asheville, today Highland brews its beer in an old motion picture warehouse in East Asheville where they brew over 60,000 barrels annually.
Their downtown taproom located in the old S&W building, pairs together beer, great eats, and art deco ambiance. Vendors include Buxton Chicken Palace, Bun Intended, Farm Dogs, Peace Love Tacos, and The Hop Ice Cream.
The main bar is located on the lower level and features some of Highland's flagship beers as well as their seasonal offerings.
Beer: Gaelic Ale (American Ale), AVL IPA, Thunderstruck (Coffee Porter)
Food: Buxton Chicken Palace Classic Fried Chicken Sandwich, Bun Intended Pork Belly Bao
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