Chris Miller's picture

The Beer Town of the South: Asheville, N.C.

Increasingly these days, tourists are seeking out Asheville as the South’s premier beer destination.
Asheville Skyline, a Top Brewery City
Asheville Skyline, (Photo credit: http://harwoodasheville.com)

Asheville, N.C., draws flocks of tourists for its lively downtown, Blue Ridge Mountains scenery and the massive Biltmore Estate, the late 19th century mansion that is known as the country’s largest private residence. You can easily fill a long weekend – call it a Beercation – visiting its many great breweries and beer bars.  

Here’s a guide to what the city has on tap:  

Breweries

A Beer and a Movie 
An unexpected yet brilliant concept, Asheville Brewing is a family oriented restaurant with fresh-made beer.  Formerly known as Two Moons Brew ‘N View, it has movies for the kids, beer for the parents and pizza for everyone.    
675 Merrimon Avenue, (828)254-1281; www.ashevillebrewing.com.
Recommended Tasting:  Ninja Porter

The New Brew in Town 
Craggie Brewing just opened in October, making it the newest addition to Asheville’s brewing scene.  The brain child of Bill Drew and Jonathan Cort, both former employees of the local Highland Brewing Company, Craggie is housed in a former Ford dealership built in the 40’s and boasts a tasting room with a European pub feel. Take a tour of the brewery to check out the building’s architecture, and be sure to look for several pieces of Highland Brewing’s old equipment, modified parts from a dairy farm.  Another newcomer, the Lexington Avenue Brewery, is expected to open in early 2010.
197 Hilliard Avenue, (828)254-0360; www.craggiebrewingco.com. 
Recommended Tasting:  Solshine

A River of Beer  
French Broad Brewing is named after the beautiful French Broad River that flows through Asheville.  Situated close to the Biltmore House, the brewery offers a fun and lively alternative to the upscale tourist destination.   No tour necessary, since the tasting room is inside the brewery.  Sip on a sampler and watch head brewer, Drew Barton, work his magic.   
101 Fairview Rd # D, (828)277-0222; www.frenchbroadbrewery.com. 
Recommended Tasting:  Rye-Hopper 

Olde English Ales  
Green Man Brewing fills a small warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Asheville.  Here you will find the brew master, Jon Stuart, creating old-style English ales that are featured at the nearby Jack of the Wood Pub.  Since becoming brewmaster in March 2007, Stuart has nearly doubled Green Man’s production.  The tasting room is small but quaint, and it is the only one in Asheville that always offers a unique cask ale for tasting.
23 Buxton Avenue, (828)252-5502; www.jackofthewood.com/ales.htm. 
Recommended Tasting: Porter

The Patriarch  
Started in December 1994 by Oscar Wong, a retired engineer, Highland Brewing is known as the brewery that started it all in Asheville.  Originally situated beneath the popular Barley’s Tap Room, Highland Brewing has grown to become one of the largest breweries in North Carolina. In October 2006, it moved to a new much larger location in east Asheville and is now capable of producing 20,000 barrels annually.  Highland’s tasting room offers a front row seat to the brewery. It’s a must-see stop on any tour of Asheville.
12 Old Charlotte Highway, (828)299-3370; www.highlandbrewing.com. 
Recommended Tasting:  Oatmeal Porter

Bivalve Brew
Housed inside the Lobster Trap, one of Asheville’s finest restaurants, the Oyster House Brewing Company was the brainchild of William “Billy” Klingel.  Reminiscent of Dogfish Head Brewing’s early days, Klingel can only brew five or six half-barrel batches a week because he has to brew right in the middle of the kitchen when it is closed.  During operating hours, his Brew-Magic system is neatly tucked away.  Make dinner plans at the Trap and try Oyster House’s Moonestone Stout.  This wonderfully original beer is made with 5 pounds of oysters per batch and poured from a nitrogen tap.  The oysters are used like aroma hops during the last part of the boil and provide sea salt and calcium, which give the beer an exquisite head.
35 Patton Avenue, (828)350-0505; 
www.oysterhousebeers.com or www.thelobstertrap.biz. 
Recommended Tasting:  Moonestone Stout

A Fast-Rising Star   
While not technically in Asheville, Pisgah Brewing is definitely worth a visit.  A short 10-mile drive from downtown, the brewery is the first in the Southeast to be certified organic.  It was founded in 2004 and sold its first keg to Barley’s Tap Room in 2005.  Since then, Pisgah has grown to be the second-largest brewery in the Asheville area.  
150 Eastside Drive in Black Mountain, N.C.; 
(828)669-0190; www.pisgahbrewing.com. 
Recommended Tasting:  Valdez 

Getting Around 
No need to bring a designated driver along to check out some of Asheville’s most popular breweries.  Asheville Brews Cruise provides tours, either on foot or by van, of three local breweries, including Highland and Pisgah. 
(828)545-5181, www.brewscruise.com/asheville.

Beer Bars

The South on Tap 
Barley’s Tap Room opened in 1994 in a renovated 1920’s appliance store.  Located in the heart of the arts and entertainment district, Barley’s offers 43 taps specializing in the South’s finest craft beers.  
42 Biltmore Avenue, (828)255-0504; www.barleystaproom.com/asheville. 

Brews and Music 
Jack of the Wood, an Irish-style pub featuring Green Man Brewing’s ales, is laid-out to promote conversation, with long tables and a beautiful walnut bar.  Stop by on Sunday to lift your kilt to traditional Irish music, or Wednesday nights to stomp your foot to some old-time tunes.  
95 Patton Avenue (828)252-5445; www.jackofthewood.com. 

Bring Your Passport 
The Bier Garden prides itself on its extensive international beer menu.  With more than 200 brews from around the world, any avid beer drinker would be thrilled to scan its menu and sample the award-winning cuisine.   
46 Haywood Street, (828)285-0002; www.ashevillebiergarden.com.

A Belgian Bunker 
The Thirsty Monk’s basement Belgian beer bar is reminiscent of a European pub, with stone walls, wood flooring and hand-crafted tables.  While enjoying the ambiance, you have the choice of 14 draught lines and 150-plus bottled Belgian beers.  The Belgian bar can be hard to leave, but be sure to trot upstairs, where you’ll find 16 rotating draught lines of American craft beers. 
92 Patton Avenue, (828)254-5470; www.monkpub.com.
 

Beer Store

Brews and Ales
It might take you a minute to catch the double entendre of Bruisin’ Ales’s name, but what won’t take long is a thorough appreciation for the elegant simplicity of this incredible beer store.   Since Jason and Julie Attalah opened the doors to the shop in 2006, Bruisin’ Ales has racked up some serious honors, including third place over all among the world’s top beer retailers in the 2009 RateBeer awards.  
66 Broadway Street, (828)252-8999; www.bruisin-ales.com