WNC Breweries and Beer History
Beer City, USA, growing by hops and bounds
By Anne Fitten Glenn
Being voted Beer City, USA, four times has made both beer lovers and big brewers sit up and take notice of lil’ ‘ole Asheville. So much so that, in 2012, Sierra Nevada Brewing of Chico, California, New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Oskar Blues of Longmont, Colorado, announced that their companies will build second breweries in the area. Just a few years in the future, you’ll be able to hop a Brews Cruise to Mills River (next to Asheville’s Airport) to taste locally brewed Sierra beers, pop down to Asheville’s River Arts District for some New Belgium then hit up to 13 other small craft breweries around town. Until then, there are 11 craft breweries to choose from in Asheville, and on any given day, you can try more than 80 different locally-brewed beers. Not that we recommend you do so in just one day. Also worth mentioning, is the fact that you can visit six(soon-to-be seven) breweries while strolling through downtown. You’re welcome.
Altamont Brewing Company will be brewing by the end of 2012 (perhaps sooner) in West Asheville.
Asheville Brewing Company’s beers are brewed in two locations, so the state counts the company as two breweries. Both locales offer a variety of pub food and are both family and dog friendly (outside patios only for canines). ABC started canning their Shiva IPA and Rocket Girl Lager in 2011, and no local visit to the wilderness is now complete without a six-pack. (675 Merrimon Ave.; 254-1281 and 77 Coxe Ave.; 255-4077).
Craggie Brewing Company’s Public House offers freshly brewed session beers. The tasting room crowd often spills over into the brewery where live local musical acts often perform next to the fermenting tanks. (197 Hilliard Ave.; 254-0360).
French Broad Brewing Company’s tasting room is carved out of the corner of the brewery, which sports beautiful fish scale tanks, highlighted by a disco ball. Tucked behind Biltmore Village, French Broad’s warehouse ambiance paired with flavorful beers and frequent live music is hard to beat. (101 Fairview Rd.; 277-0222).
Green Man Brewery is the place to go hang if you enjoy checking out soccer players while sipping rich, complex brews. This brewery has a strong local following of beer and sports enthusiasts. Plus a patio and plentiful parking make Green Man a hidden gem. (23 Buxton Ave.; 254-0360).
Highland Brewing Company is Asheville’s oldest and largest brewery, offers a huge tasting room, complete with a 3-barrel system producing special beers just for visitors. The outdoor patio is shared by Troy & Sons, Asheville’s first legal moonshine distillery. Yes, you can have a taste of shine with that Gaelic Ale. (12 Old Charlotte Hwy.; 299-3370).
Lexington Avenue Brewery, or the LAB (“Yes dear, I’m at the lab.”), offers quality gastro-pub fare with their in-house beers The brewery is expanding. Expect a more rough and tumble tasting room next door by the end of 2012. (39 N. Lexington Ave., 252-0212).
Oyster House Brewing Company brews handcrafted beers for The Lobster Trap restaurant. Their Moonstone Oyster Stout, brewed with real oysters, recently received kudos from Zane Lamprey, host of television show Drinking Made Easy. (35 Patton Ave.; 350-0505).
Pisgah Brewing Company remains the only all-organic brewery in the region. The brewers also pride themselves on brewing (when possible) with local ingredients, such as fresh hops grown down the road at Hop n’ Berry Farm and locally roasted malts from Riverbend Malthouse. The meadow and stage out back regularly features regional and sometimes national musical acts. (150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain, 669-0190).
Thirsty Monk Brewery opened in October 2011 with a one-barrel system in The Thirsty Monk beer bar’s south location. Currently, almost all the beer brewer Norm Penn can produce is sold in-house, though every once in a while, one of the newest brewery’s offerings will make to the Monk’s downtown beer bar. (20 Gala Dr, 505-4564).
Wedge Brewing Company’s location in the River Arts Districts makes it one of the primary afternoon and evening gathering spots for local artists and other creative types. The funky spot next to the railroad tracks is so popular that most of the beer brewed there never leaves the premises, except in patrons’ bellies. (125B Roberts St.; 505-2792).
Wicked Weed Brewing will be brewing by the end of 2012 in downtown Asheville next door to the Orange Peel.
Yellow Truck Brewing Company is slated to open in late 2012. A project of Pack’s Tavern, the brewery will be located in the historic old jail house behind Asheville’s Pack Square Park and will supply brews to the Tavern and other downtown restaurants (4 Marjorie St.; 712-3456.
And there’s more. If you’re up for going farther afield, you can mosey over to Southern Appalachian Brewery (822 Locust St., Ste. 100, Hendersonville), to Heinzelmannchen Brewery (545 Mill St. Sylva) to Catawba Valley Brewing (212 S. Green St., Morganton), to Nantahala Brewing Co. (61 Depot St., Bryson City), to Brevard Brewing Co. (63 E. Main St., Brevard) or to Frog Level or HeadWaters Brewing, both in Waynesville (56 Commerce St. and 130 Frazier St.).
Other breweries in the planning stages include Black Mountain Ale House Brewing in Black Mountain, Tipping Point Tavern Brewing in Waynesville (now open), Blue Mountain Pizza Brewing in Weaverville, and One World Brewing and Twin Leaf Brewery (both likely in Asheville).