Beer drinkers unite and make your way to Asheville, North Carolina as soon as you can.
With the most breweries per capita, Asheville is indeed the brewery capital of America. There’s a brewery seemingly everywhere you turn in some downtown areas. It truly is a beer lover’s paradise.
And while there are far too many to knock out in a single day, travelers can still easily make it anywhere from seven to 10 breweries in one weekend. (Yes, some may attempt to reach that many on Saturday alone since it’s a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties.)
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting to celebrate a friend’s bachelor party, and we managed to hit five breweries within seven hours.
Factoring in the atmosphere, location, prices and beer options, here are some of the best breweries in Asheville.
The Downtown Brewery Triangle
This chunk of downtown is the go-to spot if your goal is to try as many breweries as possible.
From Lexington Avenue on down to Collier Street, there are over 10 breweries all within easy walking distance from each other. Depending on which ones you visit, you could walk 10 to 12 minutes (at most) to your next stop, while others are as close as a 60-second, leisurely stroll around the corner. Also referred to as the South Slope Brewery District, you can pay by the beer (three to five dollars) at most breweries.
The best of the best in this location include:
1. Wicked Weed: The full brewery is now out in West Asheville, but the downtown location is where it all started. What was once a hardware store basement is now arguably the most popular brewery in downtown.
Try the Orange Peel Ale (5.5 percent ABV), a nod to Wicked Weed’s music venue neighbor: The Orange Peel. Or try the Freak of Nature (8.6 percent ABV) if you like an IPA-style beer. Richard Bibb, noted IPA fan and groom on our excursion, said: “it’s one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had.”
For those in favor of a good sour beer, there are a few options here, but you’ll find plenty more by taking an eight-minute walk over to Funkatorium, which is a taproom owned by Wicked Weed and fully dedicated to sour and funky beers.
2. Catawba Brewing: The White Zombie Ale (5.1 percent ABV) is a popular year-round brew here, but this past weekend Catawba released their new Peanut Butter Jelly Time (5.7 percent ABV).
It hits with you a strong peanut smell right away before even tasting. It was a bit heavier than I expected, but the hint of raspberry puree really delivers to make this a solid beer.
3. Burial Beer Co: The outdoor area really steals the show thanks to the brewery’s corner location and the old ford truck that has become a popular photo spot. Sit back and enjoy great beer, great company and a great view.
The taps can change frequently, so make sure to check ahead of time on their taproom page if you’re looking to try a specific beer. (Waves Crash Upon Us – Brett Pale (5.8 percent ABV) was my favorite, but it’s off today’s listed tap, for example.) It will surely be back, though.
If you’re in the spirit of trying new things, sample the quail or bone marrow from the Salt & Smoke food truck.
4. Green Man Brewery: What began as a brewpub has now grown into a much larger facility. The third-floor patio here offers an awesome view of Asheville’s south side.
If you’re into heavier beers likes stouts and IPAs, this is definitely the place for you.
Of course, they do have some beers under six percent ABV, like the award-winning ESB amber ale (5.5 percent ABV). But most are here for the brews with higher alcohol content, such as the Trickster IPA (7 percent ABV) and The Dweller (10 percent ABV).
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
This massive estate will take your breath away the minute you pull past its gates.
If you only have a day to visit Asheville breweries, Sierra Nevada needs to be on your list. A great place for a brewery tour given how large it is, I recommend starting your day here before venturing to the downtown breweries (you can walk to those but have to drive to this one).
Located about 20 minutes outside of downtown, the Taproom opens at 11 am on Saturday and gets crowded all day. Thankfully, there’s a ton of room for everyone: Even if you are in a big party and have to wait 45 minutes to an hour for a table, you can grab a beer at the bar inside or the one outside.
Try the Nooner Pilsner if you’re into German-style beers. For more hops, try the Tropical Torpedo, which you can’t get anywhere else but here until the fall.
This is also an ideal spot for a Saturday lunch outing: You can order food from the Back Porch menu if you don’t feel like waiting for a table, but the best thing you can put in your mouth at Sierra Nevada is the crispy pork belly on the Taproom menu inside.
New Belgium Brewing was one popular spot we weren’t able to make on our brewery extravaganza. Given there are a plethora of options in the city, there just wasn’t enough time in the day for a stop here.
But rest assured, I’ll be back and plan to visit, as well as Highland Brewery Company, which locals I ran into during my trip raved so much about.
To my beer peers who only drink cider style, you’ll want to visit Noble Cider and Urban Orchard Cider Company.
As always, please drink responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. Asheville has taxis as well as Uber and Lyft ride services to move you around the city. As previously mentioned, once you get downtown, you can easily walk to many breweries.