Boasting nearly 15 breweries within its city limits alone—and dozens more dotting the surrounding hillsides of Western North Carolina—Asheville is the undisputed king of southern craft beer. Breweries like Highland and Green Man, established in the 80s and 90s, have skillfully paved the way for newcomers including Hi-Wire, Twin Leaf, and Wicked Weed, who have flooded the city with award-winning and experimental ales and lagers. National acts have set up shop in Asheville, too—Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues both opened East Coast facilities outside of town in 2014, while Colorado’s New Belgium will unveil a waterfront brewery later this year. In short, Asheville is a beer lover’s paradise. Here are five of my favorites in the region.
What started as a fledgling one-barrel brewery in a dilapidated South Slope warehouse has now evolved into one of Asheville’s most impressive and forward-thinking breweries. After just a year in business, Seattle transplants Jess and Doug Reiser, along with brewer Tim Gormley, expanded to a 10-barrel brewhouse and extended their hours to six days a week, serving beers that lean heavy toward Belgian traditions—farmhouse saisons, crisp blonde ales, and intense dubbels—while incorporating local ingredients like wildflower honey and North Carolina sweet potatoes. Be sure to ask about Burial’s special bottle releases, many of which are made in collaboration with other local breweries like Asheville Brewing, Oskar Blues, Pisgah, and Hi-Wire.
40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Drive about 45 miles due east of Asheville to find this boutique brewery on a quiet corner in the mountain town of Morganton. Brewmaster Todd Boera, a Cleveland native with one of the most impressive beards in an industry awash with them, creates a unique style of seasonal Appalachian fruit and vegetable beers with ingredients like Bull’s Blood beets, heirloom carrots, and locally grown Kiwi fruits. He also makes solid year-round styles like Hop Beard IPA and Irish Table Stout, a gold medal winner at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. Fonta Flora’s first bottled beer—Echoview Estate Ale, released last November—was made with blackberry honey, lemon balm, and local malt and hops, all grown on Echoview Farm in Weaverville, N.C.
317 N Green St, Morganton, North Carolina, 28655
As the name suggests, this South Slope spin-off of Asheville’s white-hot Wicked Weed Brewing focuses on funky, wild, and sour ales, as well as Bourbon barrel-aged stouts and tripels. The rotating drafts are listed on giant cask-shaped chalkboards behind the knobby bar, with each listing identifying the type of barrel that particular beer was aged in. The selection can be overwhelming at times, but don’t leave without trying Serenity, a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal-winning saison aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with
Brettanomyces (a type of wild yeast), or Oblivion, a wild red ale aged in Cabernet barrels for eight months with over a hundred pounds of blackberries and dates. Not a fan of sour beers? Check out the Freak of Nature Double IPA instead, or French Toast Stout, brewed with maple syrup and cinnamon and aged in Bourbon barrels for four months. 145 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801
One of Asheville’s oldest breweries is also one of its best. Founded in 1997 as a downtown brewpub, Green Man has expertly adapted and shifted focus from its original ho-hum English styles to vibrant and exciting American beers since taking on new owners in 2010. Some of the holdover styles are still there—the textbook ESB and porter are deservedly year-round offerings—but you’ll now find experimental styles like Snozzberry Wild American Ale aged with fruit in oak barrels and the robust Dweller Imperial Stout on offer as well. The delightfully ramshackle taproom and folksy outdoor porch space are still two of the best places to have a beer in downtown.
23 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Located on the lower level of
Wedge Studios warehouse with its 30-plus working artist and retail spaces, Wedge Brewing was one of the first attractions to the now-bustling River Arts District. Relax along the banks of the French Broad River and dig into hoppy ales like Iron Rail IPA, robust imperial stouts like Vadim Bora, and crisp farmhouse styles like Super Saison. The sprawling front yard offers ample room for lawn games, dog parties, and picnics, and you’ll often find food a food truck or two lurking out front. If not, grab some overstuffed tortillas from the neighboring White Duck Taco Shop. 37 Paynes Way, Asheville, NC 28801