It wasn’t that I’d fallen out of love with beer; I was just feeling a bit unmoved by it, weary of it. I’d been to a lot of breweries in the preceding weeks and was jaded from traveling and drinking too much, and I wasn’t quite ready to go on a crawl of seven more breweries in an afternoon. But then I wasn’t quite ready for Asheville.
No one has ever said anything bad about Asheville as a beer town, so I knew it was supposed to be good. What surprised and delighted me was the very high quality of the beers, the variety of breweries, and the general sense that “Beer is great!” But, most of all, I loved the spaces and environments: the breweries are huge, open, bright spaces, mostly in the center of town, and mostly with outdoor space (the North Carolina sunshine helps). They usually have the brewery stainless on show, are all within a few blocks of each other, and are brewing on significant kits—not pots and pans in the back of a small bar. They take beer seriously in Asheville.
Asheville, North Carolina America’s Best Beer City? Photo Gallery
The star brewery is Wicked Weed Brewing. They have two locations in town and two production facilities out of town (although you can’t visit those). There’s the original Pub (91 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801), which has a large restaurant space upstairs and a more casual space downstairs where you can drink in view of the tanks —all the “clean” (as opposed to “wild” or sour) beers on tap in the pub are brewed in the pub. A few blocks away is Funkatorium (147 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801), where they mature barrels of wild and sour beers and have them all on tap. Both stops are essential. Pernicious IPA was the best IPA I drank in four months of dedicated my blog research (and I drank a lot of IPA in that time). Amazing for its brightness, dryness, big aroma of citrus and tropical fruits, pineapples, and peaches; for its depth of hop flavor; and for its sharply clean bitterness that made me never want to drink any other IPA ever again. They also make some of the best sours I’ve drunk and some of the best barrel-aged stouts, including BA Milk and Cookies, which is grown-up chocolate milk that’ll make you giggle like a little kid. I liked it there a lot.
Here are some other breweries, bars, and restaurants in town—take a deep breath…
Burial Brewing (40 Collier Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801) is the place to go to drink more great IPAs. There’s an industrial, dark, dive-y vibe inside; they have a large, German-style outside space and the most curious brewery mural you’ll ever see of Sloth from the Goonies hugging Tom Selleck.
Go to Asheville Brewing (77 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801) for huge and excellent pizzas and a brewpub that feels as if it’s the real heart of the town.
Catawba Brewing (32 Banks Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801) is a huge space, with room inside and out, food trucks, an open sight of all the tanks, and a large beer list—try their Farmer Ted for what realistically seemed like a faithful reinvention of an American Cream Ale. Plus, go to Buxton Hall BBQ next door for whole hog meats and
Twin Leaf (144 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801), opposite Funkatorium, has some good lagers and Belgian styles of beer, plus typical American brews (though I didn’t rate the US styles as highly as the European brews).
Green Man (27 Buxton Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801) was busy with older drinkers when I went. It felt like the kind of place these people had been hanging out in for years