If you are a lover of wine, than you have likely dreamt of exploring California’s Napa Valley region. However if you are into craft beer, then Asheville, North Carolina should definitely be on your list! It’s been a wet weekend here in Asheville, but the skies are finally clearing up and the sun is beckoning to us “come out and drink beer.” Luckily, there are no shortage of Asheville breweries to tour!
** This article was updated in 2019, but originally published in 2013.
Pick up Asheville’s Craft Beer Guide
Before heading out we made at stop at “Early Girl” for one of the best brunches of our lives (and well worth the 45 minute wait)! With our bellies full, we are off on our Asheville Brewery Tour. Be sure to pick up Asheville’s Craft Beer Guide, available at most hotels or tourist information areas. This helpful guide gives an overview of all the breweries, as well as a map so that you can plan your day.
We decided to go on an independent journey; however, you may choose to join an official Asheville Brewery Tour. This way you can just sit back and relax, while having someone else drive you around (useful if you’ve had a bit to drink!).
1. French Broad Brewing Company – a Private Tour
The first stop on our independent Asheville brewery tour was to meet a friend at French Broad Brewery, Aaron Wilson, who happens to be their Head Brewer. While there are now over 20 breweries in the greater Asheville area, French Broad was one of the original 3 breweries in town and has been around since 2001 (goes to show how fast the explosion has been since then).
It is an intimate atmosphere, and the tasting room is right next to the brew tanks. The vibe of French Broad brewery is casual and funky, and there is even a disco ball in the center of the room. The tables are communal, making it easy to meet other beer lovers and strike up a conversation.
We decided to order a flight so that we could taste all of their different brews. After getting the low down from Aaron on the different flavors, both Liz and I discover our favorite beer at French Broad, Wee Heavy-eer Scotch Ale. One of their original beers, we enjoyed the rich toasted grain flavor because it reminded us of Guinness, only a much lighter version. It was incredibly smooth and refreshing, even with it’s robust taste.
2. New Belgium Brewery Tour in Asheville
One of the newest and largest breweries in Asheville is the New Belgium Brewery. Located right near downtown Asheville, the brewery sits on a scenic spot along the French Broad river. There are biking and walking trails all around the New Belgium brewery, and the have some lovely outdoor areas that are great for the whole family.
Visit on a lovely summer evening or just any Friday night, and the outdoor lawn at New Belgium is hopping! Full of families with kids running around and playing ball, and of course so many great dogs joining in on the fun too (including our dog Hana). They have food trucks set up with a variety of eats, and a small stage set up for evening local music. If you didn’t know already, Asheville has one of the busiest music scenes I’ve ever seen. Literally every night there are more options for live music than you can possibly fit in.
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Sitting back on a lovely evening, having a drink and a bite to eat, chatting with friends and listening to music…now that’s a pretty typical experience in Asheville (and it’s what we love about this town)! But of course if you are interested in a more in-depth beer experience, you can sign up to join on of the New Belgium Brewery tours that happen daily (but they do book up!). This is what Asheville is all about. And visiting the New Belgium Brewery right in town is a must for any beer fan who is planning a trip to Asheville.
3. Wicked Weed Brewery
Another memorable brewery to tour in Asheville for us was Wicked Weed Brewery. This modern brew house is also a gastropub, serving some pretty awesome food! Located in a renovated old gas station, it’s decor is contemporary with rustic accents; the design felt high end, yet comfortable.
The tasting room of the Wicked Weed was located downstairs of the main eating area. A giant chalkboard listed all the beers that they had available on this day, and you could choose to sit inside or outside on the covered patio, complete with a cornhole game set.
Liz decided to try the Lucid Blonde, a smooth, fruity and crisp summer ale. I decided to try something unique that I had heard people raving about for days, Watermelon Saison. This amazingly smooth beer quickly skyrocketed to the very top of my beers of the world list. The drink was incredibly smooth, crisp, yet rich with watermelon flavor; a perfect beer to drink outside in the summer sun!
4. Touring the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Asheville
Asheville has exploded when it comes to breweries. And one massive brewery tour that you should definitely take is at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. While this brewery is just slightly out of town, it’s easy to get to and very well worth the drive. The property is described as a “wonderland in the woods” on their website, and it truly is!
Visiting the Sierra Nevada Brewery in North Carolina is an experience, and it’s best if you can devote an entire afternoon / evening for a visit. They have fantastic food onsite, entertainment, numerous tap rooms, games & activities for the whole family, fire pits, and even outdoor walking trails in the back down and around the river! And of course, they have a number of different tours of the brewery that you can take – depending on how long you want to go and how in-depth you want to get.
The thing to remember is that tours really do book up fast here, so be sure to get signed up in advance and prepare to enjoy your day!
5. Highland Brewing Company in Asheville
Being a former resident of Asheville, I knew we had to tour another original, the Highland Brewing Company. The last time I took a tour of Highland, they were located in a small garage in downtown Asheville. That’s when there were only 2-3 main breweries, now there are more than 20! Times have changed and you can tell the difference once you arrive at the Highland Brewing Company property. It is now located in an old film production lot, and is a bit outside of town.
The tasting room is a large open space that resembles a music hall, in fact, there was a stage in the corner and a band was setting up for the evening. Along with the outdoor patio to soak up the sun, this is another great location to enjoy some of Asheville’s finest brew. Since there was no “Cold Mountain” (my favorite Highland beer) in sight, we went with the original and my old favorite brew, Galic Ale.
Seemingly Endless Breweries to Tour in Asheville, North Carolina!
It seems like every time we visit Asheville there are more breweries to visit. And really, a brewery tour in Asheville is a great way to relax and spend the day (or a couple days). If you love trying local beer and chatting with other beer lovers, in our opinion, Asheville is the best place in America to visit! Cheers!
Additional Asheville Brewery Links
- French Broad Brewery
- Wicked Weed Brewery
- Highland Brewing Company
- Green Man Brewing Company
- Frog Level Brewing Company
- Altamont Brewing Company
- Asheville Brewing Company
- Burial Beer Company
- Hi-Wire Brewing
- One World Brewing
- OysterHouse Brewing Company
- Thirsty Monk Pub
- Wedge Brewing Company
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