Asheville Beercation – A Self-Guided Asheville Brewery Tour
Editors’s Note – My Asheville Beercation has been updated for for 2017! I strive to keep all Beercation itineraries current. Thus, I recently traveled to Asheville to update my popular beer guide. This is the latest as of January 21, 2017.
Asheville has become the darling of the craft beer movement, catching the attention of both large-scale craft breweries and beer tourists alike. It’s no wonder why. With more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the United States, who wouldn’t want to visit Asheville for a beer-filled weekend?
Asheville boasts 20 breweries in the metro area with an additional 25 breweries in surrounding Western North Carolina (Check out the Citizen Times for a complete listing). Yes, some of those do include East Coast operations of craft brewery superstars like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues.
While it’s impossible to squeeze all of Asheville’s beer scene into one weekend, I want to help you hit all of the top spots. With this guide, you’ll be able to create your own Asheville Brewery Tour. You won’t be rushed, and you’ll get to visit the breweries you want to visit, not the ones a tour operator has an agreement with.
Downloadable a free PDF of this guide to help navigate your way through the best of Asheville’s breweries!
Visit Some Outlying Breweries
Your Asheville brewery tour begins 10 miles outside of town at Pisgah Brewing and works its way back towards downtown. Pisgah focuses on organic ales. Their pale ale is a perfect example of Pisgah at its finest, but the brewery also gets creative with beers like its Cosmos Baltic Porter (brewed with Belgium yeast) and Benton’s Bacon Snout.
Next, pay homage to where craft beer began in Asheville at Highland Brewing. The brewery kicked off Asheville’s craft beer movement in 1994 and has been pumping out known beers like Gaelic and Kashmir English Style IPA ever since. But you’re not going to Highland for those grocery store labels. Order a flight of their one-offs and seasons like Cold Mountain.
After Highland, make your way over to French Broad Brewery. Brewing since 2001, they’re another one of Asheville’s craft beer original gangsters. French Broad specializes in European styles with an Asheville twist.
Dinner in West Asheville
Check into your hotel and then take an Uber to West Asheville for dinner and beers at Oyster House Brewing. Oyster House Brewing is a hidden gem that locals don’t want you to know about. While Oyster House is considered to be a nano-brewery, there is nothing tiny about their beers. Think big, chewy stouts that include an imperial oyster stout. For food, I recommend the Grilled oysters with Shallots and Bacon and the Brew Burger (it has fried oysters on it).
Start the Day Exploring the River Arts District
Start the day off with a hearty breakfast at King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles. Then head over to the River Arts District, which highlights Asheville’s artistic and entrepreneurial flare as one of the few cities in the country where artists can make a fulltime living following their passion.
Once you browsed the working galleries, sip some beer art at Wedge Brewing, located directly under the River Arts. I found their Derailed Hemp Ale and Wedge XII especially tasty. New Belgium Brewing’s Asheville brewery is right across the river. However, I don’t recommend it unless you are a major fan of New Belgium’s beer. The taproom feels like an after thought compared to the experience at Sierra Nevada’s Asheville brewery.
For lunch, you have to eat at White Duck Taco Shop. It’s a short walk from the River Arts and a local institution. Take a break from beer and wash your seasonally inspired tacos down with house made sangrias for a refreshing treat. Don’t indulge too much on sangrias though because you have a hella afternoon of drinking ahead of you on Asheville’s famed South Slope.
Visit the Many Breweries of Brewers’ Row
South Slope is located downtown, and is Asheville’s largest cluster of breweries. Start your beer journey at Burial Beer. I recommend a flight here to sample their many saisons. Next, work north and take your pick from Green Man Brewery (there new location is awesome), Catawba Brewing, Funkatorium, Twin Leaf Brewery, Hi-Wire Brewing, and Ben’s Tune Up for a taste of house made sake. There are other breweries, but these are the one’s I recommend. Tasty Beverage Company is a great place to stop for beercation souvenirs with their large collection of local beers.
Dinner and More Debauchery in Downtown
For dinner, you need to visit Wicked Weed Brewing even if you hit up the Funkatorium earlier as the Funkatorium only serves Wicked Weed’s sour ales. Their beer-focused kitchen is top notch, and the beers are even better.
Finish your night at the Thirsty Monk for their eclectic beer line-up and house brew. The upstairs bar features craft cocktails if you’re beered out. Other great bars in downtown Asheville that have a nice selection of regional breweries include Pack’s Tavern and Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria.
Sweat the Beer Out with a Hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Cafe 64 in downtown Asheville serves a hearty breakfast that will clear your hangover and prepare you for the journey home. Plus, you can’t visit Asheville without taking in some of nature, right? The city’s backdrop is the Blue Ridge Mountains after all. Hard Times Loop Trail will help get you ready for your last brewery of the weekend and provide a glimpse of the Biltmore since the weekend’s itinerary didn’t include a stop there.
Wrap up the Weekend at Sierra Nevada
After the hike, wrap up your Asheville Brewery tour at Sierra Nevada’s East Coast production facility in Mills River. You’re going to want to spend a few hours here. The grounds are massive, the hoppy ales are at their freshest, and the kitchen is amazing. Think pork belly rillettes, steak tartare on chips, and pig cheeks over grits. Everything, you guessed it, is locally sourced.
Sierra Nevada is the only brewery in which I recommend going on the tour. You will need to book it in advance. The 3 hour Beer Geek Tour is a true brewery experience and the perfect end to your weekend.
Plan your stay!
There are plenty of comfortable hotels in downtown Asheville. Check out the latest reviews on TripAdvisor! I recommend thinking a little outside of the box though and staying at the Omni Grove Park Inn in. It’s less than a $10 Uber ride from to downtown Asheville and the spa facilities might be just what you need to sweat through a hangover. Plus, Edison’s bar also features a nice selection of craft beer and cocktails and offers incredible mountain views.
Another great idea is a vacation rental through TripAdvisor Rentals. You’ll have more space and save plenty of money leftover for beer.