Asheville owes a lot to Oscar Wong. In 1994 the retired engineer moved to Asheville and brought his hobby of home-brewing beer along with him. That hobby turned into Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s first successful brewery and the start of a brewing legacy that took over the city. And Wong? He has rightfully been dubbed the “Godfather of Beer City USA.”
Today Asheville is home to more than twenty brewery operations, with more breweries per capita than any other United States city. This won’t surprise you after taking a short stroll through the city. This Southern destination is more than a little proud of its local brewers. Beer festivals are more of a year-long celebration, and you can always find your favorite brew outside the pub, be it the sweet shop or the bakery. Beer is their thing. And they do it well.
When you’re ready to tap into what they’re drinking in Asheville, here are the best ways to see what’s brewing.
- The Amazing PubcycleThis tour cycle and bar on wheels takes passengers throughout the Brewery District as they pedal their way through the streets of Asheville (photo courtesy of the Amazing Pubcycle)Don’t forget to B.Y.O.B. before hopping on this pedal-powered bar. The Pubcycle consists of ten pedaling seats (yep, you do the work) and a small bench in the back that will hold three non-pedalers. Don’t worry, there’s a motor that picks up the slack on the hills.The Amazing Pubcycle runs scheduled tours of Asheville’s beer scene. The tour guides provide all the ins and outs and history of Asheville’s brewing legacy. For a quick trip to learn about the area, choose the forty-minute tour. If you want to get a taste outside of the Pubcycle, book the hour-and-a-half tour. It offers all the fun of the short ride, with two stops at local favorites. Some of their favorite stops include Asheville Brewing Company and Hi-Wire Brewing.
Note to self: Don’t bring bottles, no glass allowed. And ladies, don’t wear heels.
- Brews CruiseThe Brews Cruise, Asheville’s original beer tour, offers a three-and-a-half-hour tour of area breweries on the Brew Bus (photo courtesy of Brews Cruise)Too tired to pedal? Take the bus. The Brews Cruise was Asheville’s first brewery tour. Serving tourists for more than ten years, the bright yellow “Brew Bus” with the giant smile on the front has become a staple of Asheville’s beer scene.Out-of-towners (and some locals) wanting to get the full brewing experience go no further. Guides are experts in the brewing process and teach the sometimes subtle nuances of different beer styles. The Brews Cruise tours three local breweries, and brew-seekers can expect to sample around fifteen different beers. French Broad and Catawba are Brew Bus favorites.
Note to self: Keep the sandals at home. Open-toed shoes aren’t allowed in many of the breweries for safety concerns.
- Beer Festivals Brewgrass combines the best regional beer with the best regional bluegrass, and all for the benefit of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina (photo courtesy of Anne Fitten Glenn)It doesn’t matter what season you come seeking an Asheville beer festival, because any day is a good day to celebrate a pint of your favorite brew.Beer Week—There’s no better way to celebrate than with a week’s worth of activities. Tastings from several local brewers, dinners with perfectly paired beverages, and parties highlight the week-long celebration held annually in May. The event comes to a close each year in downtown Asheville with the Beer City Festival, a community party featuring more than thirty brewers.
Brewgrass—This is a local favorite and for good reason. Brewgrass is Asheville’s original beer festival, approaching their twentieth celebration in 2016. More than fifty local and regional breweries are represented for the half-day event complete with concerts from regional and national bluegrass musicians. The best part? Brewgrass is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of western North Carolina.
Other notable brewing festivitiess—Oktoberfest and the Winter Warmer Beer Festival
- Explore on Your Own Asheville Brewing Company, a local favorite, is just one of more than twenty breweries in AshevilleThat’s right. Do it like a local and take to the streets. Don’t know what to try? Ask your bartender. We’ve yet to meet a drink enthusiast that isn’t eager to share their knowledge. There’s at least twenty-two breweries in Asheville. Most offer tours and samplings. Check out Asheville’s “Brewery District,” the perfect destination for those on foot with seven breweries within walking distance.Ask. Learn. Drink. Enjoy.
And in case you were wondering, here’s a small taste of what’s brewing in Asheville and where to get it:
Asheville Brewing Company: Shiva IPA.
Highland Brewing Company: Black Mocha Stout
Catawba Valley Brewing Company: Farmer Ted’s Cream Ale
Green Man Brewery: ESB
Hi-Wire Brewing: Prime Time Pale Ale