By Andrea Romano
October 29, 2019
Courtesy of Asheville Brewing Company

Craft beer isn’t just a West Coast thing. You can find some quality, East Coast beers that boast a distinctive taste, feel, and look that reflect the culture of where they came from.

And one eastern beer city that stands out is Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville is, perhaps, one of the younger craft beer towns in the U.S., but it’s not exactly green when it comes to quality brews. Much like Portland, San Diego, and Seattle, Asheville was a bit of a beer ghost town due to Prohibition, but craft brewing changed all of that.

According to North Carolina Beer Month, the state’s brewing history goes back to the 18th century, when Single Brothers Brewery & Distillery was founded in 1774. It operated for decades, but North Carolina was the first Southern state to enact Prohibition in 1908 and it wasn’t until 1935 that legal alcohol was sold in the state.

Over the next few decades, breweries that would eventually expand to national brands, like Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company (which was sold in 1999 after 30 years) and Miller Brewing Company (which is still going strong) opened in other parts of North Carolina. Asheville, though, remained remarkably quiet.

Even though the craft brewing scene began to take off in other parts of the country in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the mid-90s that Asheville’s first craft brewery, Highland Brewing Company, opened its doors and effectively started the beer revolution in this iconic beer city, according to Explore Asheville. It wasn’t long before Asheville Brewing Company and Green Man Brewery followed suit.

Today, Asheville has about 30 breweries within the city and metropolitan area — and we rounded up some of the local favorites.

Don’t be surprised if you get very thirsty by the end of this list.

Methodology: We decided to take a sampling of some of the best and most-recommended breweries from a number of expert and user-rated sites, including RateBeer, TripAdvisor, Beer Connoisseur, and Beervana. While the breweries listed below are not necessarily ranked, each one has a special feature, whether it’s an attached restaurant, awards, honors, tours and tastings, an interesting space, a unique method of brewing, or is famous for having a specialty. All breweries are established or have headquarters in the Asheville metro area, which is why we decided to include New Belgium Brewing, originally from Colorado, since its Asheville headquarters is just as large and popular as its Fort Collins counterpart. However, national and commercial chains like Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues were left off since these brands have far many more locations across the country besides Asheville.

Wicked Weed Brewing

Wicked Weed is probably most famous for its “Funkatorium” location. Yes, you read that correctly. While the brewery itself is located in West Asheville and has tours and a tasting room, the Funkatorium is dedicated to the company’s sours and “funkier” brews for beer lovers with a stronger palate. They also have a new location, Cultura, right next door to the Funkatorium, that is an elevated brewpub with “new-agrarian cuisine,” sour beer, wine, and cocktails.

Highland Brewing

Welcome to Asheville’s original craft brewery. Opening its doors in 1994, Highland was the first brewery in Asheville since Prohibition and it’s been going strong ever since. The name pays homage to the Scottish immigrants who came to the area in the 18th century, and the company crafts some delicious IPAs for the local community to enjoy.

Not only do they have an impressive tap room, they also host weddings and even have a giant meadow with a bar for especially large events.

Burial Beer Company

It’s pretty obvious that this is one of the most popular breweries for Asheville locals, and it all comes down to quality brews. At one time, it was the downtown area’s first nano-brewery, using only one barrel to make its enticing beers, but since then it has expanded quite a bit. Now, Burial has two taprooms, one in Asheville and another in Raleigh, a ten-barrel system, and a full-service kitchen that serves brunch with a live jazz band on Sundays.

Hi-Wire Brewing

Hi-Wire is all about balance — if you’ll forgive the pun — and the company is on a mission to make approachable beer that anyone can drink. At the 2016 Beer City Festival, The Beer Connoisseur noted that the Hi-Wire Gose was “spritzy and effervescent,” so naturally this is a great place for a spring or summer lager. They also have some excellent IPAs and their Bed of Nails Brown has some exceptional ratings on Beer Advocate.

Catawba Brewing Company

While the original brewery is in Morganton, North Carolina, Asheville locals have claimed Catawba as their own. Plus, the brewery has opened two more locations within the city limits — one in South Slope and one in Biltmore Village.

The Beer Connoisseur rated this brewery’s White Zombie as their favorite from the 2016 Beer City Festival. In addition to having many of their distinctive year-round and seasonal beers on tap, the brewery’s Asheville locations play host to lots of fun events like bar trivia nights, live music, and local fundraisers.

Pisgah Brewing Company

This is another brewery that’s technically just outside Asheville, in Black Mountain, but Pisgah Brewing has been adopted by local Ashevillians as their own. This certified-organic brewery is all about bringing fresh, local ingredients to the masses, and it’s a particularly great place to check out live music from local bands.

If you’re a foodie, this brewery also has a rotation of different food trucks so you can always get something new.

Green Man Brewery

Opening in 1997, this is one of the oldest breweries in Asheville. But don’t let this European-style brewery trick you into thinking it's done innovating. It’s got something for everyone.

The brewery actually has two locations, a dive bar called Dirty Jack’s where you can sit back and have a casual pint and the nearby Green Mansion, which has three stories, including a packaging area, two tasting rooms, and a rooftop bar.

French Broad River Brewing Company

One of the older breweries in the city, French Broad River Brewery has been around since 2001. This company is all about Asheville; naming itself after the French Broad River and continually being inspired by local nature. In fact, this company is so dedicated to the outdoors it even brewed a special session beer called Poor Boaters Rations (or PBR) with French Broad Adventures, an outdoor adventure travel company.

Thirsty Monk Brewery and Pub

A visit to this brewery is like taking a world tour. Separated into two floors, you’ll find refreshing and innovative American craft beers to enjoy upstairs, and on the first floor, you’ll find some of the brewery’s best Belgian and other European rare beers. The latter fits well with the brewery’s name, Thirsty Monk, which harkens back to the Belgian monks who brewed beer in the Middle Ages.

With more than 30 beers on tap and more than 100 bottles to choose from, there’s certainly something for everyone here. Hope you’re thirsty.

Bhramari Brewing Company

This fairly new brewing company is named for the Hindu goddess of bees. While some of their brews feature honey, this company is mainly interested in bold and unique flavors that you wouldn’t expect to find elsewhere — Scuppernong, Butterfly Peaflower, and Makrut Lime Leaf, to name a few.

Bhramari specializes in small-batch beers, but you can also find some year-round offerings plus a very intriguing cocktail menu at their bar.

Asheville Brewing Company

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It’s no secret that pizza and beer go great together, and Asheville Brewing Company has three locations where you can get a slice to go with your suds. All of their pizzas and pub fare are made with local ingredients, so you don’t have to think of your pie as a guilty pleasure. With 15 beers on tap and $3 movies at each location, it’s a great place to go for a casual night out.

New Belgium Brewing Company

While the original brewery is in Fort Collins, Colorado, the company’s second, and comparable, headquarters are found in Asheville. Since moving its only other location to North Carolina, New Belgium has been absorbed into the local culture, despite technically being a chain.

This sustainable brewery, known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, has a massive green space for families to explore, as well as outdoor food trucks and lawn games. They also hold tours and tastings every day, except holidays.

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