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A Great Asheville Brewery Tour

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The explosion of craft brewing in Asheville has rightly earned it the title of Beer City. A fan of the brewed beverage myself, a brewery tour was certainly in order on my last trip. By no means definitive, my great Asheville Brewery Tour covered six different breweries in Asheville. From major national breweries to the first in town, my tour took me across town and to breweries big and small. Even with all the beer I drank on this tour, it still left quite a few of Asheville’s many breweries on the outside. At the end of the post I’ll have a list of “honorable mentions” you might want to visit and extend your Asheville Brewery Tour. Also, there is a bit of similarity in the names of these breweries. I’ll let you read on to see just what it is.

Start You Asheville Brewery Tour at New Belgium Brewing Company

Of the two “major” breweries located in Asheville, I settled on New Belgium. The brewery is more centrally located than Sierra Nevada. It stands across the French Broad River from Asheville’s River Arts District. New Belgium selected the location because of its previously degraded state, with the intention of both restoring the property itself and providing economic benefits to the surrounding area. The location contains the brewery and a separate tasting room with a great view of the river.

New Belgium is a great place to start your Asheville Brewery Tour
Cool little tickets from the New Belgium tour!

It was really easy to book the tour online and I recommend doing so decently in advance. The tours are free, so the prime times have a tendency to fill up fast. I lucked into a morning spot which allowed us to start at New Belgium and then venture out across the city for the rest of the tours. When you arrive for your tour, do so in advance and get a head start in the tasting room. Unless you’re a super dedicated New Belgium fan, they are bound to have flavors you’ve never heard of, let alone tasted. The tour guide will gather you all up when the time comes.

New Belgium’s tours are a great mix of in-depth and casual. Our guide was really knowledgeable and had a pretty good feel for our group. The group sizes aren’t too large which lets you interact with your guide if you are so inclined. The first part of the tour explains the history of New Belgium and their search for the second location which ended up in Asheville. Going in I really had no idea just how important finding the right water was to the brewing process and Asheville’s water hit all the right marks.

Through out the tour you get some great touches of just what kind of company New Belgium is. After the opening portion of the tour, you get to take a slide to the lower floors which was a blast. The large collection of bikes you find towards the end is indicative of the environmentally responsible culture that New Belgium is known for. That and the free bikes they give to employees on their first anniversary. The time I spent at New Belgium helped create a connection between those visiting and the people who really make the beer.

New Belgium was a great way to start our tour across Beer City. They provided quite a few free samples along the way, so you’ll be feeling good by the end. The location, history, and friendly atmosphere at New Belgium was a great combination and made for the perfect tour.

Visit Wedge Brewing Company in the River Arts District

On my 2017 trip to North Carolina, Wedge was one of the breweries I intended to visit. However, it was closed for renovations on that trip. This year, I put it on my priority list for a visit. Wedge did not disappoint me either. The small brewery (Wedge Studios to be exact) stands along the French Broad River, a stones throw across from New Belgium. It lies in the heart of Asheville’s River Arts District. Wedge is an excellent spot to grab a refreshing beer after browsing the galleries.

Getting a flight at Wedge is a must for any Asheville Brewery Tour
My flight at wedge with four delicious beers

While there isn’t exactly a tour of the brewing operations at Wedge, its hard to miss them at work. The brewery is small enough that you can look right in while ordering your beers. I wanted to take advantage of the wide selection on offer, so I settled for the flight of four. The four I tried included Payne’s Pale, the Witbier, the Penny Hammer Stout and Derailed. These four provided a pretty broad cross section of styles and were all mighty delicious. Of the four, the Penny Hammer Stout was my favorite though it probably isn’t the best choice on a hot summer day. For something that is simply refreshing, the Witbier will do the trick.

Wedge Brewing Company is a funky little place with a great cross section of beers. We visited their original location, but they opened a second just down the road in Early 2017. Wedge is a staple of the craft scene in Asheville and no Asheville Brewery Tour is complete without a stop here.

Take Your Asheville Brewery Tour Downtown to Asheville Brewing Company

Leaving the River Arts District, we were in search of lunch. Seeking some vegan options, we landed on Asheville Brewing Company as our third stop. ABC features three different locations, but the Downtown location in the hoppin-mad South Slope is their current brewing headquarters. Opened in 2005, this location was the first brewery to open on the South Slope. Having been creating amazing pizza along side their beers since 1998, we knew this was a must stop.

For the best food on your Asheville Brewery Tour you have to stop at Asheville Brewing Company
Rocket away with Lemon Space Dog at ABC

Needing to refuel and recharge on a hot day, we skipped sitting outside at the massive patio. Any other time of year, the huge covered patio is a must here. The wife and I both ordered pizzas, of which they are super vegan friendly. Finding a great brewery that also does great food is a supreme find. Keeping with the idea of refreshing beers, I went with the Lemon Space Dog. If you’re a fan of citrus undertones in your beers, then this will hit the spot for sure. It was so good, I ordered a second one! Asheville Brewing Company has a pretty wide selection for you to choose from. Thirteen beers were on tap when I went, including their award-winning Ninja Porter which I understand to be delicious as well.

ABC’s Downtown Asheville location is also a fantastic place to get a start for the middle portion of this Asheville Brewery Tour. Being located on the South Slope, you can quite easily walk to any number of other breweries. If you want to do a walking tour of the South Slope, check out the extending your tour section at the bottom. Most of the breweries there can be checked off your list by walking around the South Slope. For us, the day was simply too hot for a walkabout.

Taste More of North Carolina’s Scene at Catawaba Brewing Company

Next up on the list was a trip over to Catawaba Brewing Company‘s location on the South Slope. The location here specializes in smaller craft batches and where the company does its barrel aging. It is a beautiful location that is highly welcoming and airy on the inside. The small brewing setup is right in the main area and you can get up close with the machinery. Not a proper tour, but its about as close as you’ll get and in a great spot.

Catawba Brewing is a great spot with small batches perfect for your Asheville Brewery Tour
This one was mighty peachy in my book

With a focus on smaller, limited batches at the South Slope location it seemed only fitting to go for one of those while there. June and July are the perfect time for Catawaba’s Peach of Mind. The cool undertones of peach come through and and the lower alcohol content of the grisette was good for the middle of this tour. Depending on the time of year, they will have a few limited releases available along with their nine year-round beers. I really enjoyed the stop at Catawaba, but it was starting to get into the early afternoon and couldn’t stay for more than one beer.

Asheville’s Amazing Wicked Weed Brewing

The penultimate stop on this Asheville Brewery Tour took us to Wicked Weed Brewing. Wicked has been a huge player in the beer scene in Asheville. They have two location on the South Slope, though they brew and serve radically different styles. Their original location still houses a 15-barrel brewery downstairs and serves their “regular” beers so to speak. The company also operates the Funkatorium, which is home to Wicked Weed’s more unusual offerings. The Funkatorium serves up sour and funky beers which aren’t what you’ll find in your normal neighborhood bar. Not being a fan of sour beers, I chose the Pub.

Wicked Weed has a lot to offer on your Asheville Brewery Tour
Just the right kick of hops from this Appalachian

Continuing a trend of refreshing, summer beers, I avoided anything too heavy. I settled on the Appalachian IPA and it was fantastic. Considered a session IPA by Wicked Weed, I could have easily sat around the rest of that hot day drinking a few of these. It had just the right amount of hoppiness that didn’t overwhelm you like some IPAs can. Also, one dollar of every pour goes to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to support their work. If you don’t like IPAs, Wicked Weed has a pretty wide variety of beers available, so you’re guaranteed to find one you like.

If you’re wanting a tour of the brewpub, you’ll need to sign-up in person the week of your tour. We didn’t arrive in time and no spots opened up when we were there. You also have the option of a Grand Cru Experience. This tour will take you to all four facilities, behind-the-scenes and free samples of a ton of beer to boot. If you’re looking for a single brewery to tour with, Wicked Weed is your best choice.

Highland Brewing Company: The Finale of This Asheville Brewery Tour

The final stop of our afternoon was at the beginning. Highland Brewing Company was the first craft brewery to open in Asheville in 1994. Since then Highland has been a craft leader in Asheville and continues to expand and grow to this day. We finished off our Asheville Brewery Tour with a tour of Highland’s facility. These tours are free and need to be booked in advance, but we didn’t have much trouble. Our tour was small and had a nice intimate feel. The tour gave a really great look at the brewing process. Unlike at New Belgium where everything was behind glass, Highland’s tour was right on the brew floor. It was a really neat experience to stand alongside the HUGE fermentation tanks. The tour at Highland isn’t to be missed.

Highland was one of my favorite stops on my Asheville Brewery Tour
Some fancy table decorations made in a Highland can

While you’ll get a small sample of their Gaelic Ale before the tour, stay afterwards to enjoy the bar. They offer a wide selection of their own beers in a really nice open space. There is almost always live music in the evenings and the rooftop bar offers some great views. If you’re looking for food, they have a rotation of food trucks out front.

Highland was a real innovator when it brought the craft scene to Asheville. I don’t think any Asheville Brewery Tour can be complete without a visit here. Its good to get a feel and understanding for why this family-owned brewery has been so successful. They are continuing to grow to this day. When we returned from Asheville, my favorite local bar started carrying them on draft. A few days later I noticed they were my in local Publix too. I hope that more breweries in Asheville and the area can have the success and reach Highland has had.

Extending Your Asheville Brewery Tour

By no means was my Asheville Brewery Tour exhaustive. You can only drink so many beers in a single day and truly enjoy all of them. That being said, there are a couple of ways you can extend your Asheville Brewery Tour. If you want to do some walking, focusing on just the South Slope will offer up plenty of beers. Hi-Wire Brewing, Twin Leaf, Burial Beer Co., Green Man Brewing, and Bharamari Brewing are all within an easy walk of the three South Slope breweries I mentioned earlier. Add in the Funkatorium and that makes a pretty epic 9-stop tour if you’ve got it in you.

Another way to extend your Asheville Brewery Tour is by taking your stroll a little closer to downtown. Thirsty Monk, Lexington Ave Brewery, and One World Brewing are all right downtown and not too far from your South Slope tour. If you’re looking to change things up a bit, you can hit up Urban Orchard Cidery in West Asheville or Noble Cider just a little further out of town. For a multi-day Asheville Brewery Tour, you could go further afield to Brevard. There you’ll find Brevard Brewing Company (one of my favorites) and Oskar Blues as well. Oh and don’t forget that Sierra Nevada is just outside of town as well.

Asheville is truly the epicenter of the craft brewing movement in the South. There is such a huge variety of beers to choose from, each with its own unique story. With so many different places, it would be nearly impossible to hit them all on a single trip. So it looks like I’ll be needing to make another trip soon to check some more off my list. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments below or send me a message on Facebook.

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12 Responses

  1. I loved Asheville when I visited a few years back but I never made it to any craft breweries (which I love!) Looks like I’ll definitely have to go back and follow the tour route :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Seeing Asheville through it’s breweries is my favorite way to do it. When you make your return trip, you won’t be disappointed I promise.

  3. My hubby is so glad to find brewery tours when we visit a new city. He would love to visit a city list Asheville with a title of “Beer City”. So great that there are several different brewery options to try. Since hubby and I like beers at opposite ends of the spectrum (dark vs fruity), it is great to be able to get a flight. And great when the brewery offers food as well. Something I would need if we wanted to try 13 beers on tap! I have pinned this. It is a long list of great breweries to try. So it might take a long visit.

  4. I am personally not a beer drinker so this tour doesn’t sound like my thing. However, my boyfriend would absolutely love it! I had no idea that Asheville is known as the Beer City. How cool is it that the New Belgium tour is actually free of charge? Thanks for the tip on booking it in advance, especially if its prime time. Wicked Weed brewing sounds like a good brewery to explore, because of the funky and sour beers. Not sure if he would like them but it he isn’t averse to experiments so maybe I can recommend any way, if we ever make it to Asheville.

  5. My husband prefers wine and I don’t drink but our Don’s are beer lovers do this has been sent to them. Didn’t know Asheville has all of this to earn it the title if Beer City!

  6. I love Brewery tours and wine tasting tours! Looks like Highland Brewing company offers great rooftop views, live music and some food as well. I am book marking your blog to look up when I visit Asheville next. :-)

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