Want to Try Some of the Best Craft Beer in the U.S.? Here Are the Best Breweries in Asheville

Asheville Brewing Company
Photo: Courtesy of Asheville Brewing Company

Contrary to what Pacific Northwesterners may think, craft beer isn't just a West Coast thing. You can find some quality East Coast brews whose distinctive taste, feel, and look reflect the culture of their homelands.

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 the library-funded project Well Crafted NC, the state's brewing history goes back to the 18th century. North Carolina was the first state to enact Prohibition in 1908, and it wasn't until 1935 that the selling of alcohol became legal.

Over the following few decades, breweries that would eventually expand to national brands, like Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company (later acquired by Pabst) and the still-popular Miller Brewing Company opened in other parts of North Carolina while Asheville remained dry.

Even though the craft brewing scene began to take off across the U.S. 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 a beer revolution in the city. Not long after, Asheville Brewing Company and Green Man Brewery followed suit.

Today, Asheville has about 40 breweries, and here are some of the local favorites.

Wicked Weed Brewing

Wicked Weed Brewing
Courtesy of Wicked Weed Brewing

Wicked Weed is probably most famous for its Funkatorium location. (Yes, you read that correctly.) While the original brewpub is located downtown, the Funkatorium in the South Slope Brewery District is dedicated to the company's sours and "funkier" brews for beer lovers with a more adventurous palate.

Wicked Weed's other property, Cultura, right next door to the Funkatorium, is an elevated brewpub with "new-agrarian cuisine," sour beer, wine, and cocktails. Most recently, the franchise opened the taproom at Wicked Weed West, which overlooks the entire production facility.

Highland Brewing

Highland Brewing Company
Courtesy of Highland Brewing Company

Opening its doors in 1994, Highland was the first legal brewery in Asheville post-Prohibition and has been going strong ever since. On a 50-minute tour, you'll learn all about its history — including, probably, how its name pays homage to the Scottish immigrants who came to the area in the 18th century — while tasting samples in the brewery.

These days, its known for serving delicious IPAs to its community. In addition to boasting an impressive taproom with a giant meadow for large events, Highland also has a second taproom downtown on the mezzanine of the S&W Market.

Burial Beer Company

Burial Beer Company was the downtown area's first nano-brewery, using only one barrel to make its enticing beers. But since those humble beginnings, it has expanded quite a bit. Now, Burial has a 10-barrel system and taprooms all over the state — two in Asheville (South Slope and Forestry Camp), one in Charlotte, and another in Raleigh. Both Asheville locations have a full-service kitchen "focusing on Asheville terroir in comfortable American dishes."

Hi-Wire Brewing

Hi-wire brewing
Courtesy of 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. Though it has a diverse range of offerings, the institution is best known and loved for its lagers, many of which have earned accolades from the Great American Beer Festival and NC Brewers Cup. There are three Asheville taprooms (South Slope, Biltmore Village, and RAD Beer Garden), plus others in Charlotte, Durham, and Wilmington.

Catawba Brewing Company

Catawba Brewing
Courtesy of Catawba Brewing Company

While the original Catawba brewery is in Morganton, North Carolina, Asheville locals have claimed it as their own. After all, Asheville is the only city with two Catawba locations — one in South Slope and the other in Biltmore Village. In addition to having many of its distinctive year-round and seasonal beers on tap, both locations play host to lots of fun events like bar trivia nights, live music, and local fundraisers. At the Biltmore Village location, you can even throw axes on Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Pisgah Brewing Company

Although it's technically just outside Asheville, in Black Mountain, Pisgah Brewing has been adopted by local Ashevillians as Catawba has. 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 indulge in new flavors. If you're a yogi, check the events calendar for charitable yoga events.

Green Man Brewery

Green Man Brewery
Courtesy of Green Man Brewery

Open since 1997, this European-style brewery is one of the oldest in Asheville. Green Man has two locations: the original dive bar, Dirty Jack's, where you can sit back and have a casual pint; and the nearby Green Mansion, a whole three-story building with a ground-floor "brewtique" where you can sip beer and shop for merch, a packaging area, and a rooftop tasting room that looks out over the production floor and provides views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

French Broad River Brewing Company

French Broad Brewery
Courtesy of French Broad Brewery

One of the older breweries in the city, French Broad River Brewery has been around since 2001. This company is all about Asheville, going as far as to name itself after the French Broad River. This company is so dedicated to the local nature, in fact, that it once brewed a special-session beer called Poor Boaters Rations (its very own PBR) with French Broad Adventures, a Blue Ridge Mountain-based outdoor adventure travel company. Year-round brews are "steeped in European traditions," French Broad River says, such as kölsch, Scotch ale, ESB, and porter.

Thirsty Monk Brewery and Pub

Thirsty Monk
Courtesy of Thirsty Monk

A visit to this brewery is like being on a world tour. Separated into two floors, you'll find refreshing and innovative American craft beers to enjoy upstairs and some of the brewery's best Belgian and other European rare beers on the lower floor. 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 about 30 beers on tap and more than 100 bottles to choose from, there's certainly something for everyone here.

In addition to the downtown location, Thirsty Monk also has a Biltmore location with more than 20 beers on tap.

Bhramari Brewing Company

Bhramari Brewing Company is named for the Hindu goddess of bees. And while some of its brews pay homage to that story with honey-infused brews, the company is mainly interested in bold and unique flavors you wouldn't expect to find elsewhere: scuppernong, butterfly pea flower, 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 the bar.

Asheville Brewing Company

Asheville Brewing Company
Courtesy of Asheville Brewing Company

Pizza and beer just go together, and Asheville Brewing Company has three locations (North Asheville, South Asheville, and downtown) where you can get a slice to go with your suds. All of its pizzas and pub fare are made with local ingredients, so you don't even have to think of your pie as a guilty pleasure. With 15 beers on tap and regular movie screenings at each location's on-site theater, it's a great place to go for a casual night out.

New Belgium Brewing Company

While the original New Belgium brewery is in Fort Collins, Colorado, the company's second, and comparable, headquarters are found in Asheville. Since moving its only other main 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. It also holds tours and tastings every day except holidays.

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