Asheville has become the beer tourism destination in the Southeast and one of the top beer tourist destinations on the East Coast. The growth of breweries began slowly in Buncombe County. Highland Brewing opened in 1994, Green Man Brewing followed in 1997 and Asheville Brewing came a year later. Then the boom occurred.
Known for its progressive take on politics and social issues, a long-running Friday night drum circle, the tourist mecca of Biltmore House, and an eclectic mix of downtown shops, the town with mountain views Asheville is just an hour from Spartanburg has become nationally known for its suds. Dubbed “Beer City USA” for several years after winning an online poll, Asheville is beer-centric. In Asheville beer is an experience, not just a drink.
Kegs in Asheville’s local restaurants don’t fill glasses with Budweiser or Coors Light but stick with local favorites including Gaelic Ale (Highland Brewing) or Prime Time Pale Ale (Hi-Wire Brewing). You can literally drink a different locally crafted beer every day and it’ll be a long time before you have the same beer twice.
More than just breweries, the long-running Brewgrass Festival attracts 4,000 drinkers and more than 40 breweries annually and then there are smaller festivals in and around town. Companies promote tours (via bus, van or bike) to different venues and there are 5Ks for runners that start and end at a breweries with a cold one at the end to celebrate the run.
To totally get the feel of the scene, it’s easiest to walk The South Slope. This is an area off Coxe Avenue, between the downtown shops and the Asheville Tourists’ baseball stadium, and it has become a local beer heaven. There are eight breweries on the slope and all within walking distance. This walk is for men and women who want to experience craft beer at its current pinnacle.
When you make this walk don’t expect to sit alone at the end of the bar where you can toss a few back and share your woes with a friendly barkeep. No, the South Slope is where the boom seems most explosive and people are there every night to soak it in. It is where lines aren’t possible, but probable and the wait to be served is needed, simply to pick the right beer to quench your specified thirst.
Learn more about living in downtown Asheville by watching this short video.