Asheville, North Carolina’s legacy largely consists of two things: Pisgah National Forest and beer.
In fact, those two things likely go hand in hand. Asheville had been consistently named “Beer City, USA” by popular polls until very recently (Grand Rapids, Michigan dethroned Asheville in the most recent poll). And the reason that Asheville has some of the best breweries is that, reportedly, the water flowing from the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest is ideal for brewing. Regardless, Asheville has a storied beer history.
The History of Asheville’s Beer Scene
Beginning with retired engineer Oscar Wong who opened Highland Brewing in 1994, Asheville has played home to some stellar breweries. In fact, many largescale craft breweries have set up satellite locations in Asheville including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues. Asheville’s reputation as a brewery-friendly city has attracted brewers and craft beer drinkers alike for decades.
The conversation about the “best beer city in the US” tends to be a controversial one. While many are quick to list storied cities like Grand Rapids, Denver, San Diego, and Asheville, Hop Culture has typically picked cities with more recently developed craft beer scenes.
Asheville’s history has played a major role in its beer city status, as did the high profile acquisition of local favorite Wicked Weed by Anheuser-Busch. But, we’ve been particularly excited by the latest crop of breweries popping up and innovating in Beer City, USA.
The Future of Asheville’s Beer Scene
Whether any city deserves to be dubbed the “best beer city in the country” is sort of moot. But, we want to highlight cities creating an exciting environment for breweries to be innovative and create exciting beer. To do so means not just playing host to great breweries but also fostering a culinary scene and investing in the agriculture and infrastructure around craft beer. For instance, Riverbend Malt House, a small malt manufacturer, and White Labs, a yeast laboratory production site, have settled down in Asheville.
Below we picked out five of the best, most exciting craft breweries operating in and around Asheville, NC. Most folks will probably scroll past this. But we also want to call special attention to two honorable mentions: the aforementioned Highland Brewing Co. and Zebulon Artisan Ales. Highland is the de-facto godfather of Asheville’s craft beer scene. And, while technically a good twenty-minute drive from downtown Asheville, Zebulon is producing some stellar farmhouse ales. Both deserve a shoutout.
The 5 Best Breweries in Asheville
Burial Beer Co.
40 Collier Ave | (828) 475-2739
There’s a case to be made that Burial is one of North Carolina’s best breweries, let alone Asheville’s. From the eye-catching can art to the rusted farm equipment adorning the South Slope District taproom’s walls, Burial appears to have a spiritual connection with the metalheads at TRVE Brewing Co. in Denver.
Hardcore comparisons aside, Burial excels at nearly every beer style. Their mainstay IPA Surf Wax is a North Carolina classic. And just about every farmhouse ale and lager is gentle, refreshing, and complex in the best way. Not to mention their highly sought-after lineup of stouts. Burial has gone on to open a second location in Asheville and an outpost in Raleigh, NC.
Zillicoah Beer Co.
870 Riverside Dr, Woodfin | (828) 424-7929
Technically, Zillicoah is located just outside of Asheville in the neighboring Woodfin, but as one of the best craft breweries in the region, we’ll let this one slide. The charming riverside brewery produces some of the most enticing, yet simple, beers we’ve had in a long time.
With a focus on gentle, though complex flavors, Zillicoah specializes in open-fermented lagers and ales, a traditional approach that feels progressive in today’s beer industry. Initially, Zillicoah brewed its wort offsite at Asheville’s Eurisko Beer Co. before toting it back to ferment in Zillicoah’s barrels. But earlier this year the brewery purchased a full brewhouse to bring the entire brewing process under their roof. And any stop to Zillicoah requires a visit to the onsite food truck slinging authentic and delicious tacos.
You can read more about Zillicoah’s delicious beers in articles like this one here.
197 Hilliard Ave | (828) 738-2452
Hi-Wire Brewing, which opened in 2013 soon after Wicked Weed, has become one of the more established breweries in Asheville. Since then, Hi-Wire has opened a second Asheville location as well as spots in Durham and Knoxville, TN. The circus-themed brewery produces a wide variety of beers but has earned acclaim for its tart kettle sours, complex wild ales, and easy-drinking lagers. Hi-Wire is a fundamental part of the Asheville community and is worth a visit any time you’re in town.
We wrote more about Hi-Wire in a travel piece about North Carolina which you can read here.
63 N Lexington Ave
One of the latest additions to the Asheville craft beer scene, DSSOLVR has led with exceptional branding and fresh, progressive beers. Take one look at their Instagram feed and you’ll see the commitment to both exciting beer and engaging artwork. DSSOLVR is a brewery long in the making, with co-founder Vince Tursi cutting his teeth in Boston at breweries like Night Shift and Lord Hobo. Along with co-founder Mike Semenec, Tursi has built a modern brewery that manages to keep a close eye on tradition.
Click here to read an interview with co-founder Vince Tursi.
265 Haywood Rd | (828) 505-4177
We’ve only really gotten to know Archetype over the last year but we were won over by their delicious beer and beautiful visuals. Archetype has pursued “complex, mindful, living beer” and comes through in their dynamic wild ales, farmhouse ales, and easy-going hoppy beer. The devil is in the details with this brewery. Nothing is particularly “hype” or buzzworthy at Archetype. But the consistent beer and delightful easter eggs like playful packaging that includes a haiku on each label have made us instant fans.
We’ve written more about Archetype’s label designs here
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