We’re at it again, and this time we made our way to some of Asheville’s best breweries. With the French Broad River, the Blue Ridge wilderness area, and Pisgah National Forest nearby offering outdoor activities galore, around 30 craft breweries, and just under 100,000 people, this booming adventure-craft beer town is a must for any venturesome amateur or cerevisaphile (a devout lover of beer, better known as a beer geek).
A Tour of Asheville’s Best Breweries
Join us as we wander the streets of Asheville (mostly on foot and predominantly in the South Slope) and fall in love with this bountiful beer town within seconds. We have yet to make it to all of the Asheville breweries and their surrounding neighbors, but the ones we have visited are all worthy of your time. Since we can’t always be with you telling you where to go, think of us as your virtual tour guide instead, and follow along as we’ve outlined below.
Asheville’s Outer Edge
Zillicoah Beer Company
We began our brewery tour about three miles north of Asheville at Zillicoah Beer Company. Located right next to the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world, Zillicoah, the Cherokee term for this section of the river, boasted an expansive beer garden and a wide open patio and taproom. Specializing in lagers, we tried the Rye Lager and a Helles on Fire Smoked Helles Lager, perfectly balanced beers to start our first foray into Asheville.
Ginger’s Revenge Craft Brewery
Just one mile down the street from Zillicoah is Ginger’s Revenge. Even though this brewery specializes in alcoholic ginger beers, which are generally not something we would seek out, we decided to broaden our palate a bit and give ’em a try.
To say the least, we recommend this place. Not only are the beers unique and great, but the ambiance of the industrial region coupled with the cozy style of the taproom, make this brewery stand out amidst a world of craft breweries. While there, we tried three of their house ginger beers: Dry-Hopped, Hibiscus Lavender, and the Orange Mint.
The Dry-Hopped had citrusy taste without the bitterness and was light and refreshing with the perfect amount of ginger. The Hibiscus Lavender had a perfect balance of hibiscus and lavender and was sweeter and juicier than the others. The Orange Mint had flavors that played well together; almost like sipping a lemonade on the front porch of a southern town.
Asheville’s South Slope
If you’re looking for easy access to several breweries all within walking distance of each other, then Asheville’s South Slope is the place to be. Just a few miles south of downtown, the South Slope is roughly bounded by Asheland, Biltmore, Southside and Hilliard Avenues. Not only is it renowned for its many quality breweries, but there’s plenty of dining options, as well as art galleries, walkable spaces, and an abundance of people watching opportunities.
OK, yes, we love beer, but we still love our coffee in the morning. Plus, eating before imbibing is always a good idea, so we wound up by chance at Vortex Donuts. The cards were stacked in our favor that day.
We’re not even fans of donuts, but these were love at first sight (and taste). With flavors like salted caramel, espresso, cherry graham cracker, and maple pecan blackberry, um…yeah, coffee? What coffee? Give me a donut please. And yes, they also serve coffee – good coffee.
Burial Beer Company
Full of sugar and caffeine, it’s time to find the beer. Burial Beer Company was first on the list because it was recommended by locals and tourists alike, and a place with a Slayer reference can’t be bad. Especially when it’s a quote like, “Employees Must Carve Slayer Into Forearms Before Returning to Work.”
Even Tom Selleck and Sloth from the Goonies endorse Burial, and we agree. This would be a place we would frequent often if we ever created roots in or around Asheville. For now, we will just have to dream about the Mortal Dimensions of the Spiritual (Fresh Hop IPA), the Savages of Ruminating Minds (IPA), the Rosary (Belgian Export Stout), and the Otherworldly Entities (Rustic Saison). Oh, and not to be beaten by other breweries with great beer gardens, this one has that, too!
When visiting Burial Beer on the South Slope, you must also find the time to visit Burial’s Forestry Camp. Located less than three miles south of their South Slope location, this place is almost like entering another world entirely. Here, you’ll find a full-service kitchen, 24 taps, cocktails, wine, and plenty of space to explore. Burial’s production facility, their Wild and Sour Barrelhouse, and VISUALS Winery, are all housed in this magnificent location.
Twin Leaf Brewery
Walk a mere two blocks north from Burial’s South Slope location and you’ll come upon Twin Leaf. Its gorgeous taproom is full of greenery, and while small, their outdoor space is quite quaint and cozy. I could see myself planted there for awhile with a book and a few glasses of the Oatmeal Cookie Brown. The flavors on that thing were just like an oatmeal cookie. Where’s the milk? With brews such as a Fleury du Soleil Black Tea Saison, Shy Baby’s Rebellion Caramel Saison, and a Make No Mistake Milk Stout, to name just a few, this place has something for everyone.
Ben’s Tune-Up Beer and Sake Garden
With some exploring and some beer in our bellies obviously food wasn’t up for questioning. Ben’s Tune-Up, just up the street from Twin Leaf a few blocks and around the corner, has got it covered. And you won’t get just any old food and drink here; this place specializes in what I’d like to call, gourmet Asian and bar food (and not at a gourmet price). We had the pork nachos while sipping on some sake…Oooh, that was a good meal. Combined with the ambiance of an old garage refurbished creatively, this place is worth the visit, even if all you do is try the sake.
Wait…Sake?! Yes, an old beautifully refurbished garage, complete with an outdoor area, and they make their own sake here. I tried the Lemon Ginger, still not a sake fan, but worth the taste of something different.
Speaking of different, we also had to sample the WTF IPA #3. The story? Somebody lost the tag to the keg when it was delivered, so they basically said WTF! and appropriately called it that. Number Three? I wonder. Have they done this before?
Bhramari Brewing Company
Don’t even try to pronounce this name correctly, just drink the beer. While everyone gets the name wrong – can’t say it or spell it – there’s nothing wrong with the beer, the ambiance, or the food. Bhramari, named after the Sanskrit word for bees and the name of the Hindu goddess of bees, is an eclectic space full of local art with an impressive outdoor beer garden alongside its taproom that shares space with all the brewing and canning equipment.
Grabbing a double IPA (a recent collab beer with Denver brewery, Goldspot Brewing) and a barrel-aged pilsner (who does this?), we were happy as bees snuggled in their hives.
Wicked Weed Brewing
But alas, a brewery tour means that you have to move on, so move on we did – to Wicked Weed. And while Wicked Weed has been owned by AB InBev for many years now, making them no longer an official craft brewery, they have still managed to hold onto their roots by continuing their traditions of crafting unique beers. With four locations in the Asheville area, including their well-known Funkatorium, a taproom dedicated to their sour beer program, Wicked Weed isn’t going anywhere soon, and that’s good for all beer lovers.
So, while there may be some controversy surrounding this well-known used-to-be craft brewery, with their quality and innovative beers still being crafted with innovation, we say put aside your morals (just your beer ones) and pay a visit to Wicked Weed. You won’t be disappointed. Especially with beers such as Dr. Dank Jack Frost Double IPA or a rye lager, a coffee blonde, and many farmhouse styles. Taking notes on the beer we drink isn’t always our strong suit. We’re too busy just being in the moment. Sounds like a good idea to start using our own Craft Beer Adventure Journal.
Catawba Brewing Company
Coming back full circle from where we started the morning at Vortex, we ended our South Slope tour of some of Asheville’s best breweries just a few storefronts down at Catawba Brewing.
Grabbing a pint of their seasonal King Don’s Pumpkin Ale (just like grandma makes) and a few tasters of their small batch beers, we settled in for the night to watch our beloved Donkeys lose yet another game (not a good season).
But as many of our brewery visits play out, listening to live local music, saying hi to a stranger and making fast friends, this one did the same. Taking a moment to say hey and smile at our neighbor next to us (we love community tables), we sparked a conversation through a Colorado connection. Chatting the night away, ignoring the Broncos, and not thinking about where we were parking that night, Catawba with year-round brews such as White Zombie White Ale and Evening Joe Coffee Blonde, was the perfectly balanced evening to a perfectly balanced tour of food, art, and of course, craft beer.
More than Just the South Slope
We are well aware that there are more breweries in the South Slope and beyond. The River Arts district and downtown Asheville, for example are abundant with breweries, shopping, dining, galleries, and many more urban adventures. Our advice? Start by following in our footsteps above, but then get the hell of our path and go find your own. We’re simply here to get you started.
Need more? We’ve also visited White Labs Brewing Company one mile east of the South Slope and DSSOLVR in downtown Asheville. White Labs is a must if you are a true beer geek. Not only do they serve foods handcrafted with their yeast, but they also serve beers in pairs with the only difference being different yeast, allowing you to truly geek out on how one ingredient can change the flavor of a beer. For those of you that don’t know, White Labs is one of the largest suppliers of yeasts to both professional and homebrewers alike.
DSSOLVR is yet another way to heighten your senses with their alien, metal, out-of-this-world surreal taproom. Boasting at least three new brews a week alongside “milk” pours where the head of the beer is intentionally poured to be sweet and creamy similar to the looks of a glass of milk, DSSOLVR is constantly pushing the envelope.
Asheville Breweries are Just the Beginning
Yes, we know we didn’t mention New Belgium or Sierra Nevada – we haven’t gotten there yet. Why? There’s so many breweries to visit and not enough time! It’s a real problem. Also because Asheville is surrounded by quaint North Carolina mountain towns as you head into Pisgah National Forest, Dupont State Recreational Forest, and over the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll find many breweries along the way. As for New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and the many other breweries here – we’ll get there eventually. For now, enjoy a few more favorite Asheville breweries just outside of Asheville that we have been to.
- Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard
- Noblebräu Brewing in Brevard
- Brevard Brewing Company in Brevard
- Burning Blush Brewery in Mills River
- Cedar Mountain Canteen (beer bar and bottle shop) in Cedar Mountain
Asheville Breweries Lead to Mountain Biking
…Or maybe it’s the biking that leads to the breweries. Whatever order – they’re both here…in abundance. Pisgah National Forest rocks it (although it’s the roots on these trails that really take over more than the rocks) when it comes to mountain biking.
Bent Creek Experimental Forest
Heading about 20 miles out of town, we found ourselves at Bent Creek in Pisgah National Forest. Playing all day yesterday left us with plenty of work to do today, but as they say, “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.” So we carved out a few hours to explore a couple of trails. Extreme we are not, but the blue/green trails kept us entertained and invigorated for the afternoon and into the evening. Bent Creek offers a variety of trails for all levels. But with only a few extreme trails, this area is really geared towards those of us that aren’t into technical rides, tricks, or jumps.
Thrift & Sycamore Cove Trails Near Davidson River & Avery Creek
Located in Pisgah, just outside of Brevard, this small trail system can be quite gnarly if you want it to be. Starting with an average four-mile loop, you can make it a bit shorter or longer depending on the trails you want to ride, but the majority of the trails here are meant for intermediate to advanced riders. That’s not to say that a beginner shouldn’t ride here, just be aware of what you may be getting yourself into.
If you are a true beginner, you may just want to head up the only green trail here (albeit green is subjective), the Grassy Road Trail. Once you’ve reached the top, you can simply do an about face and head right back down that which you came up. Just be wary of those that are still climbing.
And speaking of climbing, the majority of riders here, including advanced riders, climb the Grassy Road Trail and then fly down one either direction on the Sycamore Cove Trail. They’re just simply much more fun to ride down than fight the incessant ever present roots that are everywhere in North Carolina. That’s not to say that you can’t climb up Sycamore. We did (because we didn’t know any better) and we’re better for it (not really, but it sounds good).
If you consider yourself an advanced rider, head on up Thrift Cove Trail and fly down Lower Black Mountain (labeled as a black trail). You can also keep climbing past Thrift Cove to Middle Black Mountain and beyond for access to many more trails (mostly advanced) in the lower North Mills River trail system. The opportunities in Brevard are seemingly endless.
Dupont State Recreational Forest
Hiker or mountain biker, waterfall-seeker or tree-lover, Dupont State Recreational Forest has it all with 70-some trails. You’ll find several trailheads with parking to get you to wherever your starting point. Located about 40 miles south of Asheville and only 14 miles east of Brevard, not only is Dupont easy to get to, it’s got a diverse trail system good for all-skill levels of hikers and mountain bikers.
You can easily spend an entire day here exploring the trails, or head on up for a quick lunch time ride before heading back to work or heading out for some day drinking. All levels are dispersed throughout the region, but if you’re looking for those advanced trails, the majority of those are found in the southern section.
Keep in mind, these trails are multi-use with some trails also being equestrian friendly, and therefore, can get quite busy. Choose your timing wisely if you don’t want to run into a group of tourists on a leisurely stroll in their flip flops to view one of the many waterfalls in this area. Regardless, whether you like double-track trails more akin to forest service roads or gnarly, flowy single-track trails, you’ll find them here.
Breweries and Biking in Asheville
Asheville breweries and biking are just the gateway. With so many places to explore in and around this artistic, quirky North Carolina metropolis, spending a short time here is next to impossible. However, no matter how much time – or lack thereof, you have, we can only hope that we’ve gotten you off to a good start – even if you’re only here for a day or two.
We fell in love with Asheville, so much so, that I had to keep writing. So, a while back, I pitched a story to CraftBeer.com, researched the beautiful French Broad, and wrote all about her and her lovely brews and how Asheville breweries are working hard to maintain her beauty.
Visit us in Brevard and Asheville at Camp Carpe Diem!
Check out the coolest adult camp ever – Camp Carpe Diem. With only a few tickets left, you better hurry. Come hang with us in Brevard and Asheville this fall (October 20-23) and get out from behind your screen and into a beautiful experience! (Please note: our host campground at Rutledge Lake is sold out, so if you need guidance in finding a place to stay, please let us know.)
Can’t make it to Asheville to explore?
Find you way to exploration anywhere you are even if it means missing out on Camp Carpe Diem with us. Use our Craft Brewery and Mountain Biking Trail Map to make your own experiences wherever and whenever you find yourself in need of something new!
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Ken and April, craft beer and travel lovers. We live and work from, RAIF, our 24 foot RV, while traveling to drink good beer, visit Mother Nature, and mountain bike. We are not experts and don’t want to be. We are, however, tourists, just like you, and we want to do everything and visit everywhere. We also know that this is impossible (dammit – and wrote a post on it), so in order to help you experience as much as you can in the time you have, what we experience, we pass onto you. We hope to only give you guidance (although our friends say to never follow April), because you need to also create your own adventures along the way. Happy craft beer travels!