Category Archives: Asheville

Asheville Brewery Tour – The “Pubbiest” One.

Jill: In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re continuing our Asheville Brewery Tour series with Green Man Brewery. (Get it? GREEN?) Located in town, but with an industrial feel (including a garage door that opened to allow the late afternoon light to brighten the bar), Green Man was the brewery that felt the most like a pub, complete with regulars saddled up the bar and a bartender who seemed to know everyone. Timing, of course, was on our side. At this point in our trip, we’d moved to our urban bed and breakfast, allowing us to actually enjoy time in a brewery without having to worry about the long drive home.

Jill: With a warm and comfortable atmosphere, Green Man was definitely the most difficult of the breweries to leave. There’s no question about it; if this place was in my neighborhood, I’d be a regular. If they’re exceptionally good at keeping butts in seats, it’s because they’ve been at it a long time. Green Man first started gracing Asheville with their beers in 1997. (They were the third brewery to open there, preceded only by Highland Brewing Company and Asheville Pizza and Brewing.)

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Tiny One.

Ben: Oysterhouse Brewing Company was the smallest brewery we visited, as it was basically a side project for the Lobster Trap restaurant and oyster bar. As I waited for what was to become the most delicious shrimp and grits I’ve ever tasted, I was able to see the three or four barrels behind the bar, next to the kitchen, comprising the entirety of the brewery, which opened in 2009.

Jill: Just as one wouldn’t expect a seaside-themed restaurant in western North Carolina, no passerby would suspect that this place would house a brewery. With decor and menus appealing to a high-end palate (and wallet), the Lobster Trap conceals its little pearl well. Luckily, my travelling companion had thoroughly scoured the entire internet for information about Asheville and her beers, so pursual of Oysterhouse (and the lovely meal the search produced) was always on our list. The story of how Oysterhouse came to be is very Ashevillian in nature. Someone said, “I’d like to do this,” and someone else said, “Go for it,” and as a result, I got to eat a tray full of oysters on a trip that was supposed to be primarily about beer.

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Far-flung One.

Jill: I’m going to get killed and no one is ever going to find my body. These were my thoughts as we entered the maze of the industrial park that houses Asheville’s Pisgah Brewing Company, the only certified organic brewery in the Asheville area. No, I had nothing to be afraid of. And yes, it was complete daylight. But the parking lot was deserted and I got the same irrational fear that I sometimes get when places are too quiet.

Jill: My timing, of course, was completely off. Had I been at Pisgah (whose name is forever incorrectly ingrained into my mind as PIG-SAH) a few hours later, or—better yet—a few months later, I would have arrived at a crunchy music venue filled with bluegrass or folk, friends of like-minded values and, most likely people that closely resemble myself in college (but with better taste in beer). Pisgah’s warehouse location, halfway between Asheville and Black Mountain, makes it a perfect music venue and bar. At the sight of an NPR sticker on the wall, I happily sipped my beers, knowing that I would not be killed at an organic brewery.

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Creative One.

Jill: We knocked on Craggie Brewing Company’s door about fifteen minutes before they opened. We’d been in Asheville long enough to know that we wouldn’t be turned away. As we wandered back into their brew room — as always, camera in tow — we noticed a group of people talking together in the tasting portion of the brewery. I remember thinking that it was some sort of staff meeting, and moved on. We later discovered that those folks were part of a a Brews Cruise tour. For $40, beer enthusiasts can get one of several different tours of Asheville’s breweries, gaining them similar access to what we got, but with transportation and better knowledge of the brewery hours.

Ben: I’ve often referred to as the “Dogfish Head” of Asheville; this brewery sported perhaps the most unusual array of beers that we sampled during the entire trip.

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Fun One.

Jill: One of the first breweries to break soil in Asheville, Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, which opened in 1995, is clearly an institution.

Jill: After spending seven minutes within the confines of the northern branch of the two-restaurant chain, I knew that I’d walked inside the mind and heart of a 14-year-old boy. “Leave no space uncovered” seemed to be the motto for the design team in this carnivalesque brewery with its own movie theater, arcade and pizza bar.

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Indie One.

Ben: Located below street level in the basement of a warehouse-turned-artist colony, Wedge Brewing Co. was perhaps the most off-beat of any of the breweries we visited as far as location and interior vibe.

Jill: Per usual for this trip, we arrived prior to the brewery opening. The tasting room was miniscule, and I found myself feeling a little sad for this out-of-the-way, tiny, unappreciated brewery. I felt this way until people started pouring in and ordering beers. The place went from empty to instant happy hour in about 12 minutes. Wedge did not need my pity; if anything, it needed me to move my ass so more people could sit down. Lucky for Ashevillians, if there’s not room to cozy up to the bar, Wedge’s brews are available at close to ten area restaurants.

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Asheville Brewery Tour – The Swanky One.

Jill: The newest of Asheville’s breweries (opening in 2010), Lexington Avenue Brewery was our first stop on our week-long tour.

Jill: With decor resembling that of an upscale martini bar or nightclub, LAB features an array of tempting bar foods to go alongside their beers, which are only available at the bar or to-go in growlers. To create a trifecta of entertainment—just in case beer and food aren’t enough—behind the bar is a second bar and music venue.

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Beer Heaven.

In the span of six days, we tried seventy different beers from the nine breweries in or around Asheville, North Carolina. It became routine to shoot (photos), sip (beer) and suppose. How is it that so many breweries could coexist in such a small space? And how did it happen?

I created a mental — then physical — timeline of breweries opening in Asheville, and quickly realized that more than half of the breweries opened in 2005 or later. One contributing factor has to be the Pop The Cap initiative, a successful example of grassroots campaigning. Prior to the signing of a bill in 2005, North Carolina had a 6% ABV cap on beers. Pop The Cap led to an increase to 15%. So, in the very least, the laws are in the favor of the small brewer.

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Friday Five: Asheville All-Stars.

My introduction to this week’s Friday Five will be short because my entry is long. Simply put: If I lived in Asheville, I’d gain one hundred pounds and would forget how to cook.

1. Tupelo Honey Cafe

Of the fourteen gazillion independent restaurants in the Asheville area, Tupelo Honey Cafe was my favorite. My sample size of one or two meals per restaurant makes my study an unscientific one, but if you want rigid well-thought out restaurant ratings, I’m probably not your best source. And if you want cheesy smashed cauliflower that will forever change the way you view vegetables, then get thee to Tupelo Honey Cafe. Also worthwhile are their fried chicken, handmade biscuits, pickled beet salad and their tomato soup (pictured below) that actually tasted like tomatoes.

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On Asheville.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina, seems to have evaded the economic problems of its other Appalachian neighbors throughout this past century. Perhaps William Henry Vanderbilt’s European Chateau of the 1800’s, or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal plans for the Blue Ridge Parkway of the 1930’s were building blocks to today’s Asheville, a city reliant upon tourism – not coal or steel – to keep her storefronts occupied and her schools funded. But it wasn’t the expensive views of the Biltmore’s 250 rooms or the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that brought us to Asheville for our winter retreat. It was the beer.

Earning Asheville the honor of being voted Beer City USA in an informal online poll, Asheville’s nine breweries lured us down south to a city that welcomed us with much more than taps and growlers. Our visits to all nine breweries will be documented soon, but I’ll first present the Basics of Asheville.

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