The Best Breweries in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

My high school philosophy teacher was fond of noting a certain absurdness in his pupils’ conception of economics. Growing up in Asheville, he concluded, filled children with the bizarre idea that one could make a living from craftsmanship, as opposed to participation in mass-market industry, which has little time for small-town artists, and underwater basket weaving.


Somehow, Asheville has eked out a space for such artisans. I’d say its thanks to local consumers—their appreciation for quality, and character, and nowhere is this attitude stronger than in Asheville’s breweries. They sprout out of Downtown’s South Slope like a field of hops, and with such a vibrant beer-scene, travelers may be downright confounded as to which brewery to try first. Thus, I invite you to read on, and linguistically sample some of the best breweries in Asheville.



1: Highland Brewing Company

Following Prohibition, Asheville underwent a seven-decade dry-spell, bereft of so much as a drop of local craft-beer. Since those dark days, Asheville’s coterie of artisan brewers has expanded exponentially, with some breweries even scaling to the regional or national level. Historians refer to this phenomenon as the “Great Asheville Beerening,” and in their discussions on the matter, Highland Brewing is cited as the archetype.


Today, Highland is the largest family-owned brewery in the Southeast, operating out of a repurposed manufacturing-plant on Asheville’s eastern edge.


Thanks to a surplus of floor-space, their base of operations contains an indoors music-venue, a catering kitchen, and no less than three separate bars—one of which, is located on the roof. With free tours throughout the week, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, a visit to


Highland Brewing distills both the mood and scale of Asheville’s brewing industry. With luck, you may visit in time to catch the release of one of their seasonal brews—used to raise funds for the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservatory. In short: no list of the best breweries in Asheville could be complete without Highland.


Beers With Interesting Names: As an aspiring author and infrequent poet, I can’t help but notice that many Asheville’s breweries title their beers with names to intrigue. However, Highland Brewing keeps their baptisms fairly tame, with “Oatmeal Porter” and “Black Mocha Stout” standing out as some of the most venturesome brews.



2: Green Man Brewing

Green Man takes its name from a European architectural motif, depicting, as the name suggests, a vegetally-inclined gentleman.


Scholars have linked this symbol with primeval nature deities, and mankind’s profound connection to the wilds, and all the beauty and danger therein.


Despite all that, Green Man’s mascot comes across as pretty chill—but who can say what antediluvian imaginings lurk behind those blank, staring eyes?


Their operating model appears much like Highland Brewing’s; they invite visitors to their “Green Mansion” to view their production line, and enjoy craft beer on their rooftop bar, or at nearby Dirty Jack’s Pub.


However, Green Man does distinguish itself via a sleek, earthy aesthetic, and kid-friendly tours. Furthermore, as they are located on the South Slope, Green Man serves as an excellent launching-off point for a larger circumnavigation of the best breweries in Asheville.


Beers With Interesting Names: “Trickster” (infused with tropical fruits), and “Tart Berry” (I quote: “fruity and lickable”).



3: Asheville Pizza and Brewing

Asheville Pizza and Brewing claims its place as Asheville’s third-oldest brewery, and incidentally, vends its beer from no less than three establishments.


The primary location, “Asheville Pizza and Brewing,” lies on the city’s northern side, not far away from the UNCA, and has previously received my attention as one of Asheville’s best movie-theaters.


Films here can be enjoyed with local craft beers, and a menu built on variety, offering vegan options, Italian, Mexican, and Americana.


Their downtown location, “Asheville Brewing,” has much the same menu, but also offers Monday night bourbon, Bloody Mary Sundays, and dog-friendly Wednesdays.


Finally, their south Asheville location, “Asheville Pizza,” simply focuses on pizza and beer, obtainable via delivery, or carry-out.


With so many avenues for acquiring their beer, Asheville Pizza and Brewing works its way onto this list of the best breweries in Asheville on merit of their adaptability; you can enjoy their brews in just about any part of town.


Beers With Interesting Names: “B.I.G. Juicy—Hazy Double IPA” (described as akin to a mango smoothie) and “Fire Escape Pale Ale” (flavored with jalapeno).



4: Wicked Weed Brewing

Wicked Weed is acclaimed as the South’s first brewery focused on sour beers, which, as my extensive readings on the matter have revealed, taste somewhat acidic, and nothing like sour cream.


This brewery is interwoven with downtown’s culinary ecology, operating three separate eateries, running the gamut from rustic-chic to haute-cuisine.


Their brewpub location contains a bottle-shop, and a dog-friendly patio, and serves mainly typical bar-fair, with the addition of a beyond-meat burger.


As a young artist experimenting in the realm of cooking-without-lighting-things-on-fire, I can conclude that beyond-meat is worth a try, and it is best to try it somewhere like Wicked Weed’s brewpub, where the chefs know what they’re doing.


Slightly more upscale, you have Wicked Weed’s “Funkatorium,” which sports an Itallo-American menu, containing a meatball burger, and “Funk Antipasta.”


Next door lies Wicked Weed’s final downtown location, “Cultura.” Think fondue, lobster, and “new potatoes,” which one can only assume are the latest thing in tubers and are bound to replace “old potatoes” within the year.


If Wicked Weed is accomplished in its range of eateries, it is no less accomplished in terms of its various tour options. One has, in brief: The Brewpub Tour, containing three-brew samples, and a commemorative glass; The Grand Cru Experience, which takes you across their three downtown locations, and their Chandler production facility; Sour Sundays, with a focus on the Funkatorium and their barreling process; and The Maker’s Tour, a three-hour long introduction to some of Asheville’s best craftspeople.


With such a proliferation of content, Wicked Weed certainly deserves the title of one of the best breweries in Asheville.


Beers With Interesting Names: “Cherry Keylime Burst Session Sour” and “Pompoen Session Sour With Ginger.” Say those names three times fast.



5: Burial Beer Company

Contrary to my initial expectation, “Burial” actually refers to this brewery’s revival of old European brewing techniques, not a Pre-Colombian grave site.


Located on the South Slope, Burial’s main location offers a rotating, seasonal menu, currently containing such items as sourdough toast from OWL Bakery (a local favorite), and a grilled double-bratwurst sandwich.


Weather permitting, Burial also serves a Sunday brunch accompanied by live jazz. Under such conditions, one may even be able to discern if, as my Art History professor has posited, jazz is dead. I would be fascinated given any opinions on the matter.


In the most Ashevilleian of twists, Burial’s second location, “Forestry Camp,” is a former residence for laborers under the government’s New Deal conservation efforts—now converted into a production brewery and bar, allied with Asheville’s local artisans.


Burial Beer frequently comes up in discussion of the best breweries in Asheville, and speaking as a local, I can confirm there’s something compelling about their overall aesthetics, and devotion to local industry.


Beers With Interesting Names: “Asymmetrical Anguish With Coffee Bean” (said to contains hints of brown sugar, pour-over coffee, and somehow, strawberries), and “Portal Beyond Nonexistence” (your best guess).


Businesses Mentioned

Highland Brewing Company

(828) 299-3370

12 Old Charlotte Hwy Suite 200, Asheville, NC 28803

https://highlandbrewing.com/

Green Man Brewery

(828) 252-5502

27 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

http://www.greenmanbrewery.com/

Dirty Jack’s

15 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

http://www.greenmanbrewery.com/

Asheville Pizza and Brewing

(828) 254-1281

675 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804

https://www.ashevillebrewing.com/

Asheville Pizza

(828) 277-5775

1850 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803

https://www.ashevillebrewing.com/

Asheville Brewing

(828) 255-4077

77 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

https://www.ashevillebrewing.com/

Wicked Weed Brewing Pub

(828) 575-9599

91 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

https://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/

Wicked Weed West

(828) 365-7166

145 Jacob Holm Way, Candler, NC 28715

https://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/

The Funkatorium

(828) 552-3203

147 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

https://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/

Cultura

(828) 417-6970

147 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

https://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/

Burial Beer Company

(828) 475-2739

40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

https://burialbeer.com/

Forestry Camp Bar and Restaurant

(828) 505-4452

10 Shady Oak Dr, Asheville, NC 28803

https://www.forestrycamp.com/

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