“There’s no competition because we aren’t like that here. We each have our own thing and everyone gets it. There’s plenty of tourism to go around,” an employee of Green Man brewery commented of the 11.1 million annual visitors to Buncombe County in North Carolina.
On my recent trip to Asheville, a popular tourism town in the county, I was nearly overwhelmed at how many craft breweries there were in the area. The Asheville Brewers Alliance lists 53 members on its website (www.avlbrewers.com), Green Man being one of them. It’s been called the Beer Capital of the East Coast.
As my trip was only three days, I decided that hitting each and every brewery would be an ill-advised idea (just think of the hangover). So, I set out to visited a few select locations for a sample of what the expansive beer scene had to offer. Going from the South Slope neighborhood to the River Arts District, I managed to try six unique breweries. Below is a list, in order of first to last, along with my recommended taste of hops. Be advised, I’m a porter/lager type of beer drinker.
Eurisko (www.euriskobeer.com) serves a Coffee Porter using Sumatran Jambi coffee prepared by local roasters, PennyCup Coffee Co. It has a taste of milk chocolate and coffee.
Burial (www.burialbeer.com) proves that sometimes the story is just as important as the brew. Each of its labels comes with carefully detailed artwork and a brief description. The Deliver Us To Evil Imperial Porter reads “Our blood runs thick with a tempting spirit, thirsty for the darkness beneath this flimsy ground.” The flavor features a blend of dark ales that are first aged in wood for over a year in dates, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and anaheim, ancho, and cayenne peppers. If that doesn’t awaken your senses, the location feels like a dark secret but has an instant sense of camaraderie.
Green Man (www.greenmanbrewery.com) was established in 1997, making it one of the original breweries to hit the scene. For the ethically responsible drinker, the name matches its practices with high-efficiency systems, and recyclable and repurposed materials. The brewery is also seeking solar paneling for continued expansion. With three locations, and growing, Dirty Jacks is the original tasting room just a hop(s) away from a much larger, 20,000-square-foot mansion. The Demon Dweller, American Imperial Stout, is the sinister twin of the seasonal stout, The Dweller, and both are limited releases.
Wedge (www.wedgebrewing.com) has two locations in the River Arts District, both established in 2008. I visited the one at Wedge Studios which also houses 30-plus artist studios, a wine bar, and more. It’s a small indoor setting but outside are headlamps on the deck to keep warm, rotating food trucks, and a chance to socialize. My pick? The Golem, a Belgian Strong Golden Ale with a very heavy pour.
Wicked Weed (www.wickedweedbrewing.com) has several locations, but the Funkatorium in South Slope is the first taproom dedicated to sour beer on the East Coast. It’s a large space where the hungry and thirsty come to gather both inside and outside in the Biergarten. You can order food here off the bar menu or walk directly next door to Cultura for a wider selection of eats and a full cocktail list, in addition to Wicked Weed beers. For sours, the Sandiaca impressed with a gin barrel-aged sour ale that’s fermented with watermelon and basil. On tap at the time, the Bourbon Barrel Aged Milk & Cookies Imperial/Double Milk Stout quickly tied as a favorite (alongside Burial’s Deliver Us To Evil).