ASHEVILLE BREWING COMPANY
We stopped into Asheville Brewing Company to share a brief tasting and probably didn’t give this place enough time. It’s small with a laid-back hipster vibe. We liked all the beers we tried, with a special shout-out to the Perfect Day IPA.
Burial is a really cool little building on a street that is more like an alley in downtown Asheville. They didn’t have enough hophead beers for my liking. They only had one IPA and it was a session and a bit underwhelming for me (they were set to release a rye IPA the next day). They did have a hoppy session stout, which was interesting. Like so many of Asheville’s breweries, we loved the atmosphere at this place, even if we were a bit confused by the black velvet Magnum P.I. poster on the wall. We weren’t overwhelmed by the beer, but it was at the end of a long day of tasting and we’d be keen to try it again. Interesting: two separate employees at Wicked Weed raved about the Burial beers, so it may have just been us.
Really cool vibe in Green Man, fairly small and really nice warehouse-like atmosphere. Evidence of this is in the sweet Lebowski painting above the door and the self-serve water from the Miller Light tap on the wall. Despite the somewhat industrial feel, it has a cool English pub like atmosphere (soccer on the TV, dartboards on the wall), but for the fairly loud alternative (with some classic rock splashed in) music.
But, so much to worry about with this one. We learned that they are on the verge of moving into a facility next door. Walking by it, the one thing that struck us was that it was enormous. Good luck replicating the same cool vibe in a place that large. If anyone can do it, though, it’s someone with a Lebowski painting on their wall. We’ll be back to check it out at some point.
At 18 years, it’s the oldest brewery in downtown Asheville. The keep three regulars on tap – IPA, ESB and Porter – and the rest are rotating. They also had two cask beers on tap while we were there. We really liked, but didn’t love, the beer.
We were reluctant to go to Sierra Nevada because it’s a California-based brewery and the largest “craft brewer” in the U.S. But, their size doesn’t change the fact that their beer – and their food, for that matter – is excellent.
The year-old Fletcher, NC Sierra Nevada brewery is a mammoth complex responsible for production and distribution to all areas in the U.S. east of the Mississippi. The tasting room and production facility really is enormous, situated on 200 acres of land along the French Broad river. There is a large outdoor area for nicer weather and a big stage for bands to play. We’ve heard it can be a bit of a madhouse and were happy to be there on a Thursday afternoon in the winter.
They are serious about beer there, with 23 different brews on tap. In addition to all of the widely distributed Sierra Nevada beers, they also do 2 small-batch brews for experimentation and distribution only in the NC tap room. One of our favorites was a try-out beer, the Audition.
Anyway, we generally prefer a more intimate setting, but this place is worth a visit because of the quality of the beer and the knowledge and service of the staff. While there, plan on eating. The restaurant emphasizes local farm-to-table small plates.
My brother-in-law introduced me to this brewery’s Pernicious IPA, which for my money is the king of beers right now. The brewery tasting room is a big old building in the center of Asheville with exposed brick walls. Despite the ridiculously high quality of the beers – and the food at the brewery, for that matter – the place is pretty commercial, with a sizable gift shop connected to the main tasting room / restaurant (I can’t complain too much about the commercialness since I bought a case of Pernicious on the way out).
The brewers at Wicked Weed are obsessed with quality, and it shows in the beers. They had 14 beers on tap when we were there and all that we tried were excellent. The only beers that are constants – and that have any real distribution outside the giftshop – are the Pernicious and the Freak of Nature Double IPA. Their distribution is limited by the fact that they refuse to let these beers lose their refrigeration after the brewing process – they think the warming of them changes the flavor slightly in a negative way. They are trying to figure out how to distribute them while keeping them cold, so keep your fingers crossed.
Wicked Weed also has a separate tasting room called The Funkatorium, which is dedicated to exclusively to sour beers. Given the other brewery options in Asheville and the fact that we’re no fans of sour beers, we skipped The Funkatorium this time.
ALTAMONT (now UpCountry, under new ownership)
They describe themselves as “pre-prohibition style neighborhood brew-pub” and that fits. Unlike the downtown breweries, Altamont is in a more diverse neighborhood in West Asheville. Everything they brew is small-batch for drinking in their bar; the beers on the tasting menu even have a batch number. Altamont has a ping pong table, a small stage, a full bar and a full kitchen with an intriguing menu (eating there didn’t work out for us timing-wise). Liked the beer, loved the place.