Brewery Travel with Nerds on the Road

My Top 5 Beers in Beertown, Asheville, NC

This was our second time in Asheville, the last over 4 years ago – and my, how this city has changed! We weren’t here very long last time, but what I do remember is that we loved the vegetarian scene and laid back (dare I say ‘west coast’) attitude. The city seemed small, approachable, less crowded and even more laid back; now it seems too big for its own britches (as they say). Just about every restaurant and brewery downtown has a line or 20-40 minute wait most weekends (and weekdays as well in the fall). The sidewalks can get pretty crowded, to the point where if you want to stop and look up directions on your phone, you first look for a place where you wont get trampled. The traffic is astoundingly bad some times of day, especially the I-240 over the top of downtown where everyone’s getting on and off at the same time ( and 50cc scooters seem to think it’s a normal road). Though no matter how many things about this city are still in the evolutionary/prepubescent stages of a small city growing into a big one, it is worth every bit of the hassle if you love beer and great food. It truly is Beertown USA.

There are around 20 Asheville breweries and distilleries just in the city, and many more nearby in Waynesville and Black Mountain. We didn’t make it to every single one but we frequented or visited almost all of them in the downtown area at some point during our stay here. We’ve been all over the country over the years, and we’ve both always been into craft beers – in my opinion Asheville has the best beer selection and some of my official favorite beers in the world. Unfortunately some of them are seasonal but worth checking out if you come to this area during the fall/winter – aka  “crazy season” (between the leaf peepers and the beer tourism… book a place to stay way ahead of time).

My Top 5 (Kat):

1. My all time favorite, since I really love dark beers and fall spices, is the Ninja Bread Porter from Asheville Brewing Company. A pint of that and a vegan pizza at their diner style brew pub will make my week. It’s a thick brew with, as you guessed it, ginger bread seasoning. Unfortunately it’s seasonal but they have a Ninja Porter year round, which is tasty, but not quite the same.

2. The Coconorm Porter from Thirsty Monk is a coconut flavored beer which came out December 2014, so I probably had one of the firsts. I had it again last weekend, so it’s still around, and will hopefully just become a year round staple! It’s thick, sweet and very coconutty, so if you like coconut, it’s your thing!

3. The Belgian Elvis Peanut Butter Stout from Thirsty Monk is loaded with peanut butter with hints of banana, yes, banana, and is a surprisingly original beer. I loved it, though… it’s a small meal and very heavy so be prepared! Great thing about many pubs in Asheville is the half pour option on some beers – and flights, of course flights (basically 4-6 half pours). When you want to try a few beers or only want 10oz of a 10% ABV beer, it’s a handy option.

4. Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewery is a major, major, favorite in the area. I swear if it was any more hard to find people would riot over it. They only make a limited amount each year and they distribute it sparingly to surrounding breweries. I finally got one after hearing about it for weeks at Jack of the Wood (Green Man Brewery) and again at midnight on New Years Day at The Thirsty Monk – but we literally had to wait til midnight for them to tap the keg (blackmail!). It is a really tasty beer with an almost shockingly flavorful aftertaste.. it goes “ok, ale… ok, better than most ale, Whoa, what is that?!” and then you (I) fuss around my brain to explain the flavors, which without any knowledge of the beer I guessed “caramel” but it was in fact vanilla and hazelnut. Beer gurus are tearing their hair out right now as I try to explain this ‘emperor of beers‘ in a simplified way (I don’t intent to talk hops) but for the rest of us, who just like or don’t like beers, I’m telling you this one is pretty amazing (but I won’t be getting in a fist fight over it).

5. The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout by Foothills Brewing (found at Pack’s Tavern) has got to be my favorite local chocolate stout. There are always plenty of chocolate stouts and I’ve tried at least 3 or 4 in the area. I’m not the biggest chocolate fan to begin with but I like a creamy stout so chocolate it often is. However, sometimes they’re a bit bitter for my taste, which might not be how others would describe them, but I basically like Young’s Chocolate Stout and this one (and a few other’s I never wrote down). Hiccup also likes it and wouldn’t let Ross get a taste.

sexual-choc-2

Sunday was our last weekend day in town so we had a little Brew Pub Crawl of our own and visited a few places we hadn’t been yet. Since most the beers I drink have a pretty high ABV (alcohol by volume), by the 4th pub, and having helped Ross with his 9.5% ‘My Blueberry Nightmare’ ( Blueberry Beer soaked in a Whiskey barrel) we decided it was time to go home. As far as breweries downtime we only missed two, so we did pretty well over the last few months.

Hi-Wire was one we visited last because every time we walked by in the past, there was a line and a crowd of dizzy, smiling plain-laden men outside. We missed Burial Brewing also because of a long line that turned us off from trying ever again and there were a few that were just too far to walk to in the cold.

Drinking with the Mash Tuns
Drinking with the Mash Tuns at Hi-Wire
Hiccup Enjoying a Black IPA at Hi-Wire Brewery
Hiccup Enjoying a Black IPA at Hi-Wire Brewery

B eer Lovers should stay at least a week or two if they really want to experience it all. Many of the breweries have tasting rooms and tours if they don’t have pubs (and even if they do) and you can drive to many breweries in the surrounding towns as part of your trip. If I ever get beersick (that came out wrong…read as homesick) for amazing beer, I’m flying here and putting a tent up in this very campground.


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