Ales, Beer Reviews, Brew Pubs, Specialty Brews

Discovering Asheville – One Pint at a Time

Green Man AlesAfter spending a couple of days in Donalds, SC, visiting family and two days in Atlanta at Dragon*Con, Mark and I were ready to kick back and relax. At the eleventh hour, we decided to hop in the car and head to Asheville, NC. We had heard a lot of great things about Asheville and a friend lives there. So we thought – why not? The first thing we discovered about Asheville (and we kind of knew this going in) is that its full of hippies. I don’t say that in a derogatory way – it’s just a fact. We know this because we arrived on the night of the “LAF” festival – drum circles, dancing in the streets, patchouli…you get the picture. The second thing we realized? Asheville has GREAT beer.

On arrival to the Beaufort House, a beautiful B&B just outside of town, we were greeted by the hostess, Jay. She was more than willing to suggest places to eat and drink – complete with a list of places to get good beer. I drank so much great beer that the only way I can explain it is to chronicle our stops.

Bruisin' AlesBruisin’ Ales was closed on Sunday night and Monday, so we didn’t get to visit. But I heard amazingly good things about them and hope to get back soon to check them out. They will ship to your home and have a selection of over 800 beers to choose from. While I didn’t get to visit, I’m sure that I’ll be enjoying their hospitality in my own home very soon.

Lexington Ave BreweryLexington Ave. Brewery (aka The LAB) is a great place to grab a casual bite to eat while you sit and listen to 80’s music and gaze at the beautiful stainless steel barrels of  fermenting beer. I had the bacon and avocado sandwich with homemade pickles and their house ESB. Mark had the IPA. The ESB was really low key, lovely and very drinkable.  For a bitter beer, it wasn’t bitter at all. The IPA wasn’t overly bitter either but was crisp and refreshing. All-in-all a good kick-off to our beer drinking quest.

Jack of the WoodJack of the Wood is a neat local pub featuring Green Man Ales. I’d heard they didn’t take too kindly to tourists, but everyone was super friendly – even when Mark bought a t-shirt. Mark had the IPA which was crisp, hoppy and really well done. The pub regularly features a cask beer which was an ESB to my delight. The cask ESB was like dessert in a glass. It was full of caramel flavors, rich, a little nutty but not overly bitter. It was so rich that I could only have one pint. Each pint was $3.50 – even for the feature cask. Nice.

Pisgah BrewingPisgah Brewing (pronounced ‘piz-guh’ by the locals) is an organic brewer from Black Mountain, NC. I had the privilege of chatting with the folks at Pisgah about a month prior to the trip and was eager to try their beer. Pisgah is a real treat because they don’t ship outside NC. We parked ourselves at French Broad Chocolate Lounge which offered Pisgah Pale Ale and luscious albeit expensive chocolates. All I can say is wow. What a great beer. Nicely hopped, crisp, clean and uber refreshing. And while I was thrilled with the deliciousness of the beer, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to get it at home. Sigh. I also enjoyed the Pisgah Begian at U-Joint which was also very good – tasted just like cherry 7-Up – YUM!

Asheville Brewing CompanyAsheville Brewing Company has two locations – one in the downtown area and another, Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company on Merrimon Ave. We visited the downtown location on a gorgeous day. Enjoying the patio (and awesome weather), I drank several Shiva IPAs while Mark had the Red Light IPA. They produce more Shiva than any other brew – and I know why. It’s really yummy. It’s super hoppy (made with Columbus hops) but not bitter and I found it very sessionable. If you drink one, you’ll want another. The Red Light IPA is made from Cascade hops and is much more perfumey and bitter. Oddly, Shiva has a higher IBU than Red Light, but I thought the Red Light was bitter. We love ABC!

The definite disappointment in the group was Oyster House Brewing Company. They are located in the Lobster Trap restaurant. Their brewery consists of a Brew Magic System behind the bar with three keg sized boilers. I had the blond and it tasted like Stella. I didn’t finish it.

There are a few other breweries of note that we weren’t able to visit due to time and scheduling constraints. Highland Brewing Company is in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville. I tasted their Gaelic Ale in a bottle and didn’t care for it, but Mark really liked it. It’s worth a try. French Broad Brewing Company is located in downtown Asheville but was closed during our visit. I did purchase a couple of bottles of their beer from Weinhaus and will let you know how they taste in a future post. Craggie Brewing Company was also closed (open Tue-Sat) and I wasn’t able to pick-up any, so if you go there please let me know what you think. Wedge Brewing Company is on the outskirts of town near the railroad tracks and apparently has great brews.

A note about Atlanta: Prior to our trip to Asheville, we spent some time in Atlanta where we enjoyed dinner and beer at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur. Delicious food, great atmosphere and a fantastic beer list. I had Well’s Bombardier with my dinner and it was fabulous. What’ better? Upstairs is a huge Belgian bar featuring any Belgian beer you can imagine. A definite stop for any beer lover. I also really enjoyed New Belgium’s Ranger IPA, my beer of choice while exploring Dragon*Con. I bought 2 sixers on my way home. Look for a review soon.

Asheville Brews CruiseI’ll wrap up my thoughts on Asheville with this – because I wish I could have done it. There is a brewery tour called the “Asheville Brews Cruise” which hits all the breweries and brew pubs mentioned above. The tour includes samples at each stop and the opportunity to enjoy dinner at the end of the tour (on your dime of course.) This would be a great way to enjoy all the beer that Asheville has to offer in a nice, neat guided tour.

We’d love to hear about your experience in Asheville, or any other “beer town”, so please share your stories with us!

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