Tasting Asheville's Craft Beers


The funky and artistic mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina is now home to ten craft breweries.

A tour of the breweries is not only a learning experience in the art of making (really good) beer, it’s a look at Asheville’s sustainability culture. Many of the breweries use local ingredients as much as possible. While only one brewery is certified organic, a number of the others brew as “organic as possible.” Others work towards re-usability and reducing waste while supporting local causes and international non-profits.

Each brewery is as individual the beer-lovers who got together to create it. Some offer movies, most have food, many have live music and all offer flights of tastes.

For a self-guided walking tour, the Lexington Avenue Brewery, also known as LAB, is a logical place to start because it opens at 11:30 every day except Sunday, when it opens at noon. LAB has a 92-foot bar that abuts the glass walls of the brewing room and curves through the dining room. The tanks are lit by varying colored lights and between them you can watch Master Brewer Ben Pierson and his assistants at work. LAB has its own farm to raise the Black Angus and quail offered on the menu.

Rich and Carie Partain toured Asheville recently on their honeymoon. Self-described “beer geeks,” they drove up from Huntsville, Ala. to sample Asheville’s hand-made beers, having made a comparative stop at a couple of breweries in Chattanooga.

“The craft is what makes it a craft beer,” explained Rich Partain, when asked about the difference from commercial beer. “They use better ingredients and are more engaged in the process of making it. It’s more flavorful and may have higher alcohol content.” He looks for color, a “nose” and a “finish,” like a wine.

On the other hand, Craggie Brewing Company, several blocks away from LAB, strives to make beer that is slightly lower in alcohol.

“We like to do sessionable beers here,” says Craggie co-owner Jonathan Cort. “Our consumers can sit down and drink more than one or two.” Seasonably, Craggie brews special releases that have higher alcohol content, and the brewery is famous for its Antebellum Ale, an 1840s recipe that includes molasses, ginger and yes, spruce needles.

Other unusual ingredients can be found in Asheville-made beers. The Moonstone Stout at the Oyster House Brewery is flavored with oysters. Located inside the Lobster Trap Restaurant, the Oyster House Brewery is the smallest of the breweries in Western North Carolina. Leftover grain from the brewing is used to make the Oyster House Beer Baguette.

Many of the breweries offer tours. Highland Brewing conducts tours on weekdays, Pisgah Brewing and the French Broad River Brewery on some Saturdays and Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Fridays. One way to see several at a time is the Asheville Brews Cruise, which offers a behind-the-scenes walking tour on Wednesday to three downtown breweries or a van tour of three or four on the outskirts of town for $40 (which includes your tasting flights.)

Either on your own or with the Brews Cruise, you’ll come away from Asheville with a better understanding of hand-crafted beer.



Asheville Area Breweries:

Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company (two locations)

Craggie Brewing Company

French Broad Brewery

Green Man Brewing Company

Highland Brewing Company

Lexington Avenue  Brewery

OysterHouse Brewing Company

Pisgah Brewing Company (in nearby Black Mountain, N.C.)

Wedge Brewing Company

For more information:

Jonathan Cort, Craggie Brewing Company
Ph: 828-254-0360 em:

Ben Pierson, Lexington Avenue Brewery
Ph: 828-252-0212 em:

Rich and Carie Partain