By now most of us have heard about the expansion of some of the nation’s big players in craft brewing into new facilities and locations that meet logistical demands.  Lagunitas into Chicago, Green Flash into Virginia, and several others are moving into the greater Asheville area of North Carolina—Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues. Sounds like a good enough reason to head over to North Carolina to see what the fuss is all about.

It knocked our socks off. In one word, the town of Asheville is alive. With a population slightly less than Chico’s, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s certainly picturesque. But it has so much more giving it personality and life—local microbreweries, incredible food, and a downtown community that left us feeling inspired.

Our first stop was Asheville Brewing Company. We sat at their new hop bar where you can infuse your beer (via a tea strainer) with a hop varietal of your choice for an extra $1. Next, we trekked further in to downtown to try more local beer. We found ourselves in awe of not only the beer (and it IS fantastic), but also the food scene. Scotch eggs; who knew a soft-boiled egg, sausage, and layer of breadcrumbs could taste so good? Across the street we found Thirsty Monk, a yearly addition to most “Best Beer Bar” lists. This mecca of beer offers two levels to choose from. Upstairs you’ll find craft brew from some of the best domestic breweries, while a quick trip downstairs opens up to one of the best collections of Belgian beer you’ll find in this country.  Around the corner is Wicked Weed Brewing, located in a beautifully renovated building that hints at 50s nostalgia, but screams creative contemporary.  In it’s short lifetime, Wicked Weed has certainly made a name for themselves, both in brewing and culinary expertise; the beef tartar is not to be missed!

It doesn’t take long to realize why so many major craft brewers are expanding in this part of the country. The scenery rivals any with its stunning beauty, the area is well versed in good beer, and its downtown would make most cities envious. We look forward to trekking east again soon to discover the gems we didn’t stumble upon the first time. Cheers!

About Carolyn Cleland and Brian Kanabrocki

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