The History of Asheville’s First Three Breweries
Nestled at the seat of the Blue Ridge Mountains in lush and lovely Western North Carolina, Asheville has long been renowned for its natural beauty, and a destination for hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts form across the nation. The Blue Ridge Mountains and stepped villages nearby have been featured prominently in film and television over the past few decades, and have become a favorite vacation destination for the wide array of outdoor sports available, including mountaineering, ziplining, mountain biking, horseback riding, and so much more. Truly, the natural beauty of this verdant and charming town is unparalleled. Yet less known are the exquisite natural flavors produced in Asheville’s craft breweries. For decades, Asheville has produced some of the most unique and complex craft brews in the state, but only recently, as craft brewing has taken the nation (and the world) by storm, have others truly come to appreciate the distinct flavors that Asheville’s breweries offer. Its first three breweries, all still standing today, are well worth the visit.
#1 – Highland Brewing
Established in 1994, Highland Brewing lays claim to the title “Asheville’s first brewery.” The original brewery was comprised of only 12,000 square feet of space and produced 6,500 barrels a year using retrofitted dairy equipment, but how the times have changed. Today, Highland Brewing brews four times a day and five days a week in a brand-new facility with a rooftop bar and tasting area to accommodate over 300 guests as well as an event center indoors to accommodate over 700 guests. Locals and visitors alike can hold receptions, weddings, and corporate events in the space or at the bar, and with a stage on-site, local bands perform regularly. Highland Brewing is the largest native brewery in North Carolina and proudly proclaims its roots, with seasonal beers named after local hiking trails or points of interest. A 3-barrel pilot system also allows the brewery to conduct R&D on new flavor profiles and collaborate with other breweries to create awesome IPA’s, stellar hard ciders, and wonderfully unique whit biers. For deeply delicious craft beer at a place that’s undoubtedly proud of its Carolina heritage, visit Highland Brewing in Asheville.
#2 – Greenman Brewery
Born of a legend, and with some truly legendary craft brews, Greenman Brewery is a must-visit in Asheville. Established as a brew-pub in downtown Asheville in 1997, the growth of Greenman has been substantial: today Greenman boasts two brewhouses and three tasting rooms. A latest addition in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood includes a 22,000 square foot packaging hall and “brewtique,” complete with indoor/outdoor tasting area that lets you take in the magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains as you sample a crisp and refreshing IPA. Make sure to stop in at “Dirty Jack’s,” the original tasting room in the downtown area, to appreciate the true history of Greenman. Learn the story of the real “Green Man” from a true Greenman brewer and decide for yourself if it’s a beer based on legend or reality.
#3 – Asheville Brewing Company
Asheville Brewing Company may have started like most other breweries, but certainly has not remained “run-of-the-mill” by any stretch. With three locations around Asheville and producing over 13,000 barrels of craft beer annually, it’s certainly not a small enterprise. But Asheville Brewing has taken on so much more than just beer: its third location is also a fully-functioning pizza joint and movie theater, as well as a brew-pub. Though it may lack the long-standing tradition of Highland Brewing or the quirky mysticism of Greenman, Asheville Brewing Company offers something unique that neither competitor can match: an appeal to visitors of all ages. Perhaps no other brewery in North Carolina (or the nation) can claim to be family-friendly and a destination for visitors young and old. With beautifully complex brews and some truly terrific pizza, you’d be hard-pressed to want much else from a brewery as you relax in downtown Asheville.
No matter who brewed your beer, Asheville’s craft brew is truly representative of its home town: enticing, refreshing, and uniquely quirky in its own right. Both residents and visitors alike would be remiss not to spend quality time truly enjoying and appreciating these three great breweries and the bevy of original brews offered. While it’s not hard to find relaxation in this quaint and beautiful town, put up your feet just a little bit more and truly take in the view at any one of these fine and funky establishments.
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