Out of Town – 3 Do’s and Don’ts in Asheville, Beer City, USA

mtn cheer

I spent the past weekend in Asheville, NC, the four-time Beer City, USA winner. I was excited.

It’s not worth going into all the nitty-gritty details of the trip when others have done it superbly well, so I thought I’d take the chance to offer travel guide suggestions rather than review the city and the amazing time I had there.

So if you love beer, nature or simply want a good time away from “It All,” I offer you three do’s and don’ts for your trip to the beer mecca of the East Coast.

Do…

… stay downtown

View of mountains from Downtown Inn and Suites

View of mountains from Downtown Inn and Suites

For me, the top priority on any vacation that involves beer (to whatever extent) should always be where I’m staying. Location, location, location. Not for the sake of being near the best breweries, brewpubs and the like, but because it’s safe (and sane) to hoof it anywhere you want to go.

You can’t beat downtown Asheville, which has a handful of watering holes literally within a few minutes walking distance of the city center. I’ve never been as happy with a hotel decision as I’ve been with the Downtown Inn and Suites. Aside from being incredibly well priced – perhaps the best in downtown – you get a decent semblance of breakfast included in your stay. You’re also an arms length away from Jack of the Wood and a stone’s throw from Thirsty Monk, a bar you should not miss.

For the sake of ease and your banking account, check out this hotel if you’re visiting Asheville. Biltmore be damned.

… visit Wicked Weed Brewing early and often

Downstairs tap room at Wicked Weed.

Downstairs tap room at Wicked Weed.

This isn’t just my new favorite brewery in NC. It’s my new favorite brewery.

The beer selection at Wicked Weed is amazing. It’s a third American (a handful of IPAs and more), a third Belgian (any kind of saison you’d ever want) and a third experimental (sours, barrel aged). It makes for an entirely dreamy brewery.

While beers like a chocolate/raspberry saison and double IPA brewed with 48 pounds of hops will stand out in my mind, it’s their PapIPA (pronounced puh-pie-P-A) that simply blew me away. It’s a 7 percent ABV IPA brewed with 50 pounds of papaya. It’s a great beer, if only for that fact that the tropical fruit is among a common descriptor for hops like Amarillo, which is used in beer. PapIPA is sweet, easy drinking and it’s everything I’d want out of an India pale ale.

Also of note was specialty brew Transgressor, an oak-aged red ale that tasted like liquid caramel.

… shop at Bruisin’ Ales
If you’re going on vacation, you’re certainly going to want some souvenirs, right? While Bruisin’ Ales might not be the largest bottle shop you’ve ever visited (Total Wine) it has one of the best selections you’ll find.

Since lots of breweries in Eastern and Western NC don’t ship their bottles back and forth to opposite sides of the state, Bruisin’ Ales offers a great opportunity to find local favorites from Asheville Brewing Company, small batch releases from Mother Earth Brewing or even odd out-of-state brews like a West Coast IPA from Moylan Brewery.

You can mix-and-match or load up on bomber-sized bottles, if you can handle such a thing.

Don’t…

… eat at Wasabi

Avoid, if possible.

Avoid, if possible.

You’ll definitely want to refuel while you’re in Asheville, whether you’re drinking beer or not. The Missus and I were intrigued by a small sushi place on Broadway Street with a sign out front announcing Wasabi‘s rank as Western North Carolina’s best sushi restaurant for nine consecutive years.

Apparently there must not be any other sushi restaurants in Western North Carolina. While the service was great and the dining space was small and quaint, the sushi was wonderfully mediocre.

Save your money and head over to Laughing Seed. While they offer a vegetarian/vegan-based menu, even meat lovers will find something they can’t pass up. They’ve got a wide selection of food styles and a fine collection of beers, meads, wine and more.

… worry if you miss Wedge Brewing
The only reason I say this is because it’s slightly out of the way if you’re staying downtown, but it’s still only a mile walk. To me, Asheville’ Wedge felt a lot like Durham’s Fullsteam. It was packed and seemed to be a huge hit with locals. I don’t doubt many were friendly, but I couldn’t kick the feeling my wife and I were getting the stink eye from some hanging in and around at the bar.

The service was good and two beers stood out – their Community Porter which had a unique spice kick. I’m not entirely sure where that flavor came from, but Wedge uses maple and carob in the brewing process. Also worth noting is the Vadim Bora Russian Imperial Stout, which is brewed with 168 pounds of raspberries and tastes like it, for good or bad.

… forget your hiking shoes

A view from Craven Gap.

A view from Craven Gap.

If you’re going to enjoy all that Asheville has to offer, your efforts should extend beyond the amazing beer culture. Sitting amidst the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey mountains, hiking options abound. You can take a drive of 20 minutes to two hours from downtown to find the exact kind of hiking experience you’d want, as there are plenty of options from easy to strenuous.

After all, exercise is a good way to balance out your beer.

Last time I visited Asheville The Missus and I hiked Mount Mitchell, the highest peak on the East Coast at 6,683 feet. We’ve also done trails on Craven Gap which seemed a notch above moderate difficulty.

Thoughts?

I’m sure there are others who have visited Asheville and most certainly have varying experiences from mine. What do you like? What don’t you like? What should I make sure to do next time I visit?

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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16 thoughts on “Out of Town – 3 Do’s and Don’ts in Asheville, Beer City, USA

  1. Seems like great advice, sounds like a fantastic trip. Wicked Weed Brewing sounds like they definitely deserve a visit (great brewery name too). Congrats on getting up Mt Mitchell! How was the trail?

    • Wicked Weed is fantastic. Check out their website (linked in the post) for their updated beer list. I want to go back just to visit them.

      The Mt Mitchell trail wasn’t so bad. There are a few steep points, but it’s mostly long and winding. I think it’s labeled as “strenuous.” A great way to kill a few hours. There’s also a visitors center about 3/4 up the trail, so it’s a good place to rest for a few.

    • There were zero drum circles over the weekend. I attribute it to St. Patrick’s Day, as everyone was busy rhythmically dry heaving instead of keeping the beat on a drum.

    • Yes! Thanks for mentioning this. And taps, too, if people want to sip while perusing the store. I only stopped by for a few minutes to grab some bottles, but could definitely spend an hour in there.

      Cheers!

  2. Going to Asheville tomorrow. Think I will have to have Freak IPA at Wicked Weed…any beer named for my favorite pitcher must be good! Thanks for the heads up(haha).

    • You traveling from California or just a Giants fan elsewhere?

      Head into the downstairs bar at Wicked Weed and pick up a flight – it’s worth it to try as much as you can. All their IPAs seemed great, although I only had a few.

      Hope you have an amazing time!

  3. Glad you enjoyed your visit! Next time you’re in town, consider stopping by the Green Man brewery. It’s an easy walk to the southern end of town (about as far south as Wicked Weed). It’s not as “flash” as the new Wicked Weed, but they make/serve excellent beer. I’m more into malt than hops, so I highly recommend their ESB. It’s earthy and good.

    Oh, and Oyster House Brewery (available in Lobster Trap) makes its Moonstone Stout with oyster shells (to bring calcium to the brew). It is extraordinarily (and perhaps surprisingly) delicious. It started as micro-brew as you can get (just behind the bar) and is expanding to a larger brew space across the river.

    I promise I don’t work for these folks. I just live here, love our town and the beer. Thanks for the review!

    • Jesse – thanks for these additions! I don’t blame you for pointing out some of these great, local places. Luckily, I’ve spent time at Jack of the Wood each time I’ve been to Asheville, but haven’t been to Green Man itself. Are there any different taps at the brewery? I’ve been meaning to get there regardless, but Jack of the Wood has always been so handy right across the street from my hotel.

      I’m sad I didn’t have time to check out Oyster House. I meant to swing by but only walked by it once and otherwise slipped my mind. I have definitely heard of the oyster stout and will move it to the top of my list next time I’m in town.

      Thanks so much for sharing these. There is never a lack of great stuff to see and do (and drink) in Asheville. Love the city!

      • Good point. Green Man was “born” in Jack of the Wood, so depending on the timing of keg delivery most of the same beers are probably there. I just prefer brewery to pub on occasion. That said, it’s tough to beat Jack of the Wood when combined with Thirsty Monk across the street.

  4. Great post. I live in Asheville and this is an amazing town. I have stayed many a night at the Downtown Inn before moving here. Don’t expect luxury, but you can’t beat the price.

    If you come back and want much better sushi I recommend Champa – it you continue up Broadway toward Wicked Weed it will be there right by Posana. I like it better. However, Asheville is split over who like which sushi better.

    Wicked Weed is also my new favorite brewery ever – but I do love Wedge and think their Iron Rail IPA is well worth the trip. But I’m a local so what do I know.

    • Ah, but Laura, you locals know far more than me, which is why I’m very appreciative of these suggestions! There is only so much I can take in and offer a completely biased opinion on!

      Thanks a bunch for the sushi suggestion – my wife and I love the food and will definitely check out Champa.

      It seems lots of people are going nuts for Wicked Weed (deservedly so), so I hope Wedge doesn’t get lost among the fray for out-of-towners like myself. I think Wicked Weed’s selection simply blew me away.

      Really appreciate you coming by to offer these tips – cheers!

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