Brewery Travels #27: Asheville, NC

There are over two dozen breweries and brewpubs in the Asheville area, and for a city that consists of just under 90,000 folks, that’s quite a few. But you don’t become one of the top craft beer destinations in America simply by having breweries. Those breweries must make good beer. In that regard, Asheville delivers, which is why you will find plenty of thirsty travelers (such as myself) mixed in with the passionate locals. The majority of breweries are located within a short distance from downtown, some even sitting across the street or right down the block from each other (in a neighborhood known as South Slope). With mountain peaks rising above the modest skyline, be sure to look around in between sips. There are some big national names who have opened up facilities in the area (Sierra Nevada and New Belgium), but I stuck to the local offerings. It was tough only selecting four to write about, but let’s give it a go:

  1. Burial Beer Co.
  2. Catawba Brewing
  3. Asheville Brewing
  4. UpCountry Brewing


Before I visited Asheville, I sent a tweet out asking for recommendations, as I enjoy hearing what places other folks enjoy. One name was brought up over and over again. “You need to go to Burial.” “Burial has the best beer in the city.” It was obvious I needed to visit, and I am glad I did. The name comes from the fact that for some people, burial is a necessary stop to reach the afterlife, and so the brewery was named as a celebration of life, as well as the brewing process. Opened in 2013, the taproom has an old shed feel to it, and compliments the area with plenty of old farm tools, including large scythes acting as door handles out front. They are one of the breweries that helped shape the South Slope District of Asheville, which is now a top beer neighborhood in America.

Burial makes several beers that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. My thirst for sours was quenched here, as I sampled two. First, A Mortal Error of Mirrors. This French Petit Sour swirled together a fairly tart body with a slight barnyard funk. While that was delicious, Entinced by Confounding Mirage edged it out in my book. A Pineapple & Sage mixed culture Saison, I enjoyed how complex the beer was on my palate. None of the elements overpowered the others, but the pineapple on the tongue was my favorite. IPAs are also hot here, and The Savages of Ruminating Minds took a spot on my flight. Triple dry-hopped with Mosaic, Motueka, and Idaho 7, this is a hazy, juicy offering with a rainbow of tasting notes. Papaya, mango, and a hint of pineapple meshed in with resiny pine. My final beer was Skillet, a Donut Stout. Vanilla and chocolate are unsurprisingly in the forefront, but there were subtle hints of maple, coffee, and smokiness as well.

It appears Burial is constantly rotating in new beers, but from what I can tell, they nail pretty much everything they attempt. After talking with other locals, this seems to be the “can’t miss” spot in Asheville if you are a craft beer fanatic.


Catawba is not originally from Asheville, as their production facility and tasting room is located about an hour east in Morganton (it houses a 30bbl brewhouse as of 2016). However, they do have an additional 7bbl brewery in the South Slope neighborhood that focuses on small batches and their barrel-aging program. There’s another tasting room in Asheville’s Biltmore Village, and a recently opened fourth spot over in Charlotte. In other words, a lot has changed since their humble beginnings back in 1999. Check out the history page on their website by clicking on their name above. There’s quite a bit more back story to this brewery that I simply can’t squeeze into this article. I’m a huge fan of the logo. It represents the Blue Ridge Mountains and Catawba River, and if you flip it upside down, North Carolina and South Carolina emerge before your eyes.

I had an interesting mix of beers at Catawba. Let’s start with the Black Currant Chocolate Brown, a small batch brew. Chocolate leads the charge on the nose, but there is some fruitiness present as well, possibly cherry? There’s a slight tartness that settles onto your tongue, and cocoa nibs slide through the palate along with a subtle sweetness. Biere De Noel is a Belgian Abbey Ale with a deep red appearance. After allowing toffee and banana to float through your nostrils, banana, bubble gum, and dark clove notes jockey for position on the taste. This is a solid beer for a chilly night. For my IPA selection, I went with Friki Tiki. This is seemingly a typical citrusy IPA, but throws a curveball with the additional of clementine. The concluding beer for this stop was the Pomegranate Sour, which I believe is a good introduction sour. If you haven’t had one before, this beer will not assault your senses and strip your teeth enamel.

Catawba, like many other breweries in the area, have multiple locations. If I had more time I would have enjoyed stopping by the others to compare, but if the South Slope spot is any indication, you cannot go wrong with drinking some Catawba beer.


Asheville Brewing is one of the old guards in the city when it comes to beer. Originally founded in 1998 as a pizza place, movie theater, and brewpub all rolled into one experience, they now have three locations across the city. The first spot is located on the northside, with the South Slope brewpub established in 2006, followed by a third site in South Asheville opening its door in 2012. My wife accompanied me on this visit, and we enjoyed the laid-back, family friendly atmosphere. I had the Meathead pizza, which is slammed with pepperoni, sausage, ham, beef, and bacon. You could say my taste buds were pleased. Should also note that my wife liked her Honey BBQ wings as well. I wish I could have visited the other locations, but unfortunately did not have the time to do so.

I can sum up Asheville Brewing beer with one word: drinkable. Actually, crushable may be a better word. I tried six beers (my server brought over a pair to try besides my flight), and each one seemed to be a well-made, quaffable, and to-style beer that went great with the pizza. Ninja Porter got the best score of the set, and won a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup. Roasty and chocolatey, this beer is an indulgence. In terms of pairing with the food, 828 Pale (named for the area code), Rocket Girl (a clean lager), and Perfect Day IPA all can step up to the plate. Perfect Day has a nice combination of citrus, grapefruit, pine, and orange zest notes, and has a Black IPA companion in Perfect Night. Perfect Night was brewed to celebrate the solar eclipse in 2017, and gets its darker color partly due to dark malts.

Asheville Brewing is not your modern-day brewery, with a taproom built almost solely around the beer. This is a place that you can bring the whole family, and everyone will have a fun time. Plus, if you’re hungry, you know that won’t be a case by the time you leave.


UpCountry has the laid-back, easy-going atmosphere you would expect judging by its name. On the website, they tell you that the name refers to the mountains, and are focused on providing quality beer to the region. Located out in West Asheville, away from the chaotic downtown, they are going through some expansions. Currently, the taproom and brewhouse share a common space. They are in the process of expanding not only their brewhouse, but canning line, which will take over the area where the bar, stage, and merchandise zone currently sit. All that, along with a full kitchen, will be moved next door. One thing I dug about the current setup was a light show that splashed across the shiny kettles tucked away in the back. They are also kid and pet friendly, so the whole family can stop by to enjoy the environment!

Like some of the above breweries, my favorite was a dark beer, in this case the Soon to be Named Porter. To me, it was like drinking a beer that was made with melted Hershey’s kisses. Smooth and sweet, this brew did pick up a slight roastiness as I allowed it to room. If dark beers are not your style, Chai Amber is a beer you can toss back. But, if you slow down, this beer can surprise you. A nice sweet biscuit maltiness spins together with caramel notes and enough hop bitterness to balance it out. The additional of chai tea is most apparent in the aftertaste. Another crushable option is the Bogey Free Session IPA, with it’s Citra and Mosaic hop profile. The most interesting beer in theory is the Dill Pickle Gose. Personally, the infusion of dill pickles does not stick out as much as expected, but winds its way through the typical salinity of a Gose.

UpCountry may be in Asheville, but they have cut out their own little slice of territory. Clearly, they are experiencing success, and I hope I can return someday to check out the progress!


I would just like to say thank you to everyone who has helped build Asheville into the beer kingdom it is today. I should also mention that I stopped by Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. Yes, they are big beer now, which is something I’m generally opposed to, but as a sour fanatic, I felt it necessary to give them a try. With 31 sours on tap, the diversity and quality is certainly still present. You can also visit Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in America. There’s also a winery on the grounds, and your ticket inside includes a free tasting!

Next Article

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time living in Nashville, and if time allows down the line, I hope to write about some of the breweries I visited elsewhere in the state (Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville). The next installation of Brewery Travels will be another ‘Road Trip’ edition as we head to San Diego. With stops in Dallas, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Phoenix, I will have plenty of options to choose from!

Current Brewery Count

241 breweries across 118 cities in 26 states. These numbers are current as of 2/26/18. For an up-to-date count, and to follow my beer adventures, follow me on Twitter: @brewerytravels.

Joel Geier

Leave a Reply