Asheville, North Carolina has quickly become known among discerning beer drinkers as one of the nation’s top destinations and exporters of esteemed, high-quality craft beverages. More than 20 breweries are pouring over 200 local craft beers on tap any given day, from microbreweries like The Wedge to Wicked Weed Brewing. You’ll find award-winning IPAs and coffee stouts to sought-after Belgian and sour ales.

Craft Brewing in Asheville is rooted in the area’s thriving hospitality industry, ingenuity in manufacturing, and a deep appreciation for hand crafted traditions. That Appalachian craft culture is embraced widely, from artists and makers to local agriculture and Asheville’s renowned farm-to-table dining scene. Visitors have long been attracted via the Blue Ridge Parkway to the area’s inspiring natural beauty, waterfalls and a mountainous terrain coveted for its mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and fishing – now often followed by a refreshing local brew.

Asheville, North Carolina: History By The Barrel

Asheville’s craft brewing industry began in 1994 with Oscar Wong, a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for good beer. From its first barrels of Celtic Ale rolling out of a basement downtown, Highland Brewing Company has led North Carolina as its largest homegrown brewery, today employing more than 60 and distributing its 50,000 barrels annually to nine eastern states and D.C. Its founder, Oscar (above with daughter Leah), is considered the Godfather of craft beer in Western North Carolina.

Next came Green Man, Asheville Brewing Company, and then the industry boomed. From 2011-2014, the number of craft breweries and brewpubs had nearly doubled to 19 and counting. In 2015, at least a quarter of the county’s breweries were in the process of a large expansion, many of which distribute to at least a multi-state region. Today the South Slope is hopping with new breweries in retrofitted brick warehouses, totaling nine within less than a mile walk.

Since first winning the Beer City USA title in 2009, Asheville continues to edge out competitor cities like Grand Rapids and Portland almost every year. This reputation recently attracted new east coast breweries from three of the nation’s 10 largest craft brewers—Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and New Belgium Brewing.