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Exploring Beer City USA with Asheville Brewery Tours

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Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about Asheville, North Carolina, a city that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I visited the city a while back, almost 6 months ago now and only for a short weekend trip, but lingering thoughts about this place still frequent my mind. There’s just something really special about Asheville that stays with you after spending time there!
I also realized that I never wrote about my experience visiting this magical little eclectic city. All of my ideas and plans for posts somehow got lost in the shuffle during the move to South America. Considering it’s been popping into my mind a lot recently, I took it as a sign that it’s time to share!

In one weekend trip to Asheville, I managed to pack a lot of activities into my short time, including a relaxing spa getaway, a trip to America’s largest home, the Biltmore, a bunch of Southern Cuisine taste testing and one of my favorite activities of the lot, an Asheville Brewery Tour.

Asheville is often referred to as Beer City USA (it’s won the title many times, fair and square) and with very good reason! With more breweries per capita than any other city in the country, it’s pretty evident that these locals take their beer really seriously. In just the downtown area alone there are over 30 breweries to be visited and nearly 100 local brews to be tasted. Talk about overwhelming … In a city known for their prestigious brewery scene, I had no clue where to start!

I also have to admit, I’m not a big beer drinker. I’m actually not a huge fan of anything carbonated. A bubbly belly is not my thing. But hey when in Rome …

So, as someone embarrassingly not knowing the first difference between a Pale Ale and IPA, I decided to seek the help of the experts. I’m talking, Asheville Brewery Tours. I was excited to take advantage of an Asheville locals knowledge about the complex world of beer!

I decided on the Saturday Sunset Deluxe Van Tour figuring it’d be nice to not worry about transportation and have someone to drive us around between tastings! Mid-afternoon we strolled downtown, grabbed a quick bite and prepared ourselves for 4 stops at some of Asheville’s best and brightest breweries.
Note: I apologize ahead of time for the low quality photos. I did not want to bring along my DSLR on account of, well all the drinking, and low lighting is not very conducive to iPhone photography!

Stop 1: Altamont Brewing Company

Our first stop of the tour was in West Asheville at Altamont Brewing Company, which coincidently I had already visited the night before. I was totally okay with that though, because the beer was AMAZING! Even after all of the other stops our tour made, Altamont remained my favorite of the lot.
Our tour guide took us to a quieter section in the back to explain the brewing process and the story behind Asheville’s breweries.

Altamont’s own draft selection is constantly rotating and they also share the tap with beers from other breweries all over the world. The brewery itself is a no frills establishment with a beautiful classic wooden bar, a few scattered metal tables and a small stage for live music. There are ping-pong and foosball tables in the back for games and colorful hoola-hoops begging for a spin along the walls. If you’re looking for a chill bar with a laid back alternative vibe and friendly knowledgeable staff- this place will be right up your alley!

On the tour we sampled 3 creative brews for which their menu descriptions were as follows:

  • Stacy’s Mom Has Got It Gose’n On (5%)- Brewed with an addition of Pink Himalayan sea salt and organic coriander seeds, expect citrusy aromas followed by a pleasant saltiness and a hint of subtle acidity in each sip.
  • Hefeweizen (5%)- Pale straw color. Hints of banana and clove from the weihenstephan yeast. Very low Traditional German Wheat Beer
  • D-Nice Stout (5.5%)- Dark Brown in color with a roasty, malty, dark chocolate creamy finish with a hint of coffee malt.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed each and every beer that I tried at Altamont including the “Cold Hearted” IPA and the “Blonde Ale” which I tried on my own!

Stop 2: Urban Orchard Cider Company

When I heard that a cider bar was next up on the tour I was super excited! I’m a newbie to the world of hard ciders, but I was happy to give them a try and take a break from all the beer!

With 3 staple options on tap, rotating seasonal and experimental batch ciders, a selection of local beers, and even wine, the bar at Urban Orchard truly has something available to please every palette! Downstairs, under the bar, is where the magic happens and the fermentation process takes place. The Urban Orchard family experiments with some pretty wild flavors giving each of their ciders crazy character that somehow really works and leaves you with a taste to remember!
Urban Orchard 2
My favorite of the Urban Orchard tastings was the above Sidra del Diablo cider, brewed with smoked habanero peppers and infused with sweet vanilla! (I know what the heck, I was surprised too!) At first taste the cider seemed pretty sweet, but don’t let that fool you, the heat builds in a few short seconds. It was pretty intense to be honest, but I like a little spice. It was also just such a unique and deliciously shocking mix that it left quite the impression!

Stop 3: Catawba Brewing Company

After ample time learning about and tasting ciders, we hopped back into the bus and head off to Catawba!

Catawba Brewing Company is located smack in the middle of Asheville’s popular South Slope neighborhood, or Brewery District. It is one of Western North Carolina’s oldest breweries and was pretty large compared to the other two breweries we had visited.
Catawba didn’t necessarily blow me away with their beer, but their space was amazing! The ceilings were high, the rooms were well lit and there were many places to sit, sip and take in the scene. They’ve got food trucks out back, big screen TVs playing the games and live local tunes up on stage. We entered to find Catawba filled to the brim with friendly, giddy patrons, chatting away with friends while throwing em’ back.

Our tour guide somehow found a quiet, corner by the back bar and quickly divvied up the tastes. Some in our group were having such a great time that they went up and ordered themselves a pint to get more into the Catawba spirit!

Stop 4: Hi-Wire Brewing

Our fourth and final stop was at Hi-Wire Brewing, a small microbrewery also in South Slope. Hi-wire is one of Asheville’s newer breweries, but has gained a favorable reputation quite quickly! In fact, not very long after opening they were named “Best New Brewery in North Carolina” in 2013 by RateBeer.com!

Hi-Wire Brewing prides themselves on their offering of good, “approachable” highly drinkable handcrafted beers. Their 4 “main attractions” have become popular among locals and visitors alike, consisting of their Prime Time Pale, Hi-Pitch IPA, Bed of Nails Brown, and Hi-Wire Lager. They also feature more creative transitioning, “Side Show Seasonals” in their tasting room!
Although Hi-Wire was on the smaller, simpler side of the breweries we visited, and there wasn’t a ton of seating, I really loved their alternative, industrial décor and laid back feel! The brewery had old-school roll up garage-style doors and plenty of games, including life-size Jenga, to pass the time while enjoying a brew.

The four stops on our van tour with Asheville Brewery Tours was an awesome introduction to the Asheville Brewery scene and actually left me wanting to learn more about the world of beer! Who would’ve thought …. I can’t wait to get back to Beer City USA soon and see what else they have to offer!

Have you ever been to Asheville? What was your favorite brewery?

Disclaimer: Asheville Brewery Tours graciously invited me on their tour for purposes of this post. As always all opinions are my own. I would only recommend something I truly felt would benefit my readers!

Heading to Asheville sometime soon? Be sure to check out this list of amazing vegan eateries in the area!

Welcome to Wanderful Wednesdays!
Consider yourself a wanderer?! Well then, this Blog Hop is for you!
Meet your hosts: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.
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This week on #WanderfulWednesday, I’m highlighting last week’s post “Cusco, Peru: A Guide to the Inca Capital” by Leah at Gringa Journeys! I leave for Cusco a week from today and can’t wait to use all of her amazing tips! If you haven’t already, be sure to go check out her post and spread the love!
Happy Hopping my Friends! 😀

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