It was our first full day in Asheville and what better way to introduce ourselves to its beer scene than an Urban Beer Hike. With six breweries located in the downtown area, Asheville is perfect for a walking brew tour.
We began our hike just past noon in the heart of downtown Asheville at Lexington Avenue Brewery. We never like starting a beer hike with a glitch but glitches happen. LAB was debuting a new menu on this day and their opening was delayed to 1pm. Despite ruining my planned 6-mile loop route and causing a double back-track, we quickly reconfigured the hike and headed to our new first stop a short five minute walk away.
Asheville reminded me a lot of Portland, OR and Asheville Brewing was the first indication of the similarity. It wasn’t only the hipster crowd, but the eclectic former industrial-looking building converted into a brewpub that had me thinking of the Rose City.The ample space was dominated by a huge covered outdoor seating area filled with a mish-mash of reclaimed chairs.
Armed with an eight beer sampler selection, our quartet grabbed one of the available tables outside. If I had to guess, I would say our chairs, which were tandem, came from the Greyhound bus depot that was by our hotel.
Rocket Girl, a Kölsch-style brew, was a perfect beer for a day that pushed 80 degrees. Escape Artist ESP was a middle of the road Pale Ale, especially in comparison to it’s brother Fire Escape Pale Ale. Finding out the hard way, I grabbed the Fire Escape and took a big gulp. I quickly realized the “fire” portion of the name was provided by a healthy dose of chili pepper. Asheville’s flagship brew, Shiva IPA, was probably my favorite beer in the lineup.
Finished at Asheville, it was now time to backtrack to Lexington Avenue Brewing. LAB was quite a different vibe from the hippie-ish first stop. A large and open space, the brewpub was very modern. The brew kit shined in the back of the room behind glass walls and a 92 foot curved bar dominated the room. Given the gorgeous weather, we sat in the bright front room that was open to the street.
Given that LAB messed up my brilliantly conceived Urban Beer Hike route with the new menu delay, I declared that the food better be darn good or I would be angry. Fortunately, the food was quite delicious. Merideth enjoyed the Flatbread pizza while I had the Hummus Quartet, a plate with four different flavors.
From the six beer sampler, three of our group had the GABF bronze medal winning Porter. Merideth, the odd person out, ordered their Oktoberfest.
Having a nice buzz going, I was able to ignore the fact that we passed by Asheville Brewing again on our way to our third stop. Craggie Brewing was in a smallish industrial space just around the corner from our first stop. Thanks to Zaq in the tasting room for letting us in a few minutes before opening so we could get out of the heat.
Six breweries into our North Carolina trip, Craggie Brewing was the first “WOW” stop. Three of the six beers really stood out. Toubab Brewe, a 4.2% ABV Bavarian-style Zwickelbier, was probably Merideth’s favorite beer of the trip. Cherry Belafonte, a Belgian-style brew with Sweet and sour cherries might have been the best fruit beer we tried all week and Yo La Mango IPA, a wonderfully hopped brew with a slight Mango taste, was one of my candidates for beer of trip.
Craggie was Merideth’s 650th brewery and one of the brewers honored the occasion by giving her an acorn squash. We liked Craggie so much that we returned two more times (and no, our repeat visits were not influenced by the hopes for more gifts of squash).
Just down the street and around the corner was our next stop, the soccer and dog-friendly Green Man Brewery. With a big rolling door for a main entrance, I was again cognizant of how much Asheville reminded me of Portlandia.
Walking into the tasting room which fronted the brewery, the first thing I noticed was the plethora of green men, the mythical deity (not the silly guys in the green suit), decorations on the wall. OK, maybe I noticed them after I saw there was soccer showing on both TVs.
The four beer samples, IPA, ESB, Porter and Stout were all well-made and very English in their makeup. The IPA was my favorite of the four but quite a departure from the previous hop bomb that I enjoyed at Craggie. Despite it being my favorite, the pint I ordered was the nutty ESB on cask.
From Green Man, we embarked on the longest leg of the day’s Urban Beer Hike. It was a little over a mile to the River Arts District and Wedge Brewing.
Our foursome had some trouble finding the brewery. After locating the street address, we could hear people but couldn’t figure out where to go. Turns out, Wedge was on the opposite side of the building down some stairs.
Given the district’s name, I was hoping for a river view, but instead we got a train track view. Of the 660 breweries I have visited, Wedge had one of the more unique settings. It’s bustling beer garden was quite spacious, basically being the dirt open space between the building and the tracks. The multitude of happy customers were spread far and wide, enjoying the Wedge brews and watching the trains pass by.
After grabbing some beers, we plopped ourselves around a table in front of a semi trailer painted with a stage on the side. Hillbilly Hawaiian music provided by a local band played in the background while we enjoyed the beers and played with dogs. Both Merideth’s beer, the Wit, and mine, the IPA, were very nice.
In the dimming light of the Asheville evening, we returned to the downtown area for our final stop. Oyster House Brewing is a half-barrel brewery, located in the Lobster Trap restaurant, the “Best Seafood Restaurant in Western North Carolina.”
We were there for only one beer, their Moonestone Stout, an Oyster Stout brewed with five pounds of the crustacean in each batch. This was the third Oyster Stout I have had and it was just as good as the others. Especially when paired with a dozen raw oysters.
Our feet a little sore, we took a taxi back to our hotel. Beautiful day, wonderful beer and good friends was a recipe for an amazing day and the Urban Beer Hike was a great way to acquaint ourselves with Asheville beer scene.
Map of the six stops
View Asheville Urban Beer Hike in a larger map