With more breweries per capita than almost any other city in the country, Asheville has long been known as a craft beer hub, and the city continues to innovate in the drinks department by utilizing local Appalachian ingredients.
Of late, the North Carolina city has welcomed a wide variety of new entries, raising the bar with unique beer bars and outlets focusing on sake, wine, gin and more.
With a name inspired by the notion of community and inclusivity, One World Brewing has been a beloved Asheville institution since 2014. It’s been such a hit that the company expanded with a new location in rapidly developing West Asheville. Between the two, One World provides some of the most unique drinking destinations in town, serving up a range of beer styles in bars designed like windowless underground bunkers and spaceships. The new West Asheville outpost is the latter, with a celestial paint job and contemporary circular bar that looks like something out of The Jetsons. Customers can convene over seasonally inspired brews like ‘Nectar of the Gourds Pumpkin Ale’ and ‘Cinnamon Coffee Stout’ while enjoying live music in the spacious backyard. The new brewery also brought Asheville’s brewery count up to 33, which is quite impressive for a city of 90,000.
Old meets new at another recent brewery entry, as Brouwerïj Cursus Kĕmē draws from ancient Latin and Flemish brewing traditions to give Asheville beer like its never tasted. The brewery commissioned custom equipment, including a wooden mash tun and wood-fired kettle, to brew beer over wood-fueled flames. It’s a technique that not only dates back centuries but also imbues each batch (mainly IPAs) with fragrant smokiness and depth. The atmosphere is as funky as the lore, as the brewery resides in an old tractor-trailer repair shop outfitted with lots of polished wood and a lush beer garden. Their beer is not sold on shelves anywhere, so curious drinkers can only sample the goods on-site.
Asheville’s first sake brewery, Ben’s Tune Up exclusively uses American rice and mountain water. The unassuming spot, housed in a former auto shop, looks like a standard beer garden and brewpub, but there’s much more to Ben’s than meets the eye. The company has been making beer and Asian fusion food for five years, but it recently focused more attention on sake by bringing on Patrick Shearer as the brewer. Shearer helped the Asheville institution open a tasting room focused on the rice water brew, which is served cold on draft. Ben’s also bottles sake in brown beer bottles, to further break down cultural barriers and establish a sense of familiarity.
For a neighborhood brimming with beer, hard cider is a welcome addition, especially for a company as revered as Urban Orchard, Asheville’s first cider bar. The new space effectively doubles production for the North Carolina company and provides 30 taps behind the bar, many of which are reserved for flavors made with seasonal and local fruits. The sizable taproom sports a cozy European beer-hall vibe, providing a comfy setting for sipping ciders brewed with the likes of tart green apples, tangerines and strawberries.
A far cry from typical American wineries set in the bucolic vineyards of California, Oregon or Washington, Plēb Urban Winery takes a decidedly different approach. Housed in the River Arts District, a hip neighborhood lined with warehouses covered in street art, the new company doubles as a tasting room and fermentation laboratory, tinkering with locally grown grapes and collaborating with Asheville area farmers to produce varietals that are wholly distinct. White, red, rosé and sparkling wines are all on deck, including local standouts like a traminette made from grapes in the Yadkin Valley. Glasses and flights are poured in a vast space that looks like a chic garage, complete with soaring ceilings, glass doors and plenty of wine barrels.
If there’s one drink more synonymous with Appalachia than beer, it’s moonshine. A new wave of distillers in Asheville is incorporating local ingredients to create spirits that are as pure as they are delicious. One recent example is The Chemist, a gin-focused tasting room from Apothecary Beverage Company. The downtown bar features a polished motif inspired by pre-Prohibition apothecaries, including glass-enclosed cabinets reminiscent of vintage pharmacy shelves – but in this case, citrusy gin line the shelves. Trinkets like barware, aprons and accessories, all of which are available for purchase, fill the other shelves.
Mead production is on the uptick in the US, and Asheville is at the forefront with meaderies like Bee & Bramble. Located in the nearby town of Fairview, the company produces honey wines made with mountain wildflower honey and local fruits. The unfiltered products deliver a fresh taste of the region and a new take on an ancient beverage. In addition to traditional dry mead, Bee & Bramble makes novelties like ‘Head Meazer’s’ (a blend of wildflower honey, orange zest, lemongrass and local ginger) and ‘Blueberry Ginger,’ which incorporates local berries. The company’s meads can be sampled at numerous shops, bars and restaurants in and around Asheville, including Ben’s Tune Up, Divine Wine & Beer, Appalachian Vintner and The Merry Wine Market.
Another recent addition to Asheville’s burgeoning distillery scene, Eda Rhyne proves that spirits and liqueurs can be just as local as mead, wine and beer. Gin, fernet, nocino and amaro are all produced with local botanicals and nuts like coriander, angelica root and black walnuts, many of which are foraged from nearby forests. One of the distillery’s co-owners also owns Aardvark Farm, which allows the company to grow some of its own ingredients.