Photo by Joseph Ball
Hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina—sunlight filtering through the canopy and neon pops of pink rhododendron dotting your path—it’s easy to understand why George Vanderbilt chose to build his Biltmore Estate here. More than 80,000 acres of the property are now Pisgah National Forest, which shelters one of the country’s most pristine watersheds.
Great water makes great beer, something Oscar Wong knew when he moved to the outdoorsy hamlet in 1992 to found Highland Brewing Company—Buncombe County’s first brewery since Prohibition. As the state’s archaic alcohol laws loosened, more hops-heads followed, earning Asheville the nickname Beer City, USA. Today, the town is home to 38 breweries, many of them with outdoor spaces taking advantage of the mild summer temperatures and mountain views.
Your liver won’t let you tackle them all. Instead, follow the local’s routine, which starts with a Gaelic Ale on the roof at Highland Brewing Company. Then head to the heart of the River Arts District and secure a seat on the patio at Wedge Brewing Company, which, in addition to pouring more than 15 house beers, is home to a couple dozen work-ing artists. Over in Burial Beer’s dog-friendly courtyard, sip on such creative small-batch brews as the Skillet Donut Stout. (The company will showcase beers from beyond the region in its new spot, Forestry Camp, slated to open this summer in a historic property outside of town.) Wicked Weed Brewing offers tours of all four of its properties, including the Funkatorium, the region’s first taproom dedicated to sour beer.
About 20 miles to the south, Sierra Nevada’s 190-acre East Coast campus sits on the French Broad River. With fire pits, two outdoor bars, an amphitheater, and even space for paddlers to tie up for a pint, it’s the ultimate place to toast the Blue Ridge.
DISTANCE: 471 miles
DRIVE TIME: 7 hours
EAT: You go to Buxton Hall BBQ for pit master Elliott Moss’s Carolina-style ’cue, but you’ll leave talking about pastry chef Ashley Capps’s banana pudding pie.
HIKE: In DuPont State Forest, the trek to Triple Falls is a local favorite.