The final leg of our trip landed us in Asheville where we found the best beers and breweries from the entire trip.
It rained nearly the whole way to Winston-Salem, but we drove on. We had a date with Foothills brewing and I wanted to do my best to stick to day two's schedule.
Foothills is pretty popular all around. Several of their beers can be found far far from where we were, beers like the Carolina Blonde or the Hoppyum. Big beers. Sadly there are no brewery tours given at their production brewery but their Downtown Brewpub is wide open. The brewpub is your typical restaurant first and brewery later type of place. They were giant menus full of food choices and a full liquor well behind the bar. But they definitely had their beers. Fresh and delicious. They had the mandatory and required chalkboard, sold growlers and growler fills, as well as bottled and bomber versions of the good stuff.
Day two and my brother was acting more adventurous with his beer selections. He opted for the Carolina Blonde, an easy drinking namesake of Foothills that tastes great and I chose the Pilot Mountain Pale Ale. It was a bit hoppier but just as delicious. We wanted more. Sadly it was Saturday afternoon and they were busy. Good for them but bad for us. We finished our beers and bought some merch before checking out the little bit of Winston-Salem we could suffer through in the cold rain.
If the brewpub isn't your speed, just outside of town is a art deco styles place close to the highway called Front Street Draught House. If you are just going for beer they have a massive selection of beers from around the state and around the country. They also have plenty of food, typical bar fare, and great specials all week long. This place is definitely worth a stop!
Winston-Salem was quickly in our rear view. The state capital of craft beer was ahead of us, our hometown of Asheville. Again the list was being tossed out. Hickory, Blowing Rock, and Boone were being pushed to the side, all with potential brewery adventures to tackle. Boone also has one of my favorite restaurants from my college days, Macado's.
Macado's is a quirky small chain of restaurants mostly in Virginia that has great sandwiches among other pub grub. Macado's is where I learned to love the Reuben. It is also popular for notoriously famous parties, especially St. Patrick's day. Worth a stop if you see one but sadly this trip we wouldn't be stopping by. Asheville, the mecca of Carolina beer, was next, roughly two hours away.
Asheville. Oh Asheville. It has changed a lot since I grew up here. I could (and probably will) devote an entire month of posts to this beautiful progressive mountain town in western North Carolina, but I only had one day. After a quick dinner stop with the father, and after a few primo suggestions from our server, we found some beers.
The first stop was Hi-wire Brewery.
Now don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun this entire trip. Every place I went to had an incredible story. Awesome people were met, and great beers had been drank, but pulling up to this run down looking building on the very edge of downtown gave me goosebumps. This was it. This was the place I was looking for the entire trip. Inside was a giant open warehouse, the huge stainless brew tanks and kettles off to the side. There was no glass to barricade you from the magic. There was an impromptu wall built that housed a giant cooler, a restroom, and the bar. At the end of the bar was a small TV with Super Mario World just begging to be played.
The place was packed too. People were everywhere, there were dogs everywhere. There was great music being played. This was the brewery that reminded me of the first out-of-the-way beer maker that I had stopped into one lonely night in College Station, Texas. This was also Asheville in every sense of the word. I was giddy. My brother just didn't understand. We ordered up two pints and I started planning on the merch I was going to buy. I wanted it all.
Hi-wire has a killer look handcrafted by a local artist but the product matches the excellent art. They have an awesome set of "main attractions" that they brew year round but also have a large section of seasonal beers that they rotate in the mix.
I went for something different. I tried one of the seasonal beers, called "Sideshows", which feature a unique twist on regular beers. The one I had was a Green Tea Wheat. It had the faintest of green tea flavors and even fainter wheat flavors but it went down well. My brother, considerably more adventurous than when we began this trip, drank a Bed of Nails Brown. It was your typical brown but it was amazing. Slightly sweet, not too hoppy. A delicious brew.
Reluctantly we trudged on. Luckily next up was Wicked Weed.
Wicked Weed is mind blowing, both in the scope of their inventory but in the quality as well. They are scarcely a year and a half old, having opened in December of 2012, but have grown to insane popularity in that time. They have everything from hoppy, to fermented, to sour. They also announced this at the beginning of April that they would soon be opening a massive barrel aging and sour facility that should be open at the end of the summer. The barrel facility will hold around 1500 barrels and have a tap room where we will gladly sit down and try one of the fifteen or so taps they have planned.
But that is after a long summer of craft beer drinking, Wicked Weed that we have now is still awesome. Their taproom is tucked away downstairs while their restaurant is up above. Kinda like Cheers with better beer. They have the obligatory chalkboard of awesome, they have scruffy patrons, they have delicious beer.
What about the weed? Its not what you think even though we are in Asheville, but its the Hops that have famously been called a wicked weed by King Henry VII.
Sadly we didn't eat. Again we were full. Hi-Wire had a food truck and the food smells were everywhere. Speaking of food, we had one more stop.
Locals call it the Brew and View. This multicolored stop right outside of north Asheville and not far from the beautiful UNC-Asheville campus serves up amazing food, better beers, and ultra cheap movies. The Brew and View is the original home to Asheville Brewing Company. Their production brewery is located right behind Hi-Wire in the brewery district, but the Brew and Views hosts some awesome, non-production brews.
The theater is awesome. Fully loaded with all the amenities of the big fancy showplaces, but the tickets are only $3. Tickets can only be bought one day in advance and the seats are first come first serve. They go fast.
The food is pub grub with a twist. My favorite that they still have are the "Homer's Garlic 'Doh Knots". Knotted dough with garlic and butter and oh my goodness. The pizzas were always good too.
The clouds still hung heavy and the rain had not let up so we decided to leave Asheville behind. Also, with the afternoon growing long and time growing short, we had to truck it back home. Unfortunately we had to skip a few others but I will leave it for next time when I can get back to Asheville and really sniff out some more of the good beers. We crossed over into Tennessee and the clouds parted. Twenty four hours of rain was over, the sun was shining and we had a blast. Jon was even finally starting to love good beer.
Thanks to everyone we met or talked to along the way and thanks to you for reading. See you on the road and hop responsibly!