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22 Mar 2024
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Vacation Tips

As a proud 4-time winner of the annual Beer City USA poll, Asheville is a hoppy haven and craft beer paradise. Our city’s reputation as a Beer Mecca can be traced back to 1994 when Oscar Wong, an engineer from Charlotte, moved to Asheville and opened Highland Brewing Co (aka Asheville’s oldest brewery) as a hobby and unintentionally ignited a multi-million dollar industry that has become the lifeblood for locals and the draw for tourists seeking a beercation like no other.

After Highland’s inception, dozens of breweries began to emerge all over the city (South Slope is known as the brewery district downtown). Serving well over 200 local craft beers on the daily, it can be overwhelming to tap into Asheville’s beer culture.

Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the beer flavor wheel (yes, that's a real thing). Asheville Ale Trail, WNC’s #1 resource for discovering Asheville’s beer scene, offers a comprehensive field guide and passport (digital and print) so you can keep up with the places you’ve visited and get the chance to snag some free swag. 

To help you make the most of your time imbibing, we’ve provided a list of must-try breweries and establishments on the Asheville Ale Trail along with Greybeard vacation rentals that offer the most convenient access to them. 

Downtown Asheville + West/River Arts District

Most of Asheville’s breweries are located downtown and in the River Arts District. While this list is not exhaustive, some of the most well-known breweries we suggest checking out include Wicked Weed + Funkatorium, Burial Beer, New Belgium, River Arts District Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery, Thirsty Monk, Wedge, Catawba Brewing, Hi-Wire, Twin Leaf, Urban Orchard, Noble Cider, Archetype, and White Labs.

In West Asheville, don’t miss The Whale Craft Beer Collective where you can sample brews from Asheville and around the world along with wine, cider, mead, and sake. The Whale also has an outpost in Haw Creek just 7 minutes outside of downtown Asheville that offers a different selection and neighborhood bar feel. 

For wine and cider lovers, check out plēb urban winery, the winery at Biltmore Estate, and Botanist & Barrel Tasting Bar. Botanist & Barrel is the Southeast's only natural cidery and the first producer of Petillant Natural ciders. 

The Chapman House
Cozy Ridge
Sunflower Sanctuary
The Nest
Parker House A + Parker House B
Country Cottage Getaway
Davenport Cottage

Old Fort/Marion 

Just outside of Black Mountain, the small town of Old Fort has a rich history that can be felt throughout the town–from the 14-ft rose granite arrowhead to the railroad tracks. Old Fort’s downtown area has experienced quite a bit of growth in the last couple of years with new businesses landing here and with the addition of 9+ miles of new trails by the G5 Trail Collective. 

Hillman Beer (named the #1 brewery in the state in 2023) is situated in the town’s center and overlooks Mill Creek. Across the street is Whaley Farm Brewery which specializes in lagers, cask ales, and farm beers. They also have a small selection of vegetables, dairy products, and snacks made by Western North Carolina producers available for purchase. Opened in 2024, euda wine is a 7-minute walk from Whaley and offers small-batch, locally-produced wines for the oenophiles in your group. 

Continue 10-15 minutes east of Old Fort to reach Marion, home of the annual WNC Big Foot Festival and Mountain Glory Craft Festival. In the way of breweries, Marion offers Mica Town Brewing Co., Taylors Brewing Co., and Keeper’s Cut Meadery which serves up award-winning meads and ciders. You can also enjoy local brews and bites at Spillway Bridge Co. and Refinery 13 Taproom. 


The town of Woodfin is approximately 5 miles north of Asheville, and Weaverville is approximately 10. Weaverville has a charming downtown area with a fair share of restaurants, breweries, and galleries to explore. For breweries, you have Zebulon Artisan Ales, Leveller Brewing Co., Eluvium Brewing, and Hoppy Trees (a bar paying homage to Bob Ross and his “Happy Trees”) which serves up local craft beer, wine, cider, and spritz cocktails. 

In Woodfin, you’ll find Zillicoah Beer Co., Outsider Brewing, Ginger’s Revenge (craft Ginger Beer), and Riverside Rhapsody all within a mile of each other. Weaverville is just 15 minutes away from downtown Asheville and Woodfin is just 5 minutes from the River Arts District, so you can easily hop over to the next area to continue your brewery crawl. 

• Mountain Over Main Street
• Harvest Moon Cottage
• Red Barn Retreat

Fairview/East AVL 

If you’re looking for a more rural and relaxed setting for your vacation home that’s just a short drive from the action in Asheville, the Fairview area might be just the ticket. Two well-known and family-friendly farms are Hickory Nut Gap, which hosts seasonal events and tours, and Flying Cloud, where you can pick a bouquet of native flowers and bushels of fresh berries. If you want to hike before your brews, check out Bearwallow Mountain trail, an easy 1-mile hike to a grassy meadow with 360 views. 

Area breweries include Whistlehop Brewing Co., a family and pet-friendly train-themed taproom that offers tons of activities and games, and Turgua Brewing (just 2 miles from Whistlehop) which is situated beside Cane Creek and offers live music. 

If you want to keep the good times rolling and beer flowing, take a 25-minute drive south to reach Chimney Rock and Lake Lure which has Chimney Rock Brewing Co. overlooking Rocky Broad River and Fae Nectar, North Carolina’s first (and only) fantasy-themed Meadery. We have 3 vacation rentals on the lake within a 10-minute drive of town (Deer Meadow Acres, Lakeshire, and Lake Lured Away). 

Mills River/Hendersonville/Flat Rock

Approximately 19 miles south of Asheville is the town of Mills River, and if you drive south for another 10 minutes, you’ll arrive in Hendersonville. Both of these adorable small towns are located within Henderson County which grows more apples than any other county in North Carolina and is one of the top 20 apple-growing counties in the U.S. In Mills River, Sierra Nevada Brewing offers amazing tours and the best pours to enjoy on their back porch overlooking the garden. 12 Bones Brewing is just 10 minutes from Sierra Nevada adjacent to its smokehouse of the same name. 

A 7-minute drive will take you to Blue Ghost Brewing Co. (named after the native Blue Ghost Firefly) which is situated next to the Asheville Regional Airport. Another 7-minute drive will take you to Appalachian Mountain Brewery which offers cider, seltzer, and hard sweet tea along with their beers on tap. Just 4 minutes from AMB is Mills River Brewing Co., Burning Blush Brewery, and Bold Rock Mills River Cidery. Sideways Farm & Brewery, located In Etowah (approximately 12 minutes outside of Mills River), is one of the few breweries in the U.S. that creates carbonation with local wildflower honey in their farmhouse ales, traditional lagers, and hard kombucha.

In Hendersonville, there’s Boodas Brewing Company, Oklawaha Brewing Co., Guidon Brewing Co., Dry Falls Brewing Co., Trailside Brewing Co., and Blue Ridge Beer Garden all within 5 miles of each other. The Blue Ridge Beer Garden (where “Life is brew-tiful”) is the first of its kind in Hendersonville and offers 25+ beers and ciders on tap along with seltzers, wine, craft beer, and NA options. For wine lovers, check out Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, Burntshirt Vineyards, and Point Lookout Vineyards in Hendersonville. Just 13 minutes outside of downtown Hendersonville in Flat Rock, there’s also a winery called Marked Tree Vineyard. 

Lake James/Morganton 

Located approximately 45 minutes east of Asheville and Black Mountain is the town of Nebo where you’ll find Lake James. Surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest and Linville Gorge Wilderness, this 6,000-acre lake offers boating, fishing, hiking, and biking in its state park. The Nebo/Lake James area is just 10 minutes from Marion and 25 minutes from the “Simply Charming” town of Morganton

Integrating the “soul of agriculture with the artisanship of zymurgy,” Fonta Flora Brewery prides itself on the artistry and sustainability of its beers by using seasonal flora and bringing together English tradition and Belgian inspiration. Their traditional tasting room is in downtown Morganton and their second location at Whippoorwill Farm close to Lake James offers an expansive outdoor space against the backdrop of the rugged and beautiful Linville Gorge, giving visitors a true sense of Morganton’s Appalachian roots. 

Less than 5 minutes from Fonta’s Morganton taproom, Sidetracked Brewery (which also focuses on craft beer using sustainable and locally sourced malt) has 16 different flagship and rotating beers on tap along with wine, cider, seltzers, barrel-aged, gluten-free, and NA options. We’ve listed several of our Lake James vacation rentals that are closest to the breweries mentioned above, but you can browse all of our Lake James vacation rentals here

• Bluegill Lodge on Lake James
• Pine Knot Cabin
• Dock Holiday 
• Lakeside Retreat on Lake James
• Hully Gully at Lake James
• Sweet Spot on Lake James
• Hilltop Lodge on Lake James
• Row House on Lake James
• The Waterman on Lake James
• The Kingfisher on Lake James
• Wildside Retreat at Lake James

For those looking for an official Beer Tour (with a guide) through the world of craft brewing, there are plenty to choose from. Spend the day getting an in-depth look (and taste) of our city’s beer, the brewing process, and Asheville's history while riding and laughing on the LaZoom Comedy Bus, pedaling and partying on the Pubcylce, or stepping behind the scenes with industry experts on the Brew-ed Tour. If you’re staying in Black Mountain, be sure to check out the Black Mountain Ale Trail!

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