When we last left my recap of my first visit to Asheville, my fiancee and I had visited one restaurant, one brewery and one beer shop. In any other city, that might be the end of your visit. But not in Asheville! There were many hours left in the day and many more beers to drink, so on we went.
Our next stop was the Green Man Brewery, which was located in a small industrial area right behind The Orange Peel. I could tell as we pulled up it was a hopping place, as the big warehouse doors had been flung open and people were spilling out on to the streets.
Originally located at Jack of the Wood, the brewery moved to its new home about two years ago. Inside the brewery, it’s one big expansive room with the brewing equipment on one side and a bar on the other, all connected to a covered outdoor patio. The taproom featured about five of the brewery’s in-house offerings and a few guest taps. Sadly, most of their selection was out when we stopped by.
I wondered how a taproom could be so packed, yet so quiet. That was, until I realized every was glued to the last few minutes of the Euro 2012 match between Spain and France. Not ones to miss out, we grabbed our pints and grabbed a seat.
I opted for the Porter, a 6% rich and full-bodied porter with big chocolate notes and a slight hint of coffee. Despite the warming temperatures, it was still easy drinking. My fiancee went for the Summer Traveler Wheat, a 5% witbier with a medium body, mild hoppiness and a slight sour note.
From Green Man, it was on to Wedge Brewing Co., which a lot of our friends demanded we visit. When we first arrived at the place my GPS took us to, I thought we had been duped. The street we parked on had a lot of cool local art stores, but not breweries in site.
Then, my fiancee pointed to to men walking along the street, pints in hand, and we followed them down a secret staircase – read: there was a tree in front of it and that’s why we couldn’t see it – to a huge open area with picnic tables, cornhole boards and plenty of people.
The brewery is located on the bottom level of an art studio which abuts a train yard. All around the building and its patio areas are iron sculptures and art made from, I’m assuming, local artists. That Saturday, the place was jumping. There were tons of families hanging out and playing with their kids, food trucks circling the patio and more peanuts to de-shell than I knew what to do with.
My fiancee braved the taproom to grab a Helles Bock, a 7%er with a huge hop profile and big fruit notes, primarily pineapple. I, on the other hand, immediately headed to the window adjacent to the taproom that read “IPA” to pick up Wedge’s signature brew, the Iron Rail IPA. Coming in at 7.3%, it was a resinous IPA with a huge tropical fruit taste. Big notes of mango, apricot and orange just flooded out of the thing. After a pint, I understood why the brewery had their own special section for it.
I can understand why people think Wedge is such a cool place. The beer is great, the atmosphere is open and relaxed and it seems like the kind of place you can meet up with some friends or family on a weekend afternoon and just chill. We had a nice, long conversation with local couple who were really fun to talk with and get to know. Wedge is definitely a place I plan to come back to and strongly encourage everyone to check out.
With time winding down before our show, we decided to grab some food at another highly recommended place, Lexington Avenue Brewery. Located just a few blocks from The Orange Peel, LAB is Asheville only true brewpub, offering up six in-house brews at any given time, not to mention an incredible menu.
On the beer side, I opted for Magic Carpet Rye, their seasonal rye beer. The rye bit was pretty light and it had a nice mellow finish. My fiancee went for the Belgian Wit, a Belgian-style white ale with a big citrus note, slight funk and a good estery sweetness.
While the beer was great, the food was outstanding. We started with truffled pommes frites and a blueberry-jalapeño biscuit with thick-cut bacon, pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and drizzled with honey. For dinner, she got a huge grilled pimento cheese and avocado sandwich, and I got an andouille hot dog with pimento cheese slaw.
With the show that night lasting only about an hour, we decided to pop by Thirsty Monk for a nightcap. The bar was surprisingly dead for 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, but it was a good way to relax and unwind at the end of the day.
I’ve been to a few bars similar to Thirsty Monk in the past, so the setup wasn’t too out of place for me. Upstairs specializes in domestic craft beers while downstairs is a Belgian bar, with all the proper glassware, accouterments and stylings in place.
We happened to stop by in the middle of Sour Week, but sadly (and unsurprisingly), the keg of Cantillon Fou’ Foune was long gone. Luckily, found a nice substitute: Brett Beer, the Brett-centric collaboration between New Belgium and The Lost Abbey. (I had perfect timing, too, as I kicked the keg and got a full pour for half the price.) The beer lived up to its name – Huge Brett notes, a good sour funk and incredibly drinkable. A great way to end the day indeed.
And there you have it! My first trip to Asheville. While I didn’t get to check out every place I had on my list, it’s definitely not a one-and-done kind of city, and it gave me plenty of reasons to come back. The food was incredible, the hospitality was even better, and the beer … well, that speaks for itself.
Cheers to you, Asheville. Thanks for a great time and much more to look forward to.