Friday, January 16, 2015

Hoist a beer to Asheville breweries on Jan. 24

Western North Carolina’s fast-moving waterways are great for more than paddling: Over the last 20 years, the area has blossomed with enough microbreweries – more than 100, according to one count – to make it a quench-seeking destination. Buncombe County alone is home to 19 breweries making all varieties of beer in addition to ciders and sake, and according to Jennifer McLucas of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, “that number changes by the day.”

The ante has been dramatically raised in the last six months. California-based Sierra Nevada, whose pale ale is second in U.S. sales only to Samuel Adams, opened a brewing facility in Mills River, near the Asheville airport. Later this year, New Belgium – a nationally popular craft operation out of Fort Collins, Colo., will open its own facility in the River Arts District.

Small wonder Men’s Journal magazine last year ran article headlined “Why Asheville is the next craft beer capital.”

The area beer industry – both startups and transplants – raises a stein to itself from 3 to 7 p.m. Jan. 24 -- a Saturday -- with the 8th annual Winter Warmer Beer Festival, staged downtown at the U.S. Cellular Center (the Asheville Civic Center).

More than 45 area and regional breweries will serve their suds. Alphabetically: from Asheville Brewing (makers of nine year-round varieties) to Yazoo Brewing of Nashville, Tenn. Geographically: from Miami Brewing, in Homestead, Fla., to Cleveland-based Great Lakes. In size: from major-player Sierra Nevada to Heinzelmannchen, a micro based in Sylva.

There will be catered food for sale. There’s music, too, from Alarm Clock Conspiracy and Black Robin Hero.

The event is popular and has been a sellout in past years; check for this year’s status. Order your tickets online and pick them up at the door.

If nothing else, you’ll know that the region’s suds lovers will be at the venue – which means more elbow room at the area’s brewery tours, taprooms, gastropubs and ale houses. There’s a Pub & Grub Crawl (

For that matter – this weekend or any other – you can download the Asheville Ale Trail map ( for self-guided exploration.

And down the road is Asheville Beer Week (May 22-30; and the Beer City Festival (May 30;

DIRECTIONS: The U.S. Cellular Center is at 87 Haywood St., in downtown Asheville. From the Charlotte area, take I-85 South to U.S. 74 (Kings Mountain/Shelby exit); follow U.S. 74 Bypass West to I-26 (at Columbus) and I-26 West to Asheville exit 4C. Turn left onto Haywood Street.