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Mountain craft beers

Photo of a beer sampler at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville on Friday Aug 23, 2013.
Photo of a beer sampler at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville on Friday Aug 23, 2013. newsobserver.com

From Bryson City to Boone and everywhere in between, North Carolina’s mountains offer plenty of good beer.

Asheville’s reputation as the state’s premier beer city has never stemmed from a single brewery, but rather its collective beer culture and high number of breweries per capita. Why not visit several by walking through downtown’s South Slope neighborhood, which is home to Asheville Brewing Co. (www.ashevillebrewing.com), Hi-Wire Brewing (www.hiwirebrewing.com), Twin Leaf Brewing (www.twinleafbrewery.com), Green Man Brewery (www.greenmanbrewery.com), Burial Beer Co. (www.burialbeer.com) and two Wicked Weed locations: the original brewpub (www.wickedweedbrewing.com) and the newly-opened Funkatorium, an oasis of sour and barrel-aged beers.

Good beer flows throughout the High Country, too. In Boone, Appalachian Mountain Brewery pours a variety of beers in what used to be an old garage. Lost Province Brewing, downtown, offers a beer selection almost as diverse as its menu of wood-fired pizzas.

Brevard, just outside Pisgah National Forest and not far from popular Sliding Rock, is home to more than 200 waterfalls and two breweries: homegrown Brevard Brewing Co. (www.brevard-brewing.com) is making fantastic German-style lagers, while the transplants at Oskar Blues Brewery (www.oskarblues.com) are brewing that company’s core beers as well as some unique to the Brevard brewery.

After a day paddling, rafting or tubing down the Nantahala River, there are few things so satisfying as enjoying a beer nearby at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City (www.nantahalabrewing.com). The brewery is located right off the small town’s railroad in a Quonset hut-style warehouse built in 1945. Enjoy a staple like their Noon Day IPA, or look for something from the brewery’s more limited Trail Magic series.

With two breweries of its own, Morganton is more than a pit stop on the way to Asheville. Catawba Brewing (www.catawbabrewing.com) has been here for years, turning out favorites like Farmer Ted’s Cream Ale and White Zombie White Ale in addition to seasonals like Peanut Butter Jelly Time. And they now have neighbors down the road in Fonta Flora Brewery (www.fontaflora.com), which prides itself on beers with local ingredients that range from the everyday to the exotic. Who knew kiwifruit grew in North Carolina?

Great beer festivals

Hickory Hops held April 25, is one of North Carolina’s best beer festivals. Over the past decade, beer lovers have journeyed to Hickory’s downtown for the event, which places a large emphasis on Carolina breweries. Details: www.hickoryhops.com.

Beer events are ubiquitous in Asheville – it’s just part of the culture. That will be especially true during Asheville Beer Week, May 22-30. Its calendar will soon fill up with special tappings, beer dinners and more. Details: www.avlbeerweek.com. Beer Week ends with the fifth annual Beer City Festival, held on Roger McGuire Green at the Pack Square from 1 to 6 p.m. May 30. Tickets that don’t sell at area breweries will be sold online. Details: www.avlbeerweek.com/beer-city-festival.

With so many breweries offering run clubs these days, Asheville’s Race to the Taps event just makes sense. This series of 4-mile races begins and ends at area breweries, with the first kicking off at Highland Brewing on April 25 at 1 p.m. It will end with a post-race festival with live music, food trucks and beer. Details: www.racetothetaps.com.

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