At the final stop of Beer Camp Across America festival, in Mills River, we learn firsthand why North Carolina has quietly become a new great American beer hub, with over 100 breweries in the state. If the sheer number or quality of breweries doesn't cement this region as a craft beer destination, look to the big three who have decided to make a second home here — Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and, next year, New Belgium. All together, it's a regional beer industry that will draw an estimated 800,000 new tourists a year. And if the Asheville Brewers Alliance's Tater Ridge collaboration with Sierra Nevada — a Scotch Ale made with local sweet potatoes — is any sign, the region is full of innovation. At the festival, we sampled dozens of beers from North Carolina. Here are 10* of our favorites.
*Technically, 9 beers and one beer-infused ice cream.
Green Man Leaf Blower
The Brewery: Green Man, in downtown Asheville
The Beer: Leaf Blower seasonal amber
Tasting Notes: Green Man's brewer told us he created this 'in-between' seasonal for late summer, when fall beers start to roll out, but it's just too damn hot to want to drink them. This beer is hopped with whole leaf Vanguard hops, which are subtle American hops (a close cousin to German's ubiquitous Hallertau hops), and as such they bring an earthy nose and bitterness that balances this low-alcohol, malt forward beer. As advertised, it's a beer you'll want to reach for on that not-quite-cool September day, where, tired of light summer brews, you can make your transition to the more malty beers that are abound in October.