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.
Southern Appalachian Brewery Sour Blond
The Brewery: Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville, NC, about 30 miles south of Asheville
The Beer: Sour Blonde (a special release)
Tasting Notes: This tart, but complex brew immediately — and impressively — reminded us of Russian River's Temptation, the coveted sour blonde that is aged in chardonnay barrels. While this release had similar qualities — particularly a wonderful, balanced tartness — it didn't have that wood finish and certain je ne sais quois you get from that wood having soaked in chardonnay. Still, we didn't hesitate to go back for seconds of this special release.