On the grounds of the new Sierra Nevada brewery in Mills River, North Carolina, a sold-out crowd drank from some 90 breweries, with strong support from Asheville, North and South Carolina, and beyond. The region, with Asheville at the lead, is fast growing with dozens of microbrewers and, recently, big guns like Oskar Blue, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada opening second breweries in the area. Why the explosive growth? We asked the brewers, pourers, and festival-goers just what’s in the water in Asheville.
1. It's the Quality of Life
"We chose to come to Asheville because of the potential for amazing bike-pedestrian infrastructure, the quality of life, and the commitment to community here." – Susanne Hackett, community liaison, New Belgium Brewery
2. It's the Southern Hospitality
"If you walk around Asheville, there's a southern hospitality mixed with a progressive mentality where people are ready to move forward and grow the city." – Greg Garrison, co-owner, craft ice cream shop The Hop
3. It's the Great Outdoors
"Mountain culture seems to breed craft beer. There's something about the biking, rafting, and floating that makes you want good beer." – Luke Dickinson, head brewer, Wicked Weed Brewing
4. It's the Water
Asheville sits at the foot of one of the most protected watersheds in the nation – and it's soft like the Czech Republic." – Jeffrey Edel, tour tasting guide, Nantahala Brewery
5. It's a Southern Melting Pot
"A few other regions claim they have great water, but ours really can't be beat. There's something about the small towns of the south. They're supportive. Most people from the Asheville area aren't from here. They came for the lifestyle change, and we're all in it together." – Kelly Cubbin, co-owner, Southern Appalachian Brewery
6. It's Growing
"10 years ago, there wasn't anything downtown, and the collaborative beer scene just made downtown happen." – Matt Brosh, pouring for French Broad Brewery
7. … And Growing
"The huge new brewery infrastructure – from Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium – has forced us all to step up our game." – Dickinson, Wicked Weed Brewing
8. It's Got Great Distribution
There's good legislation that helps us to distribute regionally easily." – Scott Stuhr, brewer, Asheville Brewing Co.
9. It's a Collaborative Community
"There are 13 breweries in Asheville, and we all have our niche, working together and collaborating. That goes for all of North and South Carolina too. For all of us, the more the merrier." – Jess Reiser, owner, Burial Beer Co.