By Bobby Bush
If you’re a regular reader of this verbose Beer & Loafing column, it’ll probably come as
no surprise that I’ve become a big fan of Asheville. Once a hickey, backwards mountain
town, Asheville of the 90’s and beyond has become a city of art and entertainment without
all the snooty sophistication of a wanna-be metropolitan area like Charlotte.
Every night of the week, it seems, there’s something going on in Asheville. As if
beer wasn’t enough, there’s plenty of art galleries, theaters (including one showing strange
foreign films), salvage stores, eclectic restaurants and even a Mast General Store. And
there’s live music at clubs like Be Here Now, Almost Blue’s Basement, the new Grey
Eagle, Stella Blue, Jack of the Wood and many others. Check out
www.mountainxpress.com or www.wncw.org for an up-to-date list of entertainment
activities. Plus the city sponsors quite a few street festivals during the year, culminating
with the famed three day Bele Chere music extravaganza. And, here’s the part I like best,
there’s plenty of beer in Asheville.
Though he has no set tour schedule or tasting room, drop in on John Lyda and his
basement crew at micro Highland Brewing for a chat and a sample. His beers- in bottles
and kegs all over town -are among my favorites anywhere. Around the corner at street
level, you can’t go wrong with Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria. Over 40 tap handles,
pouring micros and imports, Barley’s is one of the oldest multi-beer taprooms in the state. You’ll always find an interesting selection and a friendly face behind the bar. Great
sandwiches, wraps and pizzas too.
Continuing northward on Biltmore Avenue, you’ll find Mellow Mushroom
Pizzeria & Taproom on your right. A pizza/pasta joint gone beer-crazy, the ‘Schroom is
part of a trio of NC restaurants- the others are in Chapel Hill and Boone -with siblings in
Georgia, Alabama and Colorado. With a long L-shaped bar boasting 24 taps of everything
from Anchor Steam to Weinhenstephaner and a respectable menu of bottled micros,
imports and domestics, this quaint place of colorful wall murals and unusual decor brings
beer to life. See for yourself at www.mellowmushroom.com.
Continuing on Biltmore as it becomes Merrimon, Asheville Pizza & Brewery
serves steaming pizza, second-run movies and house brewed beer. Originally known as
Two Moons Brew-N-View, the brewpub found new owners last year and a new lease on
life. There’s always a guest beer or two on tap, often a rare import, but it’s brewer Doug
Riley’s Pisgah Pale Ale, Shiva IPA, Rook Porter and others that keep the brewpub
hopping. From the bar, you can watch Doug brewing, then take beer and food to the
theater for an entertaining flick.
And back downtown, east on Patton Avenue, is an unassuming little rustic pub
called Jack of the Wood. Way in the back, behind bar and kitchen, is Jonas Rembert’s
domain. Known as Green Man Brewing, this little brewery makes some mighty fine
brews. Admittedly not a hop-head, Jonas prefers his Everyman’s Gold Cream Ale, Rat
Alley Red and old-style Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. To his deference, I prefer more
demonstrative ales like Jonas’ Green Man IPA and ESB. Green Man Porter splits the line,
posing a malty roasted robust body as counterpoint to suggestive hops profile. Mixed
drinks, single barrel scotches, liqueurs and live music many nights of the week. There are
few things more relaxing than listening to the mountain bluegrass strains of Sons of Ralph
while nursing a pint of that pungent IPA. This is what a neighborhood pub is suppose to
And I’m still discovering Asheville. The aforementioned Grey Eagle music venue
lost its lease in Black Mountain and moved west to Asheville. Great music (Clarence
“Gatemouth” Brown, John Cowan, Chuck Brodsky, Southern Culture On the Skids)
meets great beer with a wide selection of draft and bottled micros- sign up for their
mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Basement, beneath Almost Blue CD/LP
store, also has a respectable choice of draft and bottled beers to accompany a varying cast
of musical performers.
Yep, you’ll probably hear me say this again, soon, but Asheville is a extremely beer
(and music) friendly town. Check it out.
This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush