The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars
North Carolina

 

Asheville

Raleigh

 

Road to Asheville

Asheville is the crown jewel in Western North Carolina's burgeoning brewery scene.
Asheville, population about 85,000, is home to 16 breweries (probably more by now), and as many beer bars. More are located within a short driving radius.
We had every intention of going to more places on our three-night field trip.
We found Frog Level but it was too early.
You need to pay admission to Biltmore Estate to get into Biltmore Brewing.
Altamont, Thirsty Monk Brewing, Headwaters, and Highland didn't open 'til 4:00. By then the car was going home for the day.
We did manage to log 11 brewpubs, 5 beer bars, and a retailer.
More will come on our next trip.
Ironically, the guy drinking next to us at the Mellow Mushroom was the brewer at Highland. We exchanged cards. (He was a mite pissed...we went to every place in town but his.)
We saw ads for bars with 30-40 taps, but ...so much beer, so little time.

 

 

A Questor's Guide to Beer Drinking in Asheville

1. Have a map, and a plan.
With 13 breweries (as of 2014) in Asheville proper, and many great beer bars from which to dispense these beers, one must have a plan.
There is a useful
guidebook with maps that can be picked up at many watering holes in town.
Plan your stops geographically, so you can make as many stops as possible in one area.
Note: Ask around...there are many more good beer bars than those listed in the guidebook!

2. Many of the breweries serve just beer. Remember to plan accordingly for your non-drinking friends, or your compatriots that prefer distilled spirits.

3. Don't neglect to take as many beers home as possible...that's why cars have trunks and trucks have beds.
There are a number of great bottle shops in Asheville where beers can be purchased singly.
They also sell beer in grocery stores.

4. Check on times.
Most of the microbreweries don't seem to open until between 2:00 and 4:00 PM. Check the websites of the breweries and plan accordingly.

 

 

Ben's Tune Up
195 Hilliard Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 424-7580

Ben's Tune Up is a bar right next to Hi-Wire Brewery on Hilliard Avenue.
It doesn't look like much from the front, but I guess they are still rehabbing it.
Ben's offers a draft lineup of 10 beers, all of which rotate.
While 13 other locations in Asheville brew beer, Ben's brews sake...that's right...sake;
Japanese rice wine.
The sake is sold by the glass, the carafe, or the flight, and comes in different flavors.
While Ben's is a little rough on the outside, the inside is pretty cool, sort of Asheville's version of a tiki bar.
If you prefer a libation stronger than beer, stop in Ben's Tune Up while your beer drinking friends are in Hi-Wire.

 

Creekside Taphouse
8 Beverly Rd
Asheville , NC 28805
phone: (828) 575-2800

Creekside Taphouse sits about 10 minutes east of downtown Asheville.
Creekside offers 20 taps, many of them locals.
There are also about 26 bottles and cans.
There is a dining room in the front of the venue.
Beyond that, the L-shaped bar seats 8 folks. The barroom also houses a number of community tables, plus a pool table.
As the customer strolls farther back, he or she will pass through a room with pinball and other arcade games.

On the evening of our visit, most of the action was outside on the large deck.
Below the deck, next to the babbling brook from which the bar derives its name, was a volleyball court, and a cornhole area.
The Creekside Taphouse was a relaxing yet vibrant place to spend an evening outside on the summer solstice, drinking, eating, and listening to bluegrass music.

 

 

The Barleycorn
697 Haywood Rd.
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 774-5598

The Barleycorn is a gastropub on the east end of the Haywood Road corridor in West Asheville.
In their own words, The Barleycorn "is a neighborhood joint with global influences...The Barleycorn takes pub grub to the next level. "
The bar seats about a dozen customers, with room for many more at a large indoor dining area.
As it was a pleasant evening, we opted to move outside after a beer at the bar.
Juniper, the mixlologist and beer maven, and Betts, our bartender, were extremely knowledgeable, and helpful with our Quest.
The Barleycorn offers 16 taps and 4 bottles for the macros.
The taps included many locals, including a Twin Leaf Luminosity Tripel, and a Green Man Experimental Hop beer.
I was not disappointed with my vertical kebab, and would love to return.

 

 

Universal Joint
784 Haywood Road
Asheville , NC 28806
phone: (828) 505-7262

Universal Joint is a beer bar in the Haywood Road corridor of West Asheville.
The bar seats about 10, with much more room at tables in the barroom.
There is another dining area inside, as well as an attractive outdoor dining patio.
The taps number 16, most of them from local breweries.
The crowd was friendly and the bartender helpful.
Universal Joint has a number of sister locations throughout the South...some called Universal Joint, some not.

 

 

Barley's Taproom & Pizzaria
42 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
Phone:(828) 255-0504

Barley's Taproom is located in the heart of downtown Asheville.
The draft selection consists of 58 taps on two floors. A bottle list numbering about 60 is also offered.
The building, dating from the 1920's, once housed an appliance store, and has been enjoyed as Barley's since 1994.
Barley's offers more to do than just drink.
The venue has live music, no cover, 3 or 4 nights a week.
The upstairs contains 4 regulation pool tables, and dart boards.
Barley's accolades include “Best Taproom in the South” bySouthern Draught Beer News “Top Tap in the South” by Celebrator Beer Magazine.
Highland Brewing Co. (Asheville's first craft brewer) began in the basement of Barley's, making Barley's the cradle of Asheville's craft beer revolution.

For beer, billiards, darts, or music, Barley's should be on the list for any Questor visiting Asheville.

 

Pack's Tavern
20 S Spruce St ,
Asheville , NC 28801
(828) 225-6944

Pack's Tavern is located in the middle of Asheville's Pack Square Park.
The building was constructed in 1907 and, at various times, has supplied Asheville with lumber, auto parts, and barbeque.
During Prohibition, secret passages underneath the building supplied the locals with illegal booze.
Now on to the beer.
Pack's mission is " to debut new creations, feature limited quantity selections, and to make available the most sought after beers and breweries. "

The long straight bar seats about 20 patrons, and there are many tables, booths, and community tables.
Our bartender, Mike, was extremely helpful in providing information about Pack's beers and Asheville in general.

Pack's offers 40 taps on two floors, and about 20 bottle selections.
Pack's tavern is an excellent stop with which to begin your beer tour of Asheville.

 

 

Mellow Mushroom
50 Broadway Street  
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 236-9800

Mellow Mushroom is a chain of beer and pizza restaurants with numerous stores in 15 states...chiefly in the South.
Mellow Mushroom's mission statement is to "provide you with an experience filled with colorful art, eclectic music, and food that comforts your soul."
Mellow Mushroom's Asheville location is a very large venue located downtown.
There is seating for about 200 on the patio. Inside is Pizza motif; large open center with many tables and a booth area on the right. The side opposite has a long bar with several TVs.
Questors will immediately note that Mellow Mushroom has 74 beers on tap.
The whole set-up strives to be quirky and artsy, and they seem to be suceeding.
Promotions include Trivia Night, Bingo Night, and a Beer Club.

 

 

The Bier Garden
46 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
828-285-0002

The Bier Garden is a restaurant in an upscale area of Asheville's downtown shopping district.
Their signs say fine dining but actually this is a sports bar. Very large, with spacious seating areas as well as small nooks, there are table games and more than 15 TV's...including a 15-foot screen.
There are 30 beers on tap, which are served by the pint, liter, or pitcher.
The bottle list numbers about 200.

 

 

Thirsty Monk
92 Patton Avenue  
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 254-5470

Thirsty Monk bills itself as "Asheville's Premier Beer Bar" with 62 constantly rotating taps.
One satisfied patron was quoted as saying that Thirsty Monk was "drinking made easy."
Located right across the street from Jack in the Wood, Thirsty Monk has a second location in South Asheville.
I wish I could remember more about this place.
I do recall that the beers were reletively expensive for Asheville.
Thirsty Monk has two other locations.

 

Jack of the Wood
95 Patton Avenue  
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 398-1520

Jack of the Wood is a beer bar in downtown Asheville that used to be the home of the Green Man Brewery. The brewery moved to larger facilities and now the bar has 20 taps, primarily local draft beer, with a few guest taps. They also offer Green Man British-Style Ales which are now brewed a few blocks from the pub. One can take a beer out to a chair on the front sidewalk and watch the Friday night "parade" on the busy street: vintage cars, motorcycles and some of the stranger local denizens.

 

 

 

 

Raleigh Beer Garden
614 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 324-3415

What a place! Small and unassuming from the street, this beer bar is destined to become one of America's top beer destinations with 376 taps and a décor that is instantly comfortable. The ground floor, with outdoor seating, padded seat booths, inviting wooden tables and a striking bar features the beers of North Carolina.
The second floor presents the beers of the rest of the world. The rooftop, closed on our visit, features 12 assorted taps.

Open for only a year, the rough hewn wooden décor, the tree in the front bar, the music that sounds like a local band is playing on the second floor, the nooks and crannies and the variety of spaces make this a fun place to explore. Bark on tree planks form the bar surface on the second floor where there are two tv's that do not come close to dominating a room where beer is and should be the focal point.
Two large flat screens list the 200+ drafts in rotating screens, complete with price and portion information. The wall behind the bar is filled with a dazzling array of taps, arranged of necessity in a random order.

The exterior walls are 60% glass that folds back in accordion fashion to render the bar as close to an open air bar as you will find this side of Key West.
The abundance of glass obviates the need for other adornments and the view they offered on this 60 degree January afternoon was an endearing view of downtown Raleigh.
The ceiling is an open industrial style that complements the rough wood interior. There is not a bad seat in the place.

There is no coherent statement one can make about 376 taps except to say that's a lottadamnbeer. Much of the building space is given over to housing the beer and the works required to deliver 376 different choices to your glass. Have a look at the tap list https://www.theraleighbeergarden.com/ and fantasize your visit.
On our visit I had four different beers, each one better than the one before. The menu is limited to sandwiches, pizzas and salads and the usual appetizers, which included a beer battered pretzel that was interesting but not necessary.

I tried to think of a bar that I liked better than the Beer Garden.
I couldn't.
There may be one but it did not come to mind.
Raleigh has become a nice little beer town and Raleigh Beer Garden is a must stop if you ever get close to Raleigh.

 

 

 

 

Flying Saucer Draft Emporium
328 W Morgan St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 821-7468

If you're going to be anywhere near Raleigh, NC, say Savannah or Baltimore, you have got to stop at the
Flying Saucer. With beer, brats, and beer goddesses it scores the beer bar hat trick.
First, the beer. There is a large blackboard that heralds the new arrivals on draught, but that is just the tip of the iceberg that has about 75 quality taps and a like number of different bottles. That includes a large selection of Belgian style ales and lambics as well as the usual array of beer styles. You can choose from six beer samples, including one with NC beers only, or you can build your own sampler of any five 5 oz. drafts for $10.
Brewfusions are a specialty. Local beers include Carolina, Foothills, Highlands, Cottonwood, Duck Rabbit, French Broad and Triangle.The brats are great. Try brat nachos; stay away from the brat with mayo. You'll find really good bar food here. You'll also find beer and cheese pairings.
Beer and brats are served by beer goddesses. Their scoop necked bare midriff shorts say so. They do not lie. The skirts they wear would be obscene on a nude beach, the white knee high bride's hose complete with ribbons topped by bare thigh up to the goddess' bottom will make you say, “Huh” to the conversation everytime she passes by. Must see beer servers!