Exploring the Best Breweries in North Carolina: A Craft Beer Enthusiast’s Guide

Pursuing the best breweries in North Carolina? We’ve distilled our local knowledge to present breweries that define the heart of NC’s beer culture. Each stop on this list not only pours exceptional beer but also encapsulates the richness of its locale.

Whether you’re an IPA aficionado or stout supporter, begin your brewery exploration here, where community and quality converge.

Key Takeaways

  • Asheville, NC, nicknamed ‘Beer City USA’, boasts the highest number of breweries per capita in the US, with Highland Brewing Company as a pioneering force behind the city’s craft beer fame.
  • Charlotte’s craft beer scene is characterized by unique and award-winning breweries including NoDa Brewing Company, Resident Culture Brewing Company, and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, known for German-style beers.
  • Across North Carolina, the craft beer scene extends into the High Country and coastal regions with breweries like Booneshine Brewing Co., Blowing Rock Brewing Company, and Wrightsville Beach Brewery, each offering unique local flavors and community engagement.

Asheville’s Brewing Pioneers

Asheville, known as ‘Beer City USA’, is a major tourism magnet. Its vibrant craft beer scene is among the top five attractions, drawing numerous visitors each year. Asheville, with the highest number of breweries per capita in the United States, houses approximately 50 breweries.

Each contributes significantly to a thriving craft beer community that has expanded over the past decade, becoming a crucial part of Asheville’s tourism and economy. So, what’s the secret behind Asheville’s brewing success? Let’s rewind to the city’s brewing pioneers.

The story of Asheville’s craft beer scene begins with the Highland Brewing Company, the first craft brewery in the city. Despite facing skepticism due to North Carolina’s historical restrictions on breweries, Highland went on to shape the local beer culture.

The man behind this brewing revolution is Oscar Wong, revered as the ‘Godfather’ of ‘Beer City USA.’ Through his leadership, Highland Brewing has earned a multitude of accolades, including the title of the ‘South’s Best Brewery’ by Southern Living Magazine in 2018.

Highland Brewing Company: A Legacy of Craft

Established in 1994, Highland Brewing Company marked the renaissance of brewing in Asheville. The brewery started in a 12,000-square-foot basement with retrofitted dairy equipment, producing 6,500 barrels annually.

Today, Highland has expanded its operations, relocating to East Asheville and significantly increasing its brewing capacity. Under the leadership of Leah Wong Ashburn, the company has become a known regional player, distributing across several states.

When it comes to their beer offerings, Highland’s flagship beer, Gaelic Ale, stands out. This best-seller has been delighting beer enthusiasts for 28 years, underscoring Highland’s successful craft legacy.

As a nod to their beginnings, Highland Brewing Company has opened a new taproom in the S&W Market, reconnecting with downtown Asheville and enhancing the craft beer experience.

Wicked Weed Brewing: Innovation in Every Pint

Another brewing powerhouse in Asheville is Wicked Weed Brewing. Known for its diverse beer offerings, Wicked Weed has crafted a unique craft beer experience featuring:

  • Taprooms
  • A fine dining restaurant
  • The Brew Pub, located in downtown Asheville, which is the original site featuring a full restaurant, tap room, beer garden, bottle shop, and a 15-barrel brewery.

But the innovation doesn’t stop there. The Funkatorium is Wicked Weed Brewing’s dedicated taproom for experimenting with and serving sour and funky fermented brews.

This approachable atmosphere ensures that their locations, including the flagship brewpub, are always welcoming to walk-in guests.

Charlotte’s Craft Beer Vanguard

Wooden Robot Brewery's taproom with a variety of craft beers

Leaving behind Asheville’s mountainous brews, we make our way to Charlotte’s vibrant cityscape. Charlotte is a hub for creative craft breweries, each boasting unique and award-winning beers, making its craft beer scene an exciting adventure.

Among the many breweries in the city, NoDa Brewing Company stands out with its extensive selection of beers characterized by their creative and diverse flavor profiles.

Adding to the city’s vibrant beer culture, Resident Culture Brewing Company captures the essence of Charlotte’s craft beer scene with its highly-praised hazy IPAs and a welcoming environment that includes a spacious taproom and outdoor seating area.

Not to be left behind, Heist Brewery offers:

  • Innovative brewing techniques
  • A strong culinary program
  • A distinctive dining and drinking atmosphere
  • An elevated craft beer experience in Charlotte.

Wooden Robot Brewery: Farmhouse Flavors Meet Urban Edge

One of the breweries that has made a name for itself in Charlotte’s craft beer scene is Wooden Robot Brewery. Renowned for their Belgian-inspired brews, Wooden Robot has delightfully surprised beer aficionados with its hugely popular beer, Good Morning Vietnam, a coffee vanilla blonde ale.

But the innovation doesn’t stop there. They also offer an assortment of distinctive beers such as ‘What He’s Having,’ an American IPA, and ‘Overachiever,’ a New England/Hazy Pale Ale.

Located in the city’s original South End, Wooden Robot Brewery offers:

  • A brewery
  • A taproom
  • A beer garden
  • A kitchen
  • A coffee bar

Making it a one-stop destination for craft beer enthusiasts and disc golf lovers alike, Mint St in Mt Holly has it all, and just a short distance away, you’ll find Polk St offering even more entertainment options.

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery: German Tradition in the Queen City

If you’re a fan of traditional German-style beers, you won’t want to miss Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Committed to the Reinheitsgebot, this brewery crafts its beers exclusively with:

  • water
  • malt
  • hops
  • yeast

This provides a pure and authentic taste of Germany in the heart of Charlotte.

But it’s not just about the beer at Olde Mecklenburg. The brewery also features a family-friendly Biergarten that offers a German-inspired setting for guests to relax and enjoy their traditional beers, making it a must-visit destination for any beer lover.

The High Country’s Hops Haven

Bidding farewell to the cityscape, we now venture into the mountainous landscapes of North Carolina’s High Country. Here, amidst the breathtaking scenery, breweries like Booneshine Brewing Co. and Blowing Rock Brewing Company have cemented their place in the local beer scene.

These breweries, with their unique brews and inviting environments, offer a different perspective of North Carolina’s craft beer scene, one that’s as refreshing as the mountain air.

Booneshine Brewing Co., in particular, has become an integral part of the High Country beer scene. Its East Coast IPA has been instrumental in bolstering Booneshine Brewing Co.’s popularity among craft beer aficionados.

Not far behind in stature, Blowing Rock Brewing Company stands as a prominent fixture in the High Country’s hoppy haven, boasting a picturesque mountain setting for its micro-brewery experience.

Booneshine Brewing Co.: Elevating the High Country Beer Scene

Booneshine Brewing Co. is more than just a brewery; it’s a beacon of community spirit. Committed to their mission to make Boone shine, the brewery enhances the community’s vibrancy through its beers and events.

Booneshine has become a local favorite, boasting a large beer garden and regularly hosting community events at the Hyde Taphouse Grill on Tryon St, where guests can enjoy craft beers in a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere.

Blowing Rock Brewing Company: Artisanal Brews and Hospitality

Blowing Rock Brewing Company isn’t just about brewing excellent beers; it’s about creating an unforgettable experience. The brewery integrates its operations with its Ale House and Inn to offer guests a comprehensive craft beer and lodging experience.

The Ale House Restaurant provides all-day dining in a unique setting that includes fifteen tap beers showcasing the company’s small-batch brews.

But the appeal of Blowing Rock Brewing Company doesn’t end with its beers. The guest rooms at the Blowing Rock Inn offer modern accommodations, ensuring visitors can relax and unwind after a day of exploring the artisanal brews and hospitality the brewery has to offer.

Coastal Craftsmanship

Departing from the mountains, we journey towards the coastal city of Wilmington. Here, the sea breeze carries the scent of hops, and the coastal beer scene thrives with breweries like Front Street Brewery and Wrightsville Beach Brewery.

These breweries embody the spirit of North Carolina’s coast, with their brews reflecting the salty sea air and vibrant coastal community.

Front Street Brewery, established in 1995, is a landmark in downtown Wilmington, located just off Main St and near the Morehead St Suite, as well as close to Tremont Ave Suite and Turner Ave. As the first brewpub in the city, it has a rich history and a diverse selection of beers that cater to both connoisseurs and casual drinkers.

Not too far away, Wrightsville Beach Brewery dedicates a portion of its proceeds from their rotating ‘Beer of the Month’ to support local non-profits, showcasing their commitment to the local community.

Front Street Brewery: Wilmington’s Craft Beer Cornerstone

Front Street Brewery was established in 1995, becoming the first brewpub in downtown Wilmington. Over the years, it’s become a notable landmark for both local residents and visitors, and it’s no surprise why.

The brewery boasts a selection of traditional ales and lagers, providing a taste suited to diverse palates.

But Front Street Brewery isn’t just about the beer. It’s situated in a historic downtown location, making every visit a walk down memory lane. Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or a history buff, Front Street Brewery offers an experience that’s as rich in flavor as it is in history.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery: Beers that Embody the Shoreline

Located near Wilmington’s scenic coastline, Wrightsville Beach Brewery embodies the spirit of the shoreline in every pint. What sets this brewery apart is its strong commitment to supporting local non-profits.

Each month, a portion of the proceeds from their rotating ‘Beer of the Month’ goes towards supporting a local charity. In December, this generosity is further enhanced, with 11% of all beer proceeds being donated to all 11 of their partnered non-profits.

This commitment to community isn’t just about donations; it’s also about creating a welcoming space for locals and visitors alike. So, whether you’re sipping on a pint of their monthly brew or just enjoying the coastal atmosphere, you’re helping to make a difference in the local community.

Sipping Through the Seasons

As our exploration of North Carolina’s craft beer scene unfolds, we experience the delight of sipping through the seasons. Seasonal brews often reflect the use of local ingredients, offering unique flavors that change with the seasons.

Breweries like Mother Earth Brewing and Free Range Brewing have mastered the art of seasonal brewing, capturing the essence of each season in their unique brews.

Mother Earth Brewing in particular, has been recognized for its environmental efforts with a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. This sustainable approach to brewing is reflected in their beers, which showcase the rich bounty of local ingredients.

Similarly, Free Range Brewing is committed to using 95% locally sourced ingredients, fostering community through various activities.

Mother Earth Brewing: Sustainability and Seasonality

A visit to Mother Earth Brewing is more than just a beer tasting; it’s an exploration of sustainable brewing practices. The brewery has received a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, a testament to its commitment to environmental sustainability.

From using solar energy and recycling products to conserving water and partnering with farmers to grow carbon-reducing crops, every aspect of their operations is designed to minimize environmental impact.

But sustainability isn’t Mother Earth Brewing’s only forte. They’re also known for their flagship beers such as the Weeping Willow Wit and Sisters of the Moon IPA. So, whether you’re a beer enthusiast or an eco-warrior, a visit to Mother Earth Brewing promises a satisfying and sustainable experience.

Free Range Brewing: Local Ingredients, Community Spirit

In Charlotte, Free Range Brewing is making waves with its commitment to locally sourced ingredients and community engagement. The brewery is known for its creative offerings, which include an ever-changing selection of beers that reflect the seasonality of local ingredients.

Located at 2320 N Davidson St, Free Range Brewing offers more than just beer. It’s a place where the community comes together, where local flavors are celebrated, and where every sip tells a story of the seasons and the spirit of Charlotte.

Innovative Taprooms and Beer Gardens

Often, the enjoyment of beer is not just about the brew itself, but also about the ambiance of where it’s savored. Across North Carolina, breweries like BearWaters Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. are creating captivating outdoor spaces and unique taproom experiences.

These spaces not only serve as a place to enjoy a pint but also as a testament to the innovative spirit of North Carolina’s craft beer scene.

Some breweries with scenic outdoor seating in North Carolina include:

  • BearWaters Brewing, with locations in Maggie Valley and Canton
  • New Belgium Brewing, with a tap room overlooking the French Broad River in Asheville
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., with an open-air amphitheater and wooded backdrop in Mills River

New Belgium Brewing: A Taproom with a View

Located in Asheville, New Belgium Brewing offers more than just great beer; it’s also a place to enjoy scenic views of the French Broad River. The brewery’s hilltop campus includes:

  • Taproom
  • Meadow
  • Event Center
  • Rooftop Bar

These areas offer limited-release beers and live music.

But the taproom isn’t just about the beer and the view. It’s also about creating a welcoming environment for everyone, including our four-legged friends. The Brew Pub features two pet-friendly outdoor patios, ensuring that everyone in the family, including the furry members, can enjoy a day out at the brewery.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: A Craft Beer Destination

Over at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Mills River location, beer lovers are treated to an open-air amphitheater with a wooded backdrop and expansive seating area. This outdoor space hosts free live music events on Saturdays and Sundays, featuring regional musicians.

Guests can enjoy the performances while lounging on the lawn and sipping on beverages from the converted milk truck bar or the Back Porch taps.

It’s a unique experience that blends craft beer, music, and the great outdoors, making Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. a must-visit destination for any craft beer enthusiast or food truck lover.

Summary

From the mountainous brews of Asheville to the coastal craftsmanship in Wilmington, we’ve tasted our way through North Carolina’s vibrant craft beer scene.

We’ve discovered the artistry, innovation, and community spirit that pour out of each brewery, and we’ve seen how these local breweries contribute to the state’s thriving community and economy. Whether you’re a seasoned beer enthusiast or a casual sipper eager to explore, North Carolina’s craft beer scene offers something for everyone.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your pint glass, and let’s raise a toast to the craft beer scene of North Carolina!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many breweries are in asheville?

Asheville has more than 50 brewery locations, offering a lot for beer lovers and casual enthusiasts alike.

How many breweries in north carolina?

There are more than 420 breweries and brewpubs in North Carolina, making it the state with the largest number of craft breweries in the American South.

What are some noteworthy breweries in Asheville?

Check out Highland Brewing Company and Wicked Weed Brewing, two of the top breweries in Asheville. Cheers!

What makes Charlotte’s craft beer scene unique?

Charlotte’s craft beer scene is unique due to the creative craft breweries like NoDa Brewing Company, Resident Culture Brewing Company, and Heist Brewery, which offer award-winning and distinct beers. Cheers to that!

What can I expect when visiting New Belgium Brewing in Asheville?

When you visit New Belgium Brewing in Asheville, you can expect a great experience with scenic views, live music events, and the chance to taste limited-release beers. Enjoy the lively atmosphere and unique brews!