What’s Behind Asheville, North Carolina’s Huge Success as a Craft Beer Hub? You’ll Have to Visit to Find Out
, 2022-12-02 10:44:53,
When you come to Asheville, North Carolina, it’s easy to see what draws people to the city. Located at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. For those who like to hike, bike, fish, and paddle, Asheville is the place to be. And then there’s the reason that more and more people are coming to Asheville, both to visit and stay. Beer. It’s a huge business here, with breweries bringing in an estimated $935 million to the community.
With more than 60 breweries and taprooms in and around this city of 94,000, Asheville has one of the highest breweries per capita ratios in the entire U.S. That’s about 47 more breweries than in 2014, when Men’s Journal wrote that Asheville was the “next craft beer capital.”
What makes this city so attractive to brewers and beer lovers—and continues to fuel its growth as a world-class beer destination? A recent trip to Asheville gave us the chance to talk to some of the folks at the forefront of the beer and tourism industries here. As it turns out, it’s not just something in the water. It is the water.
Highland Brewing Co.
“You know why the water is so good?” Leah Wong Ashburn, President and CEO of Highland Brewing, asks. “Because we get it first.”
Ashburn is kidding, but the Highland brewery is high in the hills of East Asheville, near to the city’s primary water sources—the North Fork and Bee Tree reservoirs. As the City of Asheville’s Water Resources Department says, the city has “one of the best sources of water in the country.”
To get to Highland, you take a winding road to the top of the hill. It truly is a fitting location for the name. However, the name came long before there was ever a brewery on a hill. In fact, the name of the brewery was a nod to Asheville’s Scottish heritage and its original location was a basement.
Founded by Oscar Wong in 1994, Highland is Asheville’s first craft brewery. Wong and his family had moved to Charlotte from the Northeast. Every weekend, they came down to Asheville to experience its maker culture. When it came time for retirement, Oscar Wong was looking for something to do in the city. It turned out that brewing was the perfect choice. Ashburn, Oscar’s daughter, says that her mother used to joke, “He could get a job or a hobby, but he needed to get out of the house.”
When Highland opened, it was a…
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