Recently, I made my second trip to the Beer Mecca of the East Coast, Asheville, North Carolina. Despite still seemingly just scratching the surface of the region's craft beer scene, it was a heck of a beercation.
About three hours' drive from Columbia, SC, Asheville is more or less tucked in a valley surrounded by federally-protected mountainous forest land. It also serves a major highway junction, linking Interstate 26 (which, despite being an East-West highway, tends to overall travel much more North-South from Tennessee all the way to Charleston, SC) to Interstate 40 (which runs through several major cities while traversing almost the entire width of the United States).
To say that Asheville has developed an eclectic community over the years would be a significant understatement, with a rich music scene developing that has seen more mainstream exposure over the last decade from groups ranging from the Beastie Boys to the Avett Brothers.
With this eclectic community came a love of craft beer, resulting in a craft beer boom that gave Asheville the distinction of having the most breweries per capita inside its borders, with nearly two dozen breweries calling the city of Asheville itself home, to say nothing of several more in nearby areas like West Asheville and DOZENS more inhabiting the region. As I said, I just scratched the surface of the Asheville beer scene. Even on a second visit.
But before we get to the beer in the next installment, I hope you'll allow me a brief foodie moment. On the way into town, I stopped at the 12 Bones Smokehouse location south of Asheville in Arden, NC. Both of their locations (both Arden AND the one in town) are lunch-only, so I made a point to hit this before my New Belgium tour. Frankly, I could have gotten damn near anything on the menu, but settled on the special of a rib meat and Brie sandwich (ribs are a particular favorite of mine) with sides of green beans and macaroni and cheese. Again, wanting to try EVERYTHING, I also got a side of pulled pork.
Now, the rib meat came with their signature Blueberry Chipotle sauce. Admittedly, despite this order, I was a tad leery of the sauce, fearing it could be too sweet. I could not have been more wrong--I LOVED this sauce. It had a very subtle sweetness while also bringing a nice-but-not-overpowering heat. The pulled pork (with tomato-based BBQ sauce in the little cup) was also terrific, and the mac and cheese was just about the creamiest I've ever had, and perfectly flavored and seasoned. A very solid opening to my beercation!
Coming up: New Belgium's beer tour, a return to Highland, and Saturday afternoon's South Slope adventures!