Asheville is home to ten local microbreweries, more per capita than any other city in the U.S.
The Highland Brewery, Asheville’s first, produces a variety of bottled and draft beers that is sold in bars and stores in seven Southeastern states.
Oscar Wong, credited with starting the Asheville craft beer movement, ended his career as a nuclear waste engineer and opened The Highland Brewery in 1994.
What started out as a way for Wong to save money in college grew into a hobby after graduation. But the one-time nuclear waste engineer never expected to be a trailblazer in a micro-brewery industry that would eventually put Asheville on the map with the title of “Beer City, USA.”
“It took eight years to break even and my wife, who used to think I was a smart guy, was really worried,” says Wong, about opening the Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina.
The booming brewing industry has been a perfect complement to an area that is already popular with tourists and boasts a cutting edge culinary scene. Situated in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, food lovers and artists. The area hosts more than 3 Million overnight visitors per year.
Lexington Avenue Brewery (LaB) is one of Asheville's ten microbreweries and also serves locally sourced gastropub fare.
The Asheville Brewing Company has been serving up suds since 1998. Demand is so high for their ten varieties of craft beer that owner Mike Rangel, plans to open a third location just to keep up.
Dodie Stephens, Senior Communications Manager with the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates the breweries and brewery-related business help boost the $2 billion per year tourism industry in Western North Carolina. Stephens says the breweries and the thriving culinary industry work together to promote each other – a relationship benefits all Asheville businesses.
Step aside St. Louis and Milwaukee. It seems a small mountain city in Western North Carolina has stolen the crown as the King of Beer. For three years running, Asheville has been named “Beer City USA” in the Examiner's on-line poll.