As you probably know, Sierra Nevada is one of the pioneers of craft beer in America. They pretty much put pale ales and Cascade hops on the map when it was founded in Chico, CA in 1980. If there was a Mt. Rushmore of craft beer, founder Ken Grossman would be on it.
With the craft beer explosion in America, it was time for Sierra Nevada to expand and create a brewery experience fitting of the Sierra Nevada brand and the craft beer traveler. Thus, they looked to the mountains of North Carolina for their second location.
Located 18 miles south of Asheville (appox. 25 min. drive) and built next to Asheville Regional Airport, the second location opened in 2014. The new brewery is a sort of beer amusement park that includes a guided tour, a self-guided tour, full-service restaurant, merch store, concert amphitheater, flower garden, hiking trails and expansive outdoor lounge area. If you been to Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA, it’s similar in layout and amenities.
For the 90-minute guided tour and tasting, it’s best to book way in-advance since the tours are small and become fully-booked quickly. Although, I was able to get stand-by and fill in for a no-show.
You’ll get the usual brewery tour information — a history of the brewery, a review of the process, a walk through the tank room, a lesson in hops and look into the massive bottling and canning area. At the end, you get a full rundown of their most popular 8-10 beer with 3 oz. samples and a free bottle opener.
If your visit is a spur of the moment thing, the self-guide tour is perfectly suitable. You’ll see the museum cases of bottles and other beer artifacts and a look down into the tank room and bottling line.
Then the Tap Room/Restaurant is opened to 9 or 10pm, which you can do a 4-sample flight for $6. Along with their flagship, year-round beer, they serve a few oddities, one-offs, vintage kegs and brewery exclusives. The merch and bottle shop has a few barrel age beers in 750ml bottles that are hard to find. I walked away with a Chocolate Cherry stout and a Scotch ale aged Islay Fog barrels.
Since you have to drive there from Asheville, you can do a 2 or 3 flights and be able to get back safely. The pours are small about 2.5oz. each, so you can check out their extensive line-up. Their were Sierra Navada beers I never knew existed, so definitely sample something new and different.
Whether you plan your visit or just discovering it, the place is a must for any beer fan, craft or not. The outdoor area is perfect for lounging with a pint. The whole design of the space is a retro industrial modern concoction with a lot of wood and brass and all environmental sustainable.
All this and the beer was awesome. Here’s what I sampled over three hours:
- Pale Ale
- Keller Pilsner
- Southern Gothic Session Pilsner
- Hoptimum Triple IPA
- Torpedo Extra IPA
- Sidecar Orange Pale Ale
- Ovila Abbey White Ale
- All Systems Gose
- Audition Double IPA
- Know Good IPA
- Beer For Drinking Golden Ale
- Close Call Kölsch
- NC Saison
- Tropical Torpedo
- Summerfest Czech Pilsner