Folks often ask me which local beers I like to drink. The answer is that there are too many to name — and it depends on the season. Like lots of beer lovers, I tend to crave crisp, light-flavored beers in the summer. These types of beers — such as India Pale Ales, Wheat beers and Kolschs — offer cooling refreshment to beat the heat.
To celebrate the season, I’ve chosen one easy-drinking summer brew from each of Asheville’s breweries that I think is worth a taste. In alphabetical order, I offer you:
Asheville Brewing Co.’s Fire Escape Ale: This beer has gained such a loyal local following that it’s now one of the brews on nonstop rotation. This jalapeño-infused ale will heat you up to cool you down. Just this week, several restaurants and bars around town grabbed up kegs to sell. It’s always available at the two ABC locales: 675 Merrimon Ave. and 77 Coxe Ave.
Craggie Brewing Co.’s Toubab Brewe is a Bavarian-style Zwickel Beer (unfiltered). Toubab is a crisp lager with just a touch of hops flavor. Because it’s only 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, this is a brew you can imbibe liberally while listening to local music at Craggie’s Public House (197 Hilliard Ave.)
French Broad Brewery’s Gateway Kölsch is an awesome summer beer — it’s a German style ale that drinks like a lager. Crisp with a sweet finish, this beer can be found in the brewery’s tasting room and all around town on draft as well as in bottles. (101 Fairview Road).
Green Man Brewing’s ESB (Extra Special Bitter) is one of the brewery’s signature beers. In fact, it’s been brewed almost continually since 1997. The beer’s toasted malt flavor makes it a classic example of the bitter style, which is fairly mild. The ESB can be found at Green Man’s tasting room at 23 Buxton Ave. and on draft around town.
Highland Brewing Co’s Cattail Peak Wheat is brewed with all-organic grains (named, like many of Highland’s seasonals, for a local mountain). Hibiscus gives the beer a tangy sweetness. Cattail prevails in bottles and on tap all over WNC. Visit the tasting room for fresh wheat at 12 Old Charlotte Highway.
Lexington Ave. Brewing just released a Raspberry witbier, which is light and not too sweet — an easy drinking brew. If you’re not into fruit beers, I’d go for their American Pale Ale (APA), which has some bitter hoppiness without being overwhelming. Currently, the LAB’s brews are only available at their gastro pub at 39 N. Lexington Ave.
Oyster House Brewing Co’s Dirty Blonde Ale is a light, low-alcohol thirst quencher (four percent ABV). The brewer claims it’s a perfect beer to drink while mowing the lawn. Get your Dirty Blonde at The Lobster Trap restaurant where the brewery is located, at 35 Patton Ave in downtown Asheville.
Pisgah Brewing Co. recently brewed both an American wheat and a Kolsch. Both are light and crisp, though I prefer the Kolsch. Pisgah plans to stop making the Endless Summer as soon as the stock runs out. The new wheat will be brewed on a more consistent basis. Look for a strawberry version of it in the next few weeks. Pisgah’s seasonal Red Devil Belgian, brewed with cherries and raspberries, is one of my favorite summer brews, though the most recent batch is all gone. However, I hear the brewery will brew more Red Devil soon. Look for the wheat at Pisgah’s taproom and on draft around WNC. (150 Eastside Drive, Black Mountain).
Wedge Brewing Co.’s flowery but strong Hellsbock Lager may be among my favorite new local summer brews. It’s a clean golden concoction brewed with Hallertau Mittelfruh hops (which are highly prized). At 7.1 percent ABV, this is a summer sipper. Available only at the brewery at 125B Roberts St. in the River Arts District.
A few other summery WNC-brewed beers to try are Catawba Valley Brewing’s Farmer Ted’s Farmhouse Cream Ale, Nantahala Brewing Company’s and Southern Appalachian Brewery’s IPAs and Heinzelmannchen Brewery’s Ancient Days Honey Blonde Ale.
Happy summer imbibing!