I think one of the things I love most about NC is the amazing amount of craft breweries that open their doors and serve beer in bars actually within the breweries. I don't think, sadly, that this is something that does or could ever happen in the UK with our many licensing laws, which is a shame as it’s a fantastic idea. Small independent breweries opening their doors and selling their beers in the very place they are made.
Two of my favourites that I have come across are Frog Level in Waynesville and Wicked Weed in Asheville.
Down at Frog Level, so named by Waynesville locals because of its low-lying location by the river, or the "frog level" when the area flooded, the newbies at Frog Level Breweries have been making craft beer for the last two and a half years. I'm learning fast that what we think of as IPA in the UK and what our state side cousins call IPA are two very different things! It's pretty hard to find a brew under 5% down here, but I'm quickly hooked on their Lillys Cream Boy Ale, which is pale as straw and not too sweet (as many US beers seem to be). The bar itself is part of the large warehouse that is home to their brewery. Polished concrete floor and high ceilings with a retro vibe of 50's furniture mixed with a corrugated Iron bar and wooden bar stools. It also has one of the loveliest beer gardens, a large terrace with steps down to leafy wood right next to the river. It is easy to spend many hours sitting here in the sun waiting for the man with the banjo to start playing.
In contrast, Wicked Weed in Ashville is a more established and bigger brew house, with a much larger number of craft beers, a mix of the big, bold, hoppy, West cost style and authentic Belgian style beers. At first glance Wicked Weed looks like a cool bar, but down some wooden stairs you find the real deal. A large cavern of room packed with people, opening onto a yard of trestle tables under a large awning, surrounded by all the brewing gear and the Harley Davidsons of their regulars. There is no official bar down here, just table service, and the hipster, tattooed staff welcome you with warm Southern charm. All the beers have intriguing names: Chinook Me All Night Long, Porch Crawler, Bretticent Wild Ale and Abigail Dubbel to name a few. You could spend days working your way satisfyingly through the list, accompanied by a short but delicious menu that is first come first served. Boiled peanuts (of course), local charcuterie and cheeses, juicy full on burgers and sandwiches of fried chicken with kimchi and miso mayo. Several glasses of their seriously drinkable Reticent Saison (a smooth, classically Belgian number) and we are filling up large 64oz growlers to take away.
These are the kind of pubs of dreams. Friendly and honest, they exist because of the love and passion of their beer addicted brewing owners who want to share a little of the magic with the world.