12/28/2011 - Beer Guy: What a year it's been for beer in Asheville
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times
Has this been the best year for beer yet in Western North Carolina? It's sure been a 12 months to remember.
The biggest local beer story? The strong possibility that both Sierra Nevada Brewing and New Belgium Brewing will build East Coast expansions here.
New Belgium will make a decision by February. It has not yet closed on property here, despite rumors that are flying around town, according to a company spokesman.
Sierra Nevada seemingly has set its sites on Henderson County. If one or both come here, it will dramatically change the local brew community, and for the better.
In February, international beer authority Charlie Papazian paid Asheville a visit. A few months later, Asheville was crowned Beer City USA for a third time in Papazian's online poll.
Asheville Brewing Co. made a big distributiondeal with Budweiser of Asheville and began canning its popular Shiva IPA and Rocket Girl lager this fall. Now you can get their six-packs at such spots as Ingles.
Lexington Avenue Brewing's top brewer, Ben Pierson, made us all proud by winning a bronze medal for his brown porter at Denver's Great American Beer Festival -- the nation's most prestigious beer event. He was the only Asheville brewer to win.
Speaking of beer festivals, tickets for this year's Brewgrass Festival sold out in a heartbeat this year, leaving some disappointed. But we say cheers to Brewgrass boss Jimi Rentz for making this such a popular event.
Asheville's Beer City Festival and Winter Warmer brewfest became even more popular this year. And while not strictly a beer fest, Asheville's Oktoberfest party was again an overwhelming hit.
Highland Brewing, the city's first and biggest craft brewer, quickly ran though its popular Cold Mountain Winter ale this month. And its new Thunderstruck coffee porter has also been fast seller.
Pisgah Brewing dropped its long-running Endless Summer golden ale this year but replaced it with the crisp and quenching San Francisco Lager. Pisgah continues to amaze with its wide range of brews.
The Thirsty Monk South opened its nanobrewery at the Gerber Village pub. It's the 10th brewery in Buncombe County and just the latest player in what has become a rock-solid craft brewing community.