Don't Miss

Sierra Nevada Brewery, NC

DSC00253

By Russ Heaps
100 Sierra Nevada Way
Mills River, NC 28732
828-681-5300
Hours: Mon-Thur 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri & Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun Noon to 9 p.m.
Drive Time: 75 minutes
http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina/brewery-tour

If you have any question that the Asheville area is the beer capital of the Carolinas – arguably the entire Southeast – you need only look as far as the Sierra Nevada Brewery, NC in Mills River. Originating in Chico, Calif, Sierra Nevada planted its flag east of the Mississippi in 2015 when it opened the doors of its North Carolina facility.

A bit over an hour’s drive from downtown Greenville, it’s situated just west of I-26, 20 minutes southwest of Asheville. DrivingDSC00260 from Greenville, follow U.S. 25 north to I-26. Continue north to Exit 40 onto NC 280 toward the Asheville Regional Airport and follow the signs.

Make no mistake, this is not a craft brewery. Within its breweries, Sierra Nevada produces roughly 1 million barrels (approximately 200,000 barrels of that total in NC) of beer annually. Asheville’s original and the largest of its craft brewers, nearby Highland Brewing, produces about 40,000 barrels each year.

Located on a 90-acre plot, this NC brewery currently includes a brewery, taproom and gift shop. Nearing completion are a music hall and amphitheater. To date, Sierra Nevada has invested more than $100 million into the NC operation, calling it “a temple to beer.”

Indeed, it is something to see, and a destination in its own right. In fact, it offers free 90-minute tours seven days a week. Highly popular, these tours are booked weeks in advance. By reservation only, you must go online and reserve a space. There are also more intimate and informative three-hour tours for groups of five. Both tours include sampling a few beers.

DSC00263

Winding up a tour with a tasting.

If you decide on the spur of the moment to visit, you can take a self-guided tour through parts of the facility without a reservation.

If you are a “foodie,” you might wish to plan your visit around lunch or dinner. The Taproom not only offers 23 beer selections on tap, but a menu dominated by small-plate selections that are more California style than North Carolina; although many of the ingredients are locally sourced. Menu choices are moderately priced from $7 to $16. There is even a wood-fire pizza setup.

A few of the beers on tap include popular brews, such as Pale Ale, but there are also beers you may never have heard of like Knightro Irish-style Stout and Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums.

Here, you are in the heart of barbecue country. If you don’t eat in the Taproom – some of us are meat-and-potato types – head toDSC00273 the Flat Rock Wood Room on Greenville Highway (NC 225) in nearby Hendersonville. Wood-fired pizza is just one of the specialties that include smoked pork, chicken and ribs. Oh, and there are also several local craft beers on tap.

Then, of course, Asheville is just 20 minutes up the road.

If you book a tour, enjoy a meal, sip a beer or two and wander around the gift shop, you can easily spend four or five hours at Sierra Nevada. It’s well worth the time and the drive.

Check out these other nearby destinations:DSC00271
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Southwest Virginia and the Crooked Road