Craft Beer

Oscar Wong started Highland Brewing Company in Asheville in 1994 and passed along the business to his daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn.
Carrie Turner / Carrie Turner Photography

Leah Wong Ashburn has been around beer all her life.

Her father Oscar Wong is considered the "godfather" of craft beer culture in western North Carolina. In 1994, he founded Highland Brewing Company, the first legal brewer in Asheville since Prohibition. Today, Highland is the largest homegrown craft brewery in North Carolina.

An image of a wine and beer mug
chris riebschlager / Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re looking for a luxury libation, come to North Carolina. The craft beer business is thriving in the state, adding new breweries and brewpubs every year, as North Carolina’s wine industry continues to grow.

An image of North Carolina 'Welcome Sign'
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons


North Carolina has much to offer newcomers. From the coast to mountains and everything in between, the state is a place for food, fun and plenty of adventure. Where is the best barbeque? What is that accent? Who are the stars of bluegrass?


Below find five stories that highlight the Tar Heel state’s distinguishing qualities. And even if you’ve lived in North Carolina your entire life, take a look at the list of some of your state’s gems.

Growler from Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC.

Craft beers are filling the shelves and taps around North Carolina. 

From the mountains to the coast, new breweries are opening. The national Brewer’s Association put the economic impact  of craft beer in the state at more than $791 million dollars in 2012. There are 110 breweries across the state and the industry supports 10,000 jobs.

Craft beer sales have been growing by double digits, even as overall beer sales have flattened. And several independent craft beer makers — all based in the Western U.S. — are expanding production to the East. But to keep the flavor true, they have to tinker with beer's main ingredient: water.

Every day, a half-dozen employees of Oskar Blues Brewery file into a small room in Brevard, N.C. It's cluttered with boxes, petri dishes and test tubes.

A picture of a bottle and a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

In less than five years the number of craft beer breweries in North Carolina has more than doubled. From Manteo to the mountains - tasting rooms, tap houses and local seasonal drafts are pouring in. Asheville now has more breweries per capita than anywhere in the country. 

[Video] Inside Fullsteam's First Frost Beer

Jun 16, 2014
David Huppert / UNC-TV

Beer sampler
Flickr: Quinn Dombrowski

Since 1980, North Carolina's beer industry has grown from four breweries to nearly 100. The craft beer explosion has far-reaching effects in the local economy, community and agriculture. It has inspired a great deal of creativity, including the development of beer made from yeast that grows on wasps.

Blue Ridge Community College hopes to offer a degree in craft beer brewing starting this fall.
Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr, Creative Commons

Many college students become immersed in beer culture when they go to college, but it’s usually not in the classroom. That might be about to change at three North Carolina colleges hoping to offer degrees in craft beer brewing next year.

John Anton

In early April, Mandolin bar manager John Anton hopped on a plane to Lima to meet up with seven other bartenders from across the country. Each had won a national cocktail contest sponsored by Campo de Encanto, the makers of an ancient Peruvian liquor called pisco. The prize was a trip to Peru to learn how the spirit is distilled. When the group stepped off the plane, they were immediately greeted by the owner of the company and a bottle of pisco. It was 4:30 a.m.

Pisco is an old drink, made in Peru since the 1600’s. It’s distilled from grapes instead of grains, and it’s traditionally aged in clay containers that impart no color. The result is a smooth, clear spirit that some liken to grappa. Similar to wine, Anton claims “you can really taste where it came from,” due to the quality that the grapes impart.

John Anton, bar manager at Mandolin
courtesty of John Anton

If you’ve never heard of pisco, then you're not alone. But  Mandolin bar manager John Anton hopes to change that.  He wants to introduce pisco – a Peruvian grape brandy – to people in the Raleigh area willing to give it a go, and he believes that a trip to Peru to witness the makers of the spirit can help him do it. Anton will head to the Peruvian town of Ica next month, courtesy of pisco-maker Campo de Encanto, to watch a 90-year-old master pisco distiller in action.

America loves beer.

In the U.S., we drink $200 billion worth of the hops-brewed libation annually. What many Americans might not know is that most domestic beer, 90 percent in fact, is dominated by just two companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors.

Erik Lars Myers was disguised as your average IT guy, but he was also diligently spending his nights and weekends brewing beer in his backyard for 13 years. He found the world of beer so interesting that he wrote a popular blog about it called

Leoneda Inge

It’s Friday, the end of the work week. This evening, a lot of people will head over to their local “watering hole” for relaxation with friends.   In North Carolina a growing number of people are opting for a home-made beer, a craft beer. Micro-brew-style pubs are steadily opening.  But in order to keep growing, they’re hoping for a tax break from Washington.