Highland Brewery, Asheville N.C.
Much as a mild Scottish Ale is a good set of training wheels for anyone attempting to break into craft brewing, so is Highland Brewery's Gaelic Ale a great introduction into the strong Asheville brewing scene. Highland's brewery tours are fairly standard ("does anyone know what the four basic ingredients of beer are?"), but the tasting room gives the people what they want: A chance to sample the Oatmeal Porter, St. Terese's Pale Ale, Kashmir IPA and the dark, potent seasonal Tasgall Ale.
"And while Highland Brewing isn't much to look at, if you visit, you're availing yourself of all the greatness and beauty that is Asheville," Simpson says. "With amazing brewpubs, beer stores, food and sites to see, it's the ultimate weekend getaway trip."
Aside from the lush scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the cascading falls at Sliding Rock and the history at the Grove Park Inn and the Vanderbilts' Biltmore Estate, there's a whole lot brewing in Asheville. Between Craggie Brewing, Wedge Brewing, Oyster House Brewing, French Broad Brewing, Green Man Brewery, The Lexington Avenue Brewery and Asheville Brewing, a beer tourist can keep pretty busy in this town. If you can't make the Beer City Festival in early June, tickets for the city's beer-and-bluegrass Brewgrass Festival in September are already available.