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To say that downtown’s narrow streets are awash in hops and barley is only a mild exaggeration. There are twice as many brewpubs per capita within Asheville’s city limits as in such beer-manic cities as Portland, Oregon, and Denver, Colorado, and that number is growing rapidly.
But while Asheville has long been a regional beer hot spot, the city is making the jump to national beer hub. Home to an ever-expanding community of young and talented beer makers, who appreciate the area’s clean, abundant water and laid-back Blue Ridge living, Asheville is now attracting established Western brands hoping to tap into the scene, too. Oskar Blues, maker of Dale’s Pale Ale, opened a brewery in nearby Brevard in December. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will complete a facility and tasting room just outside of town this summer. And New Belgium Brewing, which produces Fat Tire Ale, is reclaiming an industrial site in Asheville’s up-and-coming River Arts District to open a beer-making campus in early 2015. Churning out IPAs instead of IPOs, Asheville has become the Silicon Valley of craft brews. Even for a beer-crazed local it’s hard to keep track of the evolving scene.