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Celebrating a Decade of Leading Asheville Brewery Tours:
Five Key Lessons Learned Along the Way

Time Flies When You're Talking About Beer

BREW-ed ran its very first brewery walking tour on June 22, 2013. I had four people on the tour, and they were all there on half price tickets. 🙂 But, it was a great group! We had a lot of fun exploring Asheville’s breweries and talking about the intricacies of beer and brewing. Though it was supposed to be a three hour tour, I think it lasted closer to four, but everyone stayed engaged the whole time. It’s hard to believe that was 10 years ago! Now that BREW-ed is celebrating a decade in this fascinating industry, it’s time to reflect on some key lessons learned.

Lesson 1: The Value of Local Brewery Connections in Asheville

Starting a brewery tour business isn’t just about knowing your IPAs from your stouts; it’s about establishing a solid connection with the local brewing community. For me, the journey began at Asheville Brewing, then to Thirsty Monk and Wicked Weed. Having worked at these establishments, I had the advantage of knowing the local beer landscape, but more importantly, I was part of it. This insider’s perspective and the relationships I cultivated were instrumental in launching BREW-ed. The local brewing community knew me, trusted me, and that goodwill spilled over to the tours, creating experiences that were authentic, engaging, and enlightening.

But my role in the beer community wasn’t solely limited to working at these breweries. In 2012, I was approached by Asheville’s community college, AB-Tech, to create Continuing Education classes centered around beer and the brewing industry in Asheville. As the first Certified Cicerone in the area, I developed over 60 hours of course material and guided dozens of locals towards new careers in the beer industry. These classes led to the creation of a two-year degree program in Brewing Sciences that continues to produce skilled beer professionals today.

Lesson 2: The Importance of Beer Knowledge on Asheville Brewery Tours

Knowledge is power, and in the world of brewery tours, it’s the power to make each tour a captivating, memorable experience. Before embarking on this journey, I spent years studying beer, diving into its history, its science, its artistry. My dedication led me to become the first person in Asheville to earn the title of Certified Cicerone from the Cicerone Certification Program. This meant I could answer nearly any question guests could throw at me, from the intricacies of the brewing process to the fine art of beer tasting. It’s this level of expertise that set our tours apart, transforming them from simple sightseeing trips to deep, enlightening immersions into the world of brewing.

From the brewing process to the intricate differences in beer styles, understanding the nuances and being able to share that knowledge clearly was a key factor that helped to distinguish our tours from others in the Asheville brewery tour space.

Lesson 3: Understanding Beers for Asheville Brewery Tours

When running brewery tours, a vast knowledge of diverse beer styles is a must-have. Each beer style has its own history, its unique flavor profile, its own story to tell. On our tours, we don’t just taste beers; we journey through time and around the globe, exploring the rich heritage behind each style.

But knowledge is just half of it. Variety is equally important. Offering a wide range of styles on a tour ensures that there’s something for everyone, from the hop-heads to the stout lovers, from the sour fanatics to the lager enthusiasts. By knowing how each local brewery crafts their own version of each style, we can highlight the innovation and creativity that makes Asheville’s beer scene so great!

As Asheville’s brewing landscape has grown and evolved over the past decade, so too has the range of beer styles on offer. It’s been vital to keep up-to-date with this evolution, making sure our tours offer a wide selection of beers. From the darkest stout to the hoppiest IPA and everything in between, our tours aim to show guests the endless flavor combinations beer can provide.

Lesson 4: Knowing Asheville Beyond the Breweries

Sure, Asheville is known for its incredible breweries, but it’s so much more than that. From a vibrant arts scene, amazing local restaurants to fun and quirky boutiques, Asheville has a lot more than beer to explore. As a brewery tour guide, providing recommendations to guests on how to continue their Asheville adventure post-tour is part of the job. I can assure you, there’s never a shortage of suggestions.

Lesson 5: Sharing Asheville’s History on Brewery Tours

There’s something magical about savoring a craft beer in a city that saw its first heyday over a century ago. Sharing stories from Asheville’s past is a part of our tours that many guests appreciate. It gives context to the city they’re exploring and makes the beer they’re tasting even more special.

Asheville was a playground for the rich and famous during the Roaring Twenties, and then suffered decades of hibernation as a result of the Great Depression. The city is full of stories, and we love sharing them with our guests.

A Decade of Discovery

In the last ten years, we’ve had the privilege of guiding a wide array of groups, from couples enjoying a weekend getaway, family reunions, bachelor and bachelorette parties, to corporate groups ranging from accountants to coroners. Each group brings its own dynamic, its own sense of fun and discovery, making each tour a unique experience.

Over the past ten years, our largest tour was a private group with more than forty people, and we had multiple guides leading groups around the South Slope. Our smallest tour was just one person, and while it might not have been the most profitable, we had a great time! Since then, we’ve settled on leading smaller groups around Asheville’s breweries to make sure everyone has a great experience.

The Transforming Brewing Landscape in Asheville

When we started our brewery tours in Asheville, Green Man was the sole brewery operating on Asheville’s South Slope, with just one tasting room. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find a bustling beer district, home to Catawba Brewing, Twin Leaf Brewery, Eurisko Brewing, Burial Beer, Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium, and Ginger’s Revenge – all within a couple of blocks of each other. It’s been so exciting seeing this area of town, once filled with creepy abandoned buildings, become revitalized into the backdrop for Asheville’s brewers that it is today.

The Highs and Lows of the Beer Industry

Just like the beverage it celebrates, the beer industry has its own blend of bitter and sweet. From the booming period of new breweries opening between 2013 and 2016 to the challenging Covid-19 pandemic era, the sale of cherished local favorites like Wicked Weed, and the evolution of packaging beer from growlers, to glass bottles, and now cans – we’ve seen it all. And through each rise and fall, the Asheville beer community has continued to thrive. It’s been an honor to watch this growth and help share the stories of those involved in creating Asheville’s world renowned craft beverages!

To The Next Ten Years of Great Brewery Tours!

I’d like to mark this anniversary by celebrating the connections we’ve made, the knowledge we’ve gained, and the amazing variety of beers we’ve tasted. As we look forward to the next ten years, we’ll continue to delve deeper, explore further, and of course, raise a glass to the wonderful world of Asheville beer. Stay tuned for more reflections on our journey and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. As always, we welcome you to join us on one of our Asheville brewery tours, to experience first-hand the knowledge, passion, and wide variety of beers that we’ve been sharing for the past decade.

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