The New Belgium Brewery - Asheville’s Best Brewery Tour
Asheville, North Carolina has become quite the visitor destination in recent years with multiple travel publications touting its beautiful scenery and artsy laid-back vibe. It has also become a craft beer mecca with numerous small breweries putting down roots in the area. One of the first to discover the magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains was the New Belgium Brewing Company.
The story of the New Belgium Brewing Company started in the basement of Jeff Lebesch’s home in the late 1980s in Fort Collins, Colorado. By 1991, he had himself a real brewing company and began brewing and marketing the Fat Tire beer that would become the companies classic brew. Jump ahead 20 years, and in 2012 the company began looking to expand and create a presence in the eastern United States. Asheville, North Carolina looked to be the perfect location and that is how the New Belgium Brewery wound up here perched on the banks of the French Broad River.
Today there are numerous small craft brewers in Asheville, and you can even take a craft beer walking tour. With limited time we decided to tour the New Belgium facility and I must say we were very impressed. If you have time for just one tour, I would highly recommend this one. It is consistently ranked as one of the best brewery tours not just in Asheville, but nationwide. The tour is free and lasts approximately 90 minutes. If you get there early you can hang out in their Liquid Center with a quick game of ping pong or relax out front with a game of corn hole. The Liquid Center also has a beautiful outdoor patio that looks over the river and it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a cold brew or a snack from one of the food trucks that frequent the facility.
There are currently over 4,000 craft breweries in the United States.
Our guide for the day was Courtney, who clearly loves her job and makes the tour interesting and fun. As you head into the facility and start seeing people at work it becomes obvious that these folks love their job. The company is 100% employee-owned, and everyone who works for New Belgium is eligible to become an owner in the company after a period of service. When you actually have a vested interest in your place of employment it’s easy to stay motivated and engaged on a daily basis, and this is clearly one of the secrets to New Belgium’s success.
During the tour you will hear about the history of the company and how it grew from a small operation being run out of a basement into a two-plant operation. While still technically a craft brewery the company does retain that small business feel and they take great pride in their product. You will have an opportunity to sample a number of their beers including the classic Fat Tire beer as well as a few new brews. Along the way you will see the impressive bottling facility, the testing lab, the large brewing vats, and much more.
Having experienced significant growth over the last twenty years the New Belgium Brewery now ships almost 1 million barrels of beer yearly. They are currently the fourth-largest craft brewer in the United States and ship beer to all fifty states as well as a few other countries around the world. You might be thinking that their volume and expansion to a second facility would no longer qualify them as a craft brewery, but rest assured there are strict guidelines to being labeled a Craft Brewery and New Belgium definitely meets them all.
Craft Brewery Criteria
Small - Independent - Traditional
* Annual production of 6 million barrels or less.
* Must be at least 75% owned by a craft brewer.
* The craft brewer uses traditional brewing methods with an emphasis on quality and flavor.
Following the tour, you can return to the Liquid Center where you can enjoy the outdoor patio with one of your new favorite brews. It’s a great place to relax with a bite to eat from one of the food trucks that visit daily. The story of the New Belgium Brewery is certainly one that many of us have probably dreamt about. You start brewing your own beer in your home. You get pretty good at it after numerous not so good attempts. Eventually, your friends are requesting you to make beer for them and word spreads quickly. Before you know it you’re in the beer business and worrying about production, quality control, marketing, shipping, etc.
If your travels take you to the Asheville area of western North Carolina, be sure to put aside a few hours for a tour of the New Belgium Brewery. It is consistently rated one of the best craft beer tours in the country and makes for a fun couple of hours. Even the non-beer drinkers in our group thoroughly enjoyed the tour and found the history of the company fascinating. A special thank you to our wonderful guide, Courtney, who went out of her way to make our day fun, interesting, and informative.
The New Belgium Brewery employees over 700 workers and is 100% employee owned.
New Belgium Brewing Company Locations
New Belgium Brewery Tour Information
- Hours: Monday to Sunday: 11:30 am to 4:30 pm
- Tours can be arranged online or over the phone.
- Tour size is limited to 20.
- Tours last 90 minutes.
- You must present a valid ID and be 21 years of age or older.
- The cost of the tour is free.
- A behind the scenes tour can be arranged for up to 10 guests for $200.
- The Brewhouse is available for special events and with over 5100 square feet of space can accommodate 150 seated guests or 325 standing. It would make a great venue for a special event, large group dinner, or casual get-together. It is only available after 5pm.
In addition to giving tours of their facility, New Belgium also hosts a number of activities throughout the year. Live music shows, yoga sessions, bike tours, movie nights, and countless other community-oriented events are what make the New Belgium Brewery a valued member of the Asheville community. Stop by and check them out.