Asheville Brews Cruise - Brewery Tour
Asheville Brews Cruise began as the brainchild of Mark and Trish Lyons, and stemmed from their numerous excursions to the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. The Lyons passion for craft brewed beers followed them to Asheville in 2000 when they moved here from Sedona, AZ. Both Trish and Mark were delighted to learn that similar to Seattle and Portland, Asheville had its own brewing personality.
Mark first developed a taste for great beer while traveling the world when in the Air Force. His love of craft brewed beers and the microbrew industry really became evident in the mid 90's, while attending Appalachian State University. This is where the ground work was laid for the eventual "Brews Cruise." As a Recreation Management and Tourism major, Mark was on the first leg of his entrepreneurial endeavor. But first, a tale of two ladies. There is no more beautiful and awe inspiring of grand ladies than Sedona, Arizona, so Mark thought. This is until spa cohort and friend Trish entered the picture. Mark and Trish quickly became an item and were looking for a new place they could afford to settle into. After a quick trip to check out Asheville, they were NC bound.
The year is 2005 and North Carolina has just lifted a ban that limited beer to 6% ABV or less. It was at this time that Mark became aware of Pisgah Brewing Company and Tony Kiss, "The Beer Guy," had written an article that read "Beer Wars Heating Up." The idea for Asheville Brews Cruise came as an epiphany. If a tour company that takes people to multiple micro breweries was going to work anywhere, it was going to work in Asheville. The vision was clear and unwavering. There was never a point of indecision, Asheville Brews Cruise was going to happen. With the help and advice of the local SCORE office, Mark and Trish had their plan of attack.
All of the participating breweries were willing to give Brews Cruise a go. After what seemed liked an endless stream of red tape and jumping through hoops, a van full of friends and coworkers assembled to be guinea pigs on a three and a half hour tour that was and is a unique endeavor in an already very unique city. The tour begins at Highland Brewing Company which is the oldest micro brewery in Asheville. Mike Elliot is the brewing guru that leads the group around what is quite obviously a fully functioning brewery. Tour goers enjoy some fresh Gaelic Ale, while experiencing what hops look and feel like. The tour continues through all aspects of the brewing operation including bottling, all the while Cruisers are sampling and discussing all aspects of the fresh libations. Words like hoppy, and aromatic are now permanent fixtures in tour goers vocabularies describing Highland's finest brews. The first leg of the tour ends with parting gifts from Mike and smiles from Trish and Mark that seemed to say "I think we may be onto something."
Back on the van heading south toward French Broad Brewing Company, the group is given some insight and history about FBBC's brewing style and what makes them unique. Jason Smith, one of the owners, greets everyone as soon as the van pulls up, and escorts everyone into the brewery where the taproom's air is filled with the sweet sounds of acoustic guitar from one of the many musical acts that performs nightly at the French Broad Brewing Company.
About the Author: Mark Lyons
Mark and Trish Lyons own and operate Asheville Brews Cruise. Brews Cruise is a mobile tour company that is designed to give the craft beer enthusiast an insiders experience into Asheville's thriving beer culture.