“City on a Hill”—that’s what Highland Brewing Company is to Asheville’s prolific craft beer scene. The moniker also represents the pioneering brewery’s 40-acre hilltop campus that includes a taproom, performance stage, grassy meadow, volleyball courts, hiking trail, and disc golf course. In a city that has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., it’s a testament to the beer and the people behind it that Highland is still the local favorite.
Highland Brewing got its start in 1994 as a retirement hobby for former engineer Oscar Wong. After spending years owning and running a Charlotte-based engineering firm that designed nuclear waste facilities, Wong bought a house in the sleepy mountain town of Asheville and was ready to settle into a slower-paced life. Instead, his home brewing hobby snowballed, and next thing he knew, he was opening a brewery.
Operations began in the basement of downtown Asheville’s Barley’s Taproom , where Wong used retrofitted dairy equipment to create his beer. He continued there for 13 years and over time developed the recipes for what would become regional favorites like the Gaelic Ale, Black Mocha Stout, and Oatmeal Porter. At the time of opening, Highland Brewing Company was Asheville’s first legal brewery since Prohibition.
In 2006, Highland moved operations to its current East Asheville location, where they’ve since expanded their footprint to include a multifaceted brewing campus and all-around entertainment destination. Now in addition to grabbing a pint or flight in the taproom, you can also have a brew at The Meadow, where there’s a second bar, plus a stage for live music, shady table seating, frequent food trucks, and a lush lawn. You can take your pup for a hike on Highland's hiking trail, play a game of volleyball, or challenge a friend to a round of disc golf. And when you need something to toast your victory with, you’ll have around 20 options to choose from. All-season standbys like the AVL IPA and Pilsner are always on tap, but you’ll also find seasonal releases like the Clawhammer Oktoberfest in fall and the Berryful in summer, plus an ever-rotating list of small-batch brews to meet your fancy.
Wong’s daughter Leah Wong Ashburn joined the company in 2011. In 2015, she took over as CEO, and the man often referred to as Asheville’s godfather of craft beer finally got his long-awaited retirement wish—just 10 years and one multimillion dollar company later. Asheville’s craft beer footprint has grown exponentially since Highland came onto the scene in the mid 1990s. When Wong began his craft beer journey, he was largely brewing alone. Almost 30 years later, around 40 other Asheville breweries have joined the party. But with distribution in four states, 150,000 yearly visitors to their East Asheville campus, a new downtown taproom at The S&W Market , and now a South’s Best win as North Carolina’s favorite brewery, Highland has firmly cemented its seat at the head of the table.
highlandbrewing.com , 828-299-3370, 12 Old Charlotte Hwy #200, Asheville, NC 28803