A little history — and a lot of fun

New Belgium Brewing starts Asheville brewery tours
By Carol Viau | Sep 07, 2016
Photo by: Carol Viau ENJOY THE RIDE —  New Belgium Brewing’s Asheville brewery tours are 90 minutes of fun and beer talk. Pictured is NBB Asheville brewing manager Alex Dwoinen (center), following the path of brewing, on one of the first tours.

Imagine a beer tour that includes three tasting bars, a vista of thousands of bottles of Fat Tire Amber Ale traveling along a bottling line, anecdotes about New Belgium Brewing’s founding and a two-story slide thrown-in, just for fun.

Fresh on the heels of New Belgium’s 25th anniversary bash and grand opening of the Asheville brewery, public tours have started at the 127,000 square-foot brewery at 21 Craven St., in Asheville’s River Arts District.

“The tour follows the path of how we make beer,” said Asheville Brewing Manager Alex Dwoinen.

The tour includes tasting bars in different sections of the brewery and plenty of insight into New Belgium history and corporate culture. NBB is an employee-owned company with core values and beliefs including “producing world-class beers,” “environmental stewardship” — and “having fun.”

There is even a “director of fun,” so NBB co-workers have a two-story slide, ping pong tables for breaks and an Alaskan grizzly bear cam to watch a live feed of bears catching fish in the wild. At each co-worker’s one-year anniversary, they receive a bike, and after five years, co-workers get a trip to Belgium to see what inspired the founders, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan.

Tour-goers will have plenty of fun on the hour-and-a-half tour. The first stop is the brew house, decorated with light fixtures replicating hops. Guests are welcomed with a taste of beer and factoids about NBB Asheville’s 200 hectoliter brew house, 24 fermentation vessels, six bright tanks and use of energy-saving super-heated water instead of steam in the brewing process. The Asheville brewery has a capacity of 500,00 barrels —  think of all the Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger IPA and Citradelic IPA being brewed in Asheville.

Guests on the tour will see a life-sized photo of Brugs Beertjes pub at the second tasting bar. It’s where co-founder Lebesch found himself sitting on a bar stool in 1988, talking beer during his bicycle trip in Belgium. The third tasting bar on the tour is at the second-story picture window overlooking  the mesmerizing packaging and bottling line, where 480 bottles per minute of luscious craft beer jingle down the line.

The tours end at the Liquid Center, where the entire NBB portfolio is available for guests to enjoy some post-tour hydration.

“Public tours are a huge component of the New Belgium experience,” said Tyler Foos, Asheville Liquid Center Manager. “The Liquid Center is where you can choose your own adventure, with access to all the brands we have available. The tour is the second half of that journey, where you get to peek behind the curtain and learn more about what our brewery culture and business is all about; a snapshot into all the areas that make up New Belgium. Get ready for lots of good times and hi-fives.”

New Belgium Brewing began in 1991 in Fort Collins, Colorado, with two home-brewed creations, a brown dubbel named Abbey and an amber ale named Fat Tire, in honor of the bicycle trip through Europe. Known for its flagship Fat Tire, New Belgium is the fourth largest craft brewery in the U.S., with a broad portfolio of 14 year-round beers, plus more seasonal and esoteric brews.

The company’s meteoric rise to the nation’s fourth largest craft brewer led to the search for an East Coast brewery site four years ago. To the delight of craft beer lovers, NBB selected Asheville as being a community that shared its values.

The old stockyards 18-acre site in Asheville’s River Arts District was chosen for its riverside and urban location. It was important to the company to create an eco-friendly brewery and space for the community to enjoy.

NBB started careful destruction and construction at the old stockyards site in the River Arts District in May, 2014. Two years later, the Asheville brewery began production of Fat Tire and the Liquid Center, with its the cantilevered deck above the French Broad River, opened May 2.

The brewery tour points out the reclaimed wood and photos of the old stockyards incorporated into the brewery design. Work from area artists and materials from the previous uses of the site are highlighted along the tour.

“New Belgium Brewing revived an urban brownfield with rich Asheville history,” said Susanne Hackett, NBB Asheville communications specialist. “New Belgium wanted to invest in this urban site and make it better for the community.”

Now visitors can enjoy the full New Belgium experience in Asheville.

New Belgium’s free tours run daily on the half hour 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tours are booking quickly, so reservations are recommended. To book tours, visit www.NewBelgium.com/AshevilleBrewery.