We have ten craft breweries in Asheville (though one is not quite fully functional as of this writing). AND two craft distilleries (same story, one's still nascent).
I think my favorite beer of all time, I mean in the entire Universe, is the Iron Rail IPA at the Wedge Brewery. Perhaps that's got something to do with the history...
The Wedge was another run down shell on the train tracks when it was purchased by a metal sculptor in the 70's, for pennies on the dollar. Decades later, that run down section of the city is known as The River Arts District and, thanks to John Payne, it's the most thriving and promising section of the entire city.
Unfortunately, John Payne died just a few years ago but his memory lives on in Iron Rail, the beer named for him by the brewery in the building he resuscitated. If the weather is nice, PLEASE don't miss sitting outside, in the metal garden built by Mr Payne, enjoy an Iron Rail, and eat from the bottomless bowl of salty peanuts. Keep in mind, this ain't no froo-froo experience. If you're lucky, the taco truck might be there. If not, the peanuts will have to do.
There's even a geocache
there, if you want to nerd out with the GPS!
The French Broad Brewing Company is also another small, simple and extremely local place in the area around the Biltmore House. You can catch a bluegrass band and tip suds with the locals there.
Can you tell I'm rather passionate about Asheville Beer? So much so that I've just started a blog that will serve to answer questions such as yours: Beer City Guide
. There's not much there as yet but there is a rundown of all the breweries in Asheville and info about the distilleries. I hope to have it full of information about where to stay, where to eat, and what beers to drink in short order.
Maybe we'll get to tip some suds together someday!