If you spend more than 12 hours in Asheville during the summer, then there’s a good chance you’ll end up tubing a section of the French Broad. Probably while drinking a few beers (responsibly, of course). If Asheville had an official pastime, floating in rubber with a beer in a koozie would be it. But life wasn’t always this glorious. Several years ago, nobody bothered to set foot in the French Broad through downtown Asheville. Nobody. And now, paddling and tubing the river is an economic driver. There are guides, rental companies, bars with grassy take outs…all there to serve the thousands of sunburned tubers and paddlers that cruise the two-mile stretch through downtown. And that’s just a fraction of what the French Broad has to offer.
The river boasts a legit paddle trail that runs for 119 miles from the headwaters to the Tennessee border passing breweries, small towns and campsites along the way. And we can thank Mountain True and the French Broad Riverkeeper program for that trail. The Riverkeeper is a nationwide program that takes a holistic approach to caring for a given watershed. For the French Broad, the Riverkeeper organizes cleanups, guides paddle trips, and “encourages” coal companies, paper companies and large scale farms to clean up their act. They also established the paddle trail and maintain some sweet campsites in choice locations.
The Riverkeeper is a tough job that deserves a bit of appreciation. And by appreciation, I mean beer. So that’s exactly what a bunch of breweries along the French Broad are doing—they’re taking turns brewing limited release Riverkeeper beer that helps support the Riverkeeper program and Mountain True. Oskar Blues is the first brewery up, releasing their beer in May and sponsoring an entire month’s worth of French Broad River paddles and cleanups. Catawba Brewing, Blue Ghost, Hi-Wire and Wicked Weed are all in line to release their own Riverkeeper beers in the coming month. A bunch of gear companies (ENO, Astral, Watershed and Liquid Logic) have also stepped up to the plate as well to donate gear to help raise money for the program.
Look for Oskar Blues’ Riverkeep, a sessionable pale ale, to hit the shelves in the middle of May. Keep an eye out for the release party. Word on the street is Liquid Logic will be raffling off a standup paddleboard.