Four Great Mountain Breweries to Check Out This Fall
Nothing tops off an outdoor adventure with crisp fall weather like a locally-made beer. Lucky for us, the Blue Ridge region is teeming with options. And while we can’t cover them all, this four-pack do-and-brews is a great place to start.
Big Timber Brewing, Elkins, West Virginia
The Brewery — Big Timber is located in a historic building in the heart of the Tygart Valley in downtown Elkins and is a mandatory stop for visiting beer lovers. The name pays homage to the industry that brought the first settlers to the region, while the décor—think rough-hewn hardwood beams, tongue and groove ceilings, and handcrafted wooden bars, stools, and tables—nods to surrounding panoramic views of the Allegheny Mountains and Monongahela National Forest.
Elbow up to the bar to find interesting takes on familiar staples like the chocolate coffee porter, piney IPA, and lager pilsner. A rotating cast of taste bud-titillating seasonal brews like bourbon barrel porter and key lime pie gose round out the menu. Weekenders can look forward to regional bluegrass and acoustic bands, as well as local food trucks.
Before You Sip — A nifty and convenient hiking adventure to a 4,000-foot peak topped with a 135-foot, historic observation tower awaits in the Monongahela National Forest just 10 miles northeast of downtown Elkins.
Head to the Stuart Recreation Area off U.S. 33 and follow Forest Road 91 for about four miles into the 26,698-acre Otter Creek Wilderness and park in the Bickle Knob lot. From there, it’s a quick five-minute walk to the summit, where you’ll catch spectacular 360-degree views of the Shavers Fork River, Tygart Valley, Cheat Mountain, and more.
Parkway Brewing, Salem, Virginia
The Brewery — This gem of a watering hole sits on the Roanoke Valley Greenway system, which passes through numerous municipal parks and boasts more than 30 miles of paved or gravel trails. It also features one of the coolest outdoor patios and beer gardens in the Blue Ridge.
Weekend visitors can expect top local bands, food trucks, and a rotating menu of 20 seasonal and staple brews. Craft connoisseurs will delight in Parkway’s recently installed pilot brewing system, which brings innovative small-batch beers like Mexican mole stouts, Lupulin powder IPAs, and fruited kettle sours.
Before You Sip — You’ll find some of Virginia’s best mountain biking in Roanoke’s 12,700-acre Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. Located minutes from Interstate 81 and about 10 miles from downtown, the 80-mile trail system centers around a 630-acre municipal reservoir and the 2,500-plus-foot peaks of Tinker and Brushy Mountain.
Visitors get purpose-built, pro-grade trails that range in difficulty from family-friendly to white-knuckle gnarly. The Cove offers a cornucopia of ragers, but four steal the show: Trough, Royalty, Gauntlet, and OG Line. Combine them for 7.5 miles of downhill thrills offset by 2.5 miles of climbing.
Innovation Brewing, Sylva, North Carolina
The Brewery— Located in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest on the main drag of the 2,600-person town of Sylva, Innovation offers the perfect liquid reward after a big day of outdoor exploration. Take your pick from an everchanging lineup of 26 craft beers and ciders in a funky, rustic taproom, or on a well-appointed rear terrace and deck area overlooking Scott Creek. Look forward to music on weekends and a permanent food truck that dishes out tasty pub fare like wood-fired pizza, burgers, and tacos.
Traditional beer fans can enjoy familiar tried-and-trues like a refreshing blonde ale or creamy Irish stout, while adventurous craft heads will delight in more experimental options like the beet and basil Saison or hibiscus lavender ginger beer.
Before You Sip— Hike a seven-mile out-and-back to The Pinnacle. The rocky, 5,000-foot summit is the namesake attraction of a 1,530-acre municipal park located just four miles north of downtown Sylva.
Follow the West Fork Trail from Pinnacle Park, pursuing an old fire road through rhododendron forests punctuated by old-growth oaks. Hang a left at the sign and climb to the summit via a steep final ascent to the grassy ridgeline. Make it to the top and you’ll catch dazzling, panoramic views of the town, Scotts Creek Valley, Nantahala National Forest, neighboring Blackrock Mountain, and, far to the north, the Great Smoky Mountains.
Watauga Brewing Company – Johnson City, Tennessee
The Brewery — Founded in a historic downtown building in 2017, Watauga pairs a hardy selection of brews with a laidback but sophisticated atmosphere. Each of its three floors offer unique experiences. The ground level houses a large and woody, tavern-esque taproom. The second is home to Restaurant on 2, which offers a full menu of solid pub fare, including burgers, steaks, barbecue, and tacos.
But it’s the rooftop bar and terrace that steals the show. Sip on a Big Animal fruited sour or Czech pilsner while taking in views of the city, surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, and the wooded hillsides of nearby Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park.
Before You Sip — Hike through the Cherokee National Forest to Laurel Fork Falls. This cascading, 40-foot wide, 50-foot-high waterfall awaits some 16 miles from downtown Johnson City. The 1.3-mile walk in carries visitors through the densely forested, 7,000-acre Pond Mountain Wilderness via the Appalachian Trail. The first mile or so follows an abandoned railway bed, passing over a trio of wooden bridges and through beautiful stands of old-growth trees, including scarlet oaks that date to the late 1800s. Next comes a steep descent along stone steps to the falls and trout-brimming Laurel Creek.
Cover Photo: Photo courtesy of Watauga Brewing Company.