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Mountain Town Watering Holes

Where to Grab a Post-Adventure Drink off the Beaten Path

Finding booze in a major metropolitan area is easy. Throw a rock, and you’ll surely hit a craft cocktail lounge or bougie brewery. But finding a quality alcoholic beverage in a small town? That’s a whole different story. Determined to quench your thirst, we’ve rounded up five watering holes in the rural reaches of the Blue Ridge.    

Try the Boone Creek Blonde Ale and Nosh on Southern fare at Appalachian Mountain Brewery Taproom and Kitchen. Photos courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Brewery Taproom and Kitchen

Appalachian Mountain Brewery Taproom and Kitchen

Mills River, N.C. 

Signature Drink: Boone Creek Blonde Ale

Mills River, N.C., (population 7,134) is an agrarian community. Drive down any curvy backroad, and you’re bound to see black-and-white Holsteins grazing on alfalfa and farmers tending to neatly tilled fields. But the newly incorporated town is also a beer lover’s paradise. Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB) Taproom and Kitchen makes sure of that. 

Positioned off the main drag, AMB is a bustling bar that serves up James Beard-worthy Appalachian fare (think pork belly burnt ends, homemade cornbread smothered in sorghum butter, and confit chicken wings) as well as award-winning brews. 

According to co-owner Nathan Kelischek, one of the most popular and lauded beers is the Boone Creek Blonde Ale, a super sessionable blonde with zips of orange zest and wildflower honey. 

Before you visit, ride the gnarly singletrack in North Mills River Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of Henderson County Tourism Development Authority

Before you visit, bring your mountain bike 10 minutes down the road to North Mills River Recreation Area. This secluded corner of Pisgah National Forest is home to miles upon miles of swoon-worthy singletrack. There’s plenty of gravel to grind, too.

After you work up an appetite, pair your AMB brew with a post-adventure banana pudding (made with Nilla Wafers, of course) and some friendly conversation. You might even meet a farmer or two. 

The Hare and Hound is a beloved watering hole in Landrum, S.C. photo by Mally Mia Photography

The Hare and Hound

Landrum, S.C.

Signature Drink: Guinness 

The Hare and Hound is a lot like the bar from “Cheers,” says owner Patty Otto. “It’s a local spot to meet family and friends. Everyone knows everyone.” 

A mainstay of Landrum, S.C., (population 2,540) for more than 20 years, the bar specializes in English-inspired pub fare like Guinness pie (sirloin steak slow-cooked with beer and veg, served with mash and spicy onion straws). For best results, Otto recommends pairing the stick-to-your-ribs entrée with a velvety pint of Guinness and a serving of deep-dish bread pudding for dessert.  

Downtown Landrum, S.C., is sleepy-eyed and scenic. Photo courtesy of Discover SouthCarolina/SCPRT

On your way to the pub, drive to Campbell’s Covered Bridge. The only remaining covered bridge in the entire state, the landmark is the perfect place to snap some photos, relax on the shores of Beaverdam Creek, or explore the half-mile nature trail. 

Bridge buffs will also appreciate Poinsett Bridge. Located about 10 minutes away, the stone overpass was built in 1820 and is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge in the Southeastern United States. 

Wind down at Roo Mountain Vineyards in Ellijay, Ga. Photos courtesy of Roo Mountain Vineyards

Roo Mountain Vineyards

Ellijay, Ga.

Signature Drink: Clutch

Ellijay, Ga., (population 1,847) is a long way from Wine Country. But the folks at Roo Mountain Vineyards don’t let that discourage them. 

Positioned on 226 acres of former farmland, Roo Mountain is a breathtaking spot to sip some vino. A pair of local entrepreneurs purchased the place six years ago. Set on turning water into wine, they planted grapes, hired a vineyard manager, and built an open-air tasting room. It’s been a hit ever since. 

According to one of the owners, their most popular wine is Clutch, a full-bodied red blend with notes of cedar and clove. It’s a great afternoon sip, especially when enjoyed with panoramic views of Cowpen Mountain. 

Before your vineyard visit, cast a line in Fort Mountain Lake, a 17-acre reservoir located in Fort Mountain State Park. The swimming area is also open in the summertime, should you want to cool off.  

Lush Lounge 

Floyd, Va.

Signature Drink: Anything with smoked whiskey

Things get pretty steamy at Lush Lounge. Photo courtesy of Lush Lounge

At midnight on January 17, 1920, the United States went dry. But in Virginia, thirsty mountain people kept makin’ and sippin’ intoxicating spirits, Prohibition be damned. “We definitely had a lot of bootlegging going on,” confirms Lindsey Parks. 

As a nod to this boozy history, Parks owns and operates a 1920s-themed speakeasy called Lush Lounge in downtown Floyd, Va. (population 450). True to its theme, the watering hole has a covert entrance made from a vintage Coca-Cola machine. It also slings pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era libations with a modern molecular spin. 

Welcome to Floyd, Va. (population 450). While vsiiting, Catch some bluegrass at the Floyd Country Store. Photos courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation,

“We change our cocktail menu seasonally,” says Parks. “But our smoked whiskey cocktails are always our top sellers.” 

Past variations range from The Hitman’s Nightcap—an applewood-smoked sip made with rye whiskey, Frangelico, Demerara sugar, and cinnamon—to The Bacon Bourbon Bloody—a bacon-washed bourbon cocktail featuring house bloody mix and a dash of hickory smoke. 

Needless to say, these drinks are eclectic. But so is the surrounding town. 

While you’re in town, make plans to listen to bluegrass at the Floyd Country Store, buy a hand-carved spoon at the Floyd Artisan Market, or go horseback riding along the Little River. You can also lace up your hiking boots and tackle nearby Rock Castle Gorge Trail, a lung-bursting 10.8-mile loop that’ll have you begging for a stiff drink by the end of it. 

Cheers to rural living at Copperhill Brewery. Photos courtesy of Copperhill Brewery

Copperhill Brewery

Copperhill, Tenn.

Signature Drink: Ocoee

Most know Copperhill, Tenn., as a historic mining village. But this place has more going for it than mineral deposits, thanks to Sarah Berry. 

As the co-owner of Copperhill Brewery, Berry supplies Copperhill’s 444 residents with high-quality lagers, porters, and everything in between. Their signature sip is Ocoee, an American-style IPA that’s dry-hopped for a silky mouthfeel and tangerine-coconut taste. “It’s easy drinking,” says Berry, who purchased the brewery back in 2021 after moving to Copperhill from Illinois. 

Berry describes her new hometown as “relaxed, comfortable, and community based.” There’s also plenty of heart-pounding adventure if you’re willing to look for it. 

Ocoee Adventure Center, for instance, offers guided rafting trips on the iconic Ocoee River. Paddlers can expect Class III and IV rapids with ominous names like Dragon Slayer, Double Suck, and Hell’s Half Mile. 

After a day on the water, treat yourself to a celebratory sip. In addition to Copperhill Brewery, you can trek out to Berry’s second venture, Ocoee River Distillery. Located in neighboring Ducktown, the “brewstillery” dishes out brats, Southern-inspired sloppy joes, and higher-ABV drinks that’ll calm your post-rafting nerves.   

Cover Photo:  Try the Boone Creek Blonde Ale and Nosh on Southern fare at Appalachian Mountain Brewery Taproom and Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Brewery Taproom and Kitchen.

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