I recently read a Vox piece titled “The Instagram Capital of the World is a Terrible Place to Be,” documenting the author’s visit to the oft-Instagrammed Italian village of Positano, a city she contends is, yes, charming and beautiful, but also completely overrun with tourists and best experienced if you have the trust fund to experience it the way it’s portrayed via social media.
“Just because you can (sort of) afford to go somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it,” is the piece’s subtitle. The author, Rebecca Jennings, focuses much more on the class divide that, in her eyes, makes or breaks a trip to this stunning Italian village than the lemming-like travel behavior many blame on social media. “What’s most disturbing about being in Positano,” Jennings writes, “is the knowledge that you have been suckered, and the realization that just because you have the means to go somewhere does not mean that you are owed anything more than the experiential equivalent of flying Basic Economy.” It was an interesting read and an interesting take I’ve never thought of (and that I don’t necessarily know I agree with), but I wish the article focused more on the unimaginative way Americans often travel.
Asheville has over 30 breweries within the city limits, but there’s only one that, after 2.5 years, I hadn’t yet visited (technically, I haven’t visited the new downtown tap rooms of some of the popular, but outside-of-downtown breweries like Wedge or Highland, but since I’ve been to their River Arts and East Asheville locales, I’m not counting those): Wicked Weed. Wicked Weed is perenially the only brewery in Asheville with a line forming around the block to enter, and as I’ve written here before and will continue to write again, I gave up waiting in lines when I turned 30.
What’s wild to me is that these lines form at Wicked Weed, and people wait in them, but if you walk right around the corner—literally right around the corner—there’s Bhramari, which rarely has lines, and just down the block from that—literally one block away—is the south slope with its numerous bars and breweries, none of which I’ve ever seen have lines that snake out the door. However, Wicked Weed is Asheville’s most prominent brewery and what will top any best-of-Asheville listicle, and thus, reigns in the tourists. It speaks to many people’s lack of imagination when planning trips and how all you need to attract bigger crowds is a crowd yourself.
I could guess the itinerary the majority of Asheville tourists take. It includes Wicked Weed, Burial, French Broad Chocolates, a visit to the Biltmore, dinner at Curate, and brunch at Biscuit Head or Sunnyside Cafe. If I were giving suggestions to someone visiting Asheville for the first time, the only thing that’d appear on my list would be Curate (I like Burial, but I’d suggest skipping it if it was crowded…you could easily find their beers at most Asheville restaurants, and I think I like the less-visited Forestry Camp a bit more).
Long story short, I went to Wicked Weed for the first time recently. It was right before I was about to call it a night, but a friend I hadn’t seen for a while texted that they were there. You know what? It was fine. It wasn’t terrible by any means. But I could name at least, and I’m not exaggerating, 15 other breweries within a 10-minute drive that have better beers, more exciting atmospheres, and don’t require waiting in line with 3-6 already overserved-bachelorette parties.
Editor’s Note: The header photo for this blog is not from Wicked Weed, but a Friday-night shot of a s’mores-flavored dunkel from Whistle Hop Brewing, one of my favorite under-the-radar-Asheville-area breweries.