Blog Eats & Drinks Bernie's Beer Run - A Guide to Sylva NC's Breweries Scene

Bernie's Beer Run - A Guide to Sylva NC's Breweries Scene

Updated: 03/02/2023 • Bernie Gilchrist

Eats & Drinks

I have been a connoisseur of beer since my Pirate Days at Eastern Carolina University… back in the day! In fact, I was known as the Cicerone of Campus, with a pirate nick name of Captain Cicerone. Now mind you, I am not a certified cicerone – but I know beer better than most, - and I can prove it! What is a cicerone, you may ask? It’s like a sommelier is to wine…, - except its beer. If you don’t know what a sommelier is then let me put to you this way, I drink a lot of beer and I know what makes a good beer. Got it? 
Ok, since Oscar Wong (,- a great guy by the way ), of Highlands Brewery  in Asheville, NC birthed the Blue Ridge Mountain Craft Beer Movement in 1994, these mountains have exploded with new breweries. Today, Asheville, NC is known as Beer City USA championing 55 breweries since last count with more under construction as of this blog. With that much growth and success in brewing, the industry was bound to spill over into the outlying communities of the mountains’ epicenter. And I sure am happy it did! We now have four wonderful breweries right around the corner from my house here in Sylva, NC. Come along with me while I take you on a for a Sylva Beer Run and let’s explore what’s brewing in these old mountains!   

Nantahala Brewing:
The word Nantahala is Cherokee for Noonday Sun, and that’s as good a time as any to  drink beer as far as I am concerned! One of my all-time favorite brews is the award-winning Dirty Girl Blond at Nantahala Brewing Just writing about it makes me want to go and get one! This is one tasty beer Girl! The Dirty Girl Blond is a brilliantly clear and crisp, carbonated ale with refreshing hints of noble hops in its aroma. Nantahala offers over 28 different brews on any given visit. I also recommend the Bryson City Brown. Nantahala Brewing has a wonderful atmosphere, with outside dining overlooking Scotts Creek and great bartenders ready to serve you up tasty brews.  Nantahala has three locations with the Taproom & Brewery, and The Burger Bar in Bryson City, NC and my favorite one in Sylva, NC, aptly named the Sylva Outpost .  They offer a full bar, tasty food - and live music featuring local and regional artist weekly.  Make sure to get the burger and ask for extra napkins, cuz you’re going to need them. Make sure to tell them Bernie sent you.   

Innovation Brewing:
Also located in downtown Sylva, is the award-winning Innovation Brewing where manufacturing craft beer is an art!  My good friends Chip and Nicole began brewing in 2013, and they now have 28 beers     - on tap as of this blog, and you can order most of them online.

They have a great story about their humble beginnings and early struggles to get this business going, but now they are a pillar of the community! This brewery is a happening spot for locals and tourist alike. They have live music and entertainment, as well as all the swag you would want to own. You can see folks all around town wearing Innovation hats, shirts, hoodies and sporting bummer stickers on their cars.  They have created their own brand of merchandize that also includes insulated growlers, can koozies, insulated thermos bottles, Nalgene water bottles and even their own air fresheners. Not only do they pour great beer, they also can/bottle it at their Dillsboro location. You can, no pun intended, order most all their beer online and have it shipped to your home. Now that’s a “Can do” brewery! You can experience the love at 3 different locations; locations - Sylva, Dillsboro and Cullowhee, North Carolina. I recommend the Afternoon Delight- another blonde ale that is of flavor and tell ‘em Bernie sent you!     

Balsam Falls Brewing:
Located on main street in Sylva is another gem for you to discover, Balsam Falls Brewing Company.   This is the proverbial mom and pop hand crafted brew shop, where everything is made with love. The owners, Corey and Laurie Bryson, the owners, have been brewing amazing craft beers and other tasty libations since 2017, and they have an excellent motto:  Drink Fresh, Drink Local. Drink Sylva Beer. And I can’t argue with that! They have 14 brews on tap as of this blog, along with 9 ciders, 1 seltzer and 4 meads. They do love brewing, and they’re damn good at it! I personally enjoy the Pale Ale- Break the 7th C, and every now and then I enjoy Fergus the Rat, which is a rich Chocolate Milk Stout. Crazy names, but great tasting beer! You can enjoy sitting outside on main street, watching the world go by, while enjoying an elevated hand-crafted brew made with love. They are also known for creating wonderful, delicious food! and even showcase a children’s menu. Next time you’re in Sylva, you must try their Bleu Cheese & Bacon Tots, and tell them Bernie sent you!   

The Lazy Hiker:
The Lazy Hiker began their trek with brewing in 2015. They opened their Sylva Taproom in 2019 and are located just across the street from Balsam Falls Brewing downtown on main street. This is a great venue for live music and entertainment showcasing local and regional acts weekly. They have 16 brews on tap as of this blog with a guest tap from Nobel Cider in Asheville. If you like a good Porter then try the famed Wesser Evil -it’s dark, rich and roasty, but aren’t most evil things? Oh… and I might add yummy! I also like the Amblin amber ale with its sweet caramel and smooth hop notes. These guys are nothing short of marketing genius with their swag. You can shop for t-shirts, hats, stainless steel mugs, beanies, Koozies, and coffee mugs. They also can their beer for major distribution, and you can find their beer throughout Western North Carolina and Northeast Georgia. They also have delicious food! You can order some of the best hand tossed pizza in town or great burgers and sandwiches from the Mad Batter Kitchen  located right inside the Taproom.   

The original location, where they actually do the brewing, is located over the mountain in Franklin, NC just off the Appalachian Trail. The Taproom is in the historical Town-Hall and Fire Department downtown. They have a cool food truck, the Hikers Kitchen, set up serving mouthwatering burgers and wraps, accompanied by their award-winning fries.  Make sure to visit them when you’re in Franklin and tell ‘em Bernie sent you!    

Well, there you have it…, - Sylva, North Carolina has some of the best breweries found in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and one of the main reasons is our water source. Each brewery gets its water from one the purest place on earth- The Blue Ridge Mountains and The Great Smoky Mountains. Next time you’re on a beer run… mosey on over to Sylva and check out the beer scene, and make sure to tell them Bernie sent you! Cheers! 

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