ASHEVILLE – One of the best destinations for craft beer is in Asheville. And it’s not a brewery.
USA Today’s 10Best awards series highlights top-ranking food, lodging, destinations, travel gear, and things to do from across the country. Travel and industry experts narrow the list to the top 20 nominees who are then voted upon by readers.
On Aug. 3, USA Today released its 2023 readers’ choice awards lists, including an Asheville business known for its deep well of specialty beers from around the world.
The Whale: A Craft Beer Collective, at 507 Haywood Road, ranked No. 6 on USA Today’s 10Best award for Best Beer Bars in the U.S.
“It’s awesome. Seeing that we got six out of 10 and out of all the stiff competition we were up against was exciting, really cool,” said co-owner Jesse Van Note, who opened The Whale in West Asheville with Andrew Ross in 2017.
Best Beer Bars honorees were chosen based on their wide-ranging, top-tier quality local and regional draft, bottled and canned beers. The criteria included that the bar must have a relaxed atmosphere and a staff with a wealth of knowledge about what’s served there.
The Whale’s menu regularly rotates with new, rare craft beers in the area and goes beyond to introduce patrons to unfamiliar or hard-to-acquire brands and styles outside of Western North Carolina.
On average, there are more than 150 options available at any given time pouring from the 20 taps or the bottles and cans stocked in the cooler that may be consumed on-site or purchased to-go, Van Note said.
“Our concept has always been to provide beers from around the world ― beers that maybe you don’t see that often or are hard to get, but also beers that are maybe common in other parts of the earth or the United States, but we don’t see much where we’re at,” Van Note said.
The Whale’s offerings extend to wine, cider, mead, and sake, too.
Some supplies may last for a week while others a month, depending on popularity, he said.
At its inception, Ross and Van Note saw an opportunity to introduce a bar that complements Asheville’s growing craft beer industry while offering a unique experience and menu.
“We were both working at breweries and as exciting as it is working in Asheville and being in the brewery capital it’s hard to find beers from other places,” Van Note said. “Asheville is so hyperlocal that it’s hard to find a beer that’s not local. It made sense for us to try and focus on these beers that kind of brought us into the business and we grew up loving and had to chase them down.”
Although The Whale specializes in international brands and styles, guests may catch limited releases and collaboration beers from The Whale and Asheville breweries, such as Burial Beer Co., Dssolver, and Zillicoah Beer Co.
10Best’s selection committee members of craft beer industry professionals praised The Whale for putting the history and quality of their beer selections as a top priority. They also admired the Asheville bar’s “wild cards” which gives the bartender the power to choose a unique beer from the menu for the guest, so they may sample “something you have never seen or heard of, but are glad you discovered.”
The Whale’s West Asheville location was the first for the business, which has expanded to include a concept called The Whale Outpost at 2 Beverly Road in the Haw Creek neighborhood of East Asheville. The neighborhood bar has a larger selection of wine and an expansive bottle shop section.
Also, The Whale has locations in Greenville and Charleston in South Carolina.
In June, The Whale hosted its inaugural beer festival, The Invitational, with more than 50 brewery vendors in attendance.
The summer festival will be an annual celebration, and there are many other events hosted at The Whale’s locations year-round.
On Sept. 9, in West Asheville, Picklefest is planned and will feature pickle and beer vendors, a pickle competition, and pickle beers on tap. Also, details for an end-of-summer pool party at a Haw Creek swimming pool will be announced on the business’s social media.
The 10Best’s Best Beer Bars in 2023
- Pilot Project Brewing. Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Side Hustle Taproom. Seattle and Kirkland, Washington
- Brick Store Pub. Decatur, Georgia
- O’Brien’s Pub. San Diego, California
- Monk’s Cafe. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- The Whale. Asheville, North Carolina
- Max’s Taphouse. Baltimore, Maryland
- HopCat. Grand Rapids, Michigan
- ChurchKey. Washington, D.C.
- Hop City Beer & Wine. Birmingham, Alabama
View the full list at 10best.com/awards/travel/best-beer-bar-2023/.
Where: 507 Haywood Road, Asheville
Hours: Noon-11 p.m. Daily