Sylva’s Main Street plays host to three breweries in an easily-walkable, scenic one-mile stretch – called the Jackson County Ale Trail.
Whether you enjoy sipping a smooth golden ale, something hoppy or a dark IPA, Jackson County’s craft breweries have you covered.
North Carolina boasts more breweries and brewpubs than any other state in the southeast and Jackson County has a commitment to quality local brews.
The Jackson County Ale Trail starts at Sneak E Squirrel, winding its way by Mark Watson Park, beside Sylva’s Historic Courthouse (often called the most photographed building in the United States), down Sylva’s Historic Main and Mill Streets to Heinzelmännchen, ending at Innovation Brewing. Along the route of the ale trail are great restaurants to grab a bite, antique shops and more.
All breweries offer flights (samplings of many beers), pints, growlers and either have food on site or allow you to bring your own.
Last year, Sneak E Squirrel owner John Duncan (who goes by Duncan) joined the scene and opened his family-friendly brewery after outfitting a former car dealership for brewing, complete with a full kitchen. Duncan’s focus is on bringing together neighbors and families into a fun, safe environment.
He offers 13 beers on tap and terms their selections well balanced. “We don’t go for extremes, except for our ‘Beer of the Week’, and then it’s anything goes. We do very good renderings of classic styles,” Duncan said.
“We specialize in game meat, but that’s where normal takes a left turn. From ‘Bambi in a blanket’ to ‘Silence of the Lamburger’ to the upcoming, completely ingredient random ‘Heisenburger,’ the madness never stops,” Duncan said of the Squirrel’s food offerings.
The Sneak E Squirrel recently joined two other well-established breweries in the area, including Heinzelmännchen, known as “Your Gnometown Brewery.”
Heinzelmännchen Brewery entice one’s palate and complement what’s on their plate. Brewed by a German Brewmeister you’ll find Heinzelmännchen beers to be full of flavor & complexity with mild hopping and a smooth finish.
In their Bier Halle you’ll find a selection of traditional, year ’round favorites as well as seasonal and specialty beers. They are also well known for their non-alcoholic root beer and birch beer. Locally made soft pretzels and Lusty Monk mustard pair very well with one of their beers.
Sheryl Rudd and Dieter Kuhn began brewing German Ales from Sylva’s Mill Street long before the craft beer movement took hold, and they quickly became a staple in many households, with people driving from out of town to fill their growlers. Heinzelmännchen Brewery, now in its 12th year, has celebrated many successes over the years, including being named as one of the “Top 10 Brewery Tours,” by TripAdvisor.
Dieter, who was born in Heidelsheim near Germany’s Black Forest remembers trips to the local brauhaus to pick-up a week’s supply of beer for his family and his desire to brew started from an early age. He continues those memories by brewing his own beer at Heinzelmännchen Brewery and Bier Halle.
Innovation Brewing, now in its third year, is growing and doing so sustainably. This year they installed 100 solar panels on their roof to help cut their carbon footprint by half.
This year they’ve expanded operations and now have 32 brews on tap, a homemade ginger ale and three ciders. A seven-barrel brew house, Innovation has a handful of mainstay traditional ales as well as several IPAs and a number of seasonal and experimental beers.
“We like to push the envelope by creating fun and unique beer styles using non-traditional beer ingredients such as beets, cilantro, basil and cucumbers to name a few,” said Nicole Dexter, who owns the brewery with her husband Chip. In addition to brews, Innovation has the Cosmic Carryout food truck on hand seven days a week and the brewery is pet and family friendly.
Next year a new brewery will join these three in the southern end of the county – Whiteside Brewing in Cashiers.
A tip to enjoy Jackson County’s Ale Trail: List and rank the beers by appearance, aroma and taste and try a beer that appeals to those senses.