And the chosen NC brewery is:
Mills River Brewery, in Arden
(across I-26 from Asheville airport and Sierra Nevada). Owner/Brewer
Joey Soukup has upped the brewery's game, with 15 beers on tap (two
chili stouts were out!) and a very diverse range of styles. Jennifer
Anderson easily handled our tasting flight orders (4 of them) and
offered style recommendations as well. Two IPAs and a Citra Wit were
standouts for me; the Pounding Mill and Bad Fork Rye and the Lumber
River Wit. The collab with Ecusta, Motofican, was a popular choice among the group as well.
We combined this stop with a visit to Sierra Nevada, about 5 mins away,
so I'd recommend the same for you for a first time visit.
Some photos to orient yourselves:
http://millsriverbrewery.net/ Mills River Brewery