Hundreds of visitors pour in to visit New Belgium's Liquid Center tasting room

Hundreds of visitors pour into the newly-opened New Belgium 'Liquid Center' tasting room on May 2, 2016. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A much-anticipated attraction in West Asheville is now open to the public.

New Belgium Brewing says by 5 p.m. Monday, 500 visitors lined the streets and filled parking lots throughout the day to check out the Liquid Center tasting room.

Crowds this big haven't been seen along Craven Street in decades. Eric Caldwell, a neighbor and Asheville native, says it's a huge turnaround for the area.

He says he has watched the west end of the French Broad River transform in order to accommodate New Belgium visitors.

"They've definitely widened up the road. We love the bike lanes and everything," Caldwell said. "Can't wait until they're going to have the actual green trail through here, I think it will really be nice."

It took two years of construction for the craft brewing giant to get to this point, with anxious customers lined up outside its doors before opening at 11 a.m. on Monday.

"That's the $25,000 question today. We've been planning this thing for four years, so there's a lot of speculation on how many people we will see," Tyler Foos, Liquid Center Manager, said.

Asheville expects the brewery will lure tourists in from around the region. Some visitors say they wouldn't mind putting in the extra effort to get here.

"I wish we had brought our mountain bikes. We would have loved to ride in. We're staying right up the road and it looks like it's been very biker and pedestrian friendly," Steve Branum said, who grew up near the original brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. and made the trip from Charlotte for Asheville's grand opening.

New Belgium employees say the lot in front of the tasting room will be enough for traffic during weekdays. There's additional parking along Craven Street and in the City of Asheville's lot under the Jeff Bowen Bridge. That lot will hold the most cars.

Employees say they ask customers not to park in neighborhood streets. The walking paths and bike lanes are meant to encourage customers to leave the cars at home.

Construction and some fencing will remain on the property until tours begin this summer.

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