It wasn't about three years ago... a lot of that explosion is very recent (of course, right after I move away).
Of course it was, it has been for several years. It didn't take the Beer City USA title in 2009 (a tie), 2010, and 2011 without having a great beer culture. It has exploded recently, but has always been great.
I'm not going to argue with the awards, but considering not a single one of the places we've mentioned in this thread was even open when I moved away in 2013, that pretty recent.
Burial opened in 2013. Wicked Weed opened in 2011-2012 but didn't really blow up until later when they built the Funkatoriam. New Belgium opened in 2015. Oskar Blues opened in 2016. Sierra Nevada opened in 2014.
I'm sure they are small local places that I've never heard of but these are the things that have hit my radar AFTER I moved away. The only Asheville brewery that I knew of when I moved away was Highland which has been open forever. I wasn't as big into beer then as I am now, so of course now a new place opens and I see it right away. I knew about the NBB and Oskar Blues that were announced and under construction before I left, but they weren't open yet.
So of course, that's my perception of "man this crap all happened after I left".
I recently traveled back to Greensboro, where there used to be 1 brewery (Natty Greene's) and now there are like 10, just in the last 4 years.