This is part of a Beerventure Series from Steph’s April 2014 trip to Asheville, North Carolina. See the rest of the series here.
Rich and I were not going to let an abbreviated spring break keep us from enjoying a fun trip. We decided we wanted to travel south, and we were willing to drive about 9 hours. Solution… Asheville, North Carolina.
Named “Beer City USA” four years in a row, how could it not be an epic vacation? Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than any other US city. The Asheville area is home to 18 breweries. I made it to almost all of them.
While a 10-mile back up from an accident and multiple construction zones kept us from arriving in Asheville until 2:30 AM, that didn’t hinder my enthusiasm as we woke up that morning. After touring the Biltmore estate, I knew my first stop in Downtown Asheville had to be Wicked Weed Brewing Company.
Wicked Weed’s website reads, “King Henry VIII declared hops ‘A wicked and pernicious weed’ destined to ruin beer. Independent brewers were driven by their rebel integrity to defy the king, embrace the hop and create beer for the untamed palate. Today, rebel integrity drives our defiant beer.”
In 2009 brothers Walt and Luke Dickinson first discussed opening their own brewery. They wanted to focus on big West Coast hoppy ales and authentic Belgian ales. After a business plan was developed and hundreds of test batches were brewed, the brothers shared their brews with their lifelong friend Ryan Guthy and his parents in 2011. The Guthys were on board, and Wicked Weed Brewing Company was born.
Wicked Weed Brewing creates big-flavor, hop-forward beers that push creative boundaries. They believe in “the wildness of beer, its nonconformist attitude, its ability to resist being tamed.” Their goal is to tempt the beer drinker into trying something new and hope they fall in love. They strive to push themselves as brewers and keep the attention of craft beer drinkers.
I started my visit at the bar upstairs. I enjoyed Feral Ale, a 4.7% ABV blend of their IPA and pilsner brewed for Brother Wolf, a no kill animal shelter. Wicked Weed donates 10% of the sales of this beer to the shelter. I also tried Day Walker, a sunshine orange colored ale was brewed with 12 pounds of crystallized and fresh ginger.
The quick-thinking bartender grabbed empty pitchers, while the brewer went downstairs to turn off the tap. Several patrons offered their empty growlers, but their wish was not fulfilled.
After all of that excitement, we headed downstairs. The downstairs bar not only offers views of the brewing area, there are also many more beers on tap! I decided to sample some funky stuff.
Besides the Asheville brewery and restaurant, Wicked Weed Brewing has an offsite barrel facility that has the ability to house up to 200 barrels allowing them to brew two main styles of barreled beer: Blissful in Bourbon and Wicked and Wild.
During my visit I tried the following beers from the “Funkatorium.” They were all phenomenal.
- Divergence – a 7.4% ABV brettanomyces porter made with dry fermented Ethiopian coffee from Mountain Air roasters; Flavors of cherry and dark berries with bourbon from the wood barrels.
- Le Peche Blanc – a 5.4% ABV Brettanomyces finished saison brewed with peaches and apricots; aged for 8 months in wine barrels.
- Reverence – a 6.6% ABV Belgian pale ale made in reverence of Orval trappist ale; finished with Brettanomyces and aged in Cabernet barrels for 6 months, then blended and dry-hopped with traditional Belgian hops.
- Vigilance – a 6% ABV 100% brettanomyces fermented ale is brewed with pineapple and guava then aged in white wine barrels.
One of the bottles I picked up was their Black Angel, the third release of Black Angel Cherry Sour. This sour black ale was brewed with over one pound of tart cherries per barrel and then aged with souring bacterium in fresh bourbon barrels.
I also sampled their Dark Rye Bourbon Stout, a 10.75% ABV imperial stout that spent 6 months soaking up rich flavors of bourbon aging in oak barrels. The beer boasted chocolate flavors and bourbon character with warming finish.
I enjoyed the beers so much, that I picked up several bottles to go, and I was already planning my next visit.
When we stopped by a few days later, it was much busier, despite the heavy rainfall. We headed right downstairs. Luckily we snagged a spot at the long picnic table inside. Despite the crowd, we did not wait long for our drinks.
I started with Pear Bear, 9.4% ABV beer brewed with orange blossom honey, fresh cardamom, and pear puree. This one was tasty and insanely easy to drink.
Next, I had the Cali Orange Pale, a 6.5% ABV pale ale brewed with an absurd amount of fresh oranges in the boil. The flavor and aroma from the fresh fruit and the hops combined for an incredibly fresh, citrusy, hoppy glass of happiness.
My final beer at Wicked Weed (sniff sniff) was the Sauvage Wine Barrel Saison, a 6.9% ABV saison brewed to mimic Sauvignon Blanc wine. Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand were used. The beer was aged in Sauvignon Blanc wine barrels for 2 months.
We ended up chatting with three awesome people during while I enjoyed my last beer. While they all live in Asheville now, ironically one of them went to the same elementary school I attended! What a small world.
It should be no surprise that Wicked Weed was my favorite brewery in Asheville. Their beers are complex, creative, and so freaking tasty. If you go to Asheville, be sure to go there first. And then go again. And again.
91 Biltmore Avenue | Asheville, NC 28801