Wicked Weed Brewing wins award, gathers crowds

by Alex Milstein – Staff Writer – amilstei@unca.edu

The theme for recently opened Wicked Weed Brewing may as well be ‘new.’ Wicked Weed brings a new style of beer to Asheville, Beer City, USA. Though it only officially opened on December 28, after winning the Peoples Choice Brewgrass Festival award this summer, Wicked Weed is already popular among beer connoisseurs in Asheville.

Luke Dickinson, co-owner and brewer at Wicked Weed Brewing, said he was interested in bringing new beer to Asheville.

“Basically our objective with beer is that we are trying to bring West Coast style and Belgian ale as our main brew,” said Dickinson. “West Coast style means lots of hops and a little higher alcohol. Our focus is definitely hoppy beer on the American side, and we really want our main focus to be on West Coast style and Belgian beers.”

When it comes to making Belgian style beers, Wicked Weed brewers said they do not mess around.

“We are the only brewery in Asheville that uses an open fermenter, which is actually the original way to make Belgian ale,” Dickinson said.

Using an open fermentor, as they did in the days before airlocks were invented, is challenging because beer in an open fermentor can be easily contaminated during the fermentation process. Wicked Weed brewers said they have that covered. They have an entire sterile room solely for open fermenting.

“Its about as close to the taste of actual beer in Belgium that you can get,” Dickinson said.”

There are also Belgian seasonal beers called Saisons, meaning season in French. Recently, brewers crafted what they describe as one of the most unique beers in Asheville.

“In our Appalachian Saison, Saison 3, we use grilled sweet potatoes, grits and honey,” Dickinson said. “We are really trying to make beer that encompasses all of the ingredients you can find here locally, and in the western North Carolina region.”

Incorporating these different flavors into Asheville’s already extremely diverse beer culture really helps show Wicked Weed is not just another ordinary brewing company, according to Dickinson.

Brewgrass Festival is an annual beer festival held in Western North Carolina  showcasing more than 120 different beers from 40 American breweries. Wicked Weed Brewing won the summer 2012 People’s Choice award. More than 150 people were lined up for hours to try a three ounce glass of Wicked Weed’s brew.

“The beer that really brought it home for us was our Freak Double IPA, which we have on tap,” Dickinson said. “It is about 8 percent alcohol, really dry, with huge hop flavor, and very dank, piney and citrusy smells. It’s really drinkable for 8 percent alcohol, so you kind of have to be careful with it.”

Ryan Guthy, co-owner and manager of Wicked Weed Brewing, talks very highly of Asheville and the preparation it took to make a reputation for Wicked Weed.

“We wanted to bring Asheville what they deserved as Beer City, USA,” said Guthy. “After going on a West Coast trip in preparation for opening our brewery, we checked out breweries in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, all of which are well known for their variety of beer, and the amount of breweries in these places. We wanted to see what we could incorporate into Asheville that it might be missing.”

Guthy noticed the West Coast had types of beer that Asheville was lacking.

After long hours of hard work and preparation, Wicked Weed made beer unlike any other in Asheville.

“We have about seven or eight Belgians and about six different American styles,” Guthry said. “We have small batch beers and sour beers, and we just really wanted to incorporate all of that into Asheville, for people who deserve and love it.”

Monika Chao, junior philosophy student at UNC Asheville, said Wicked Weed is very different from other breweries in the area.

“Aside from the amazing beer, the environment there is very relaxed and fun. There’s an upstairs, where you can get beer and food, and downstairs is the actual brewery, as well as the tasting room,” Chao said. “You can usually find some of the brewers themselves hanging out in the basement, which I think really helps customers feel comfortable.”

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