Image 1. Room to experiment: Wicked Weed’s size gives the brewers flexibility to produce beer in many ways. Look for barrel-aged and open-fermented varieties.
Image 2. Family friendly: The owners of Wicked Weed welcome families and large groups in addition to beer connoisseurs. In fact, the business is family owned. Pictured here are co-owners Ryan, Denise and Rick Guthy.
Photos by Max Cooper
In the brewery below Wicked Weed’s restaurant, more than half of the space is taken up by brewing equipment. There’s a glassed-off room with yeast bubbling in an open fermentor. A line of oak barrels separates the bar from the brewery.
This is where beer happens.
And it’s not just the atmosphere. Of the 28 taps upstairs, at any one time they can only run 14 beers through them. “Downstairs you will eventually be able to order up to 25 different beers,” said Luke Dickinson, part-owner and brewer at Wicked Weed. The plan is for about half those beers to be West Coast style American ales (meaning aggressively hopped and on the dry side) and Belgian style ales for the other half.
Highlights on the hoppy side include Transgressor Imperial Red and Freak Imperial IPA. Freak is already an Asheville favorite: the brewery cites it as a main reason they won the People’s Choice award at Brewgrass in 2012. Its recipe has been in development for close to a decade. “We’ve always wanted it to be a beer that’s like sticking your face in a bag of hops … You’ll still be smelling it and tasting it 15 minutes after you finish it. You’ll be burping hops,” said Luke.
Transgressor — dank, citrusy, and clearly inspired by breweries like Green Flash — has also proved popular. A preview keg was sent to Thirsty Monk in late December and sold out in just over an hour.
While the hoppy beers have received the bulk of the hype, Wicked Weed’s brewers are equally excited about Blondes, Dubbels and other Belgian beers. “Saison is probably my favorite style to brew and drink,” said Walt Dickinson, Luke’s brother and also part-owner and brewer.
A loosely defined Belgian-style farmhouse ale, saison can vary wildly from brewery to brewery — and even within the same brewery. However, when you order a saison, you can expect certain things: fruit, earth and spice-forward notes from the yeast and a light, crisp body with high carbonation. Wicked Weed will be the first Asheville brewery to keep this style on tap year-round. Like small-time brewers of old, they plan to continually change recipes, using what they have on-hand.
“We love the rustic character of saisons … it’s something we’re really passionate about,” says Luke. “We’re trying to recreate the feel that you’re actually drinking beer made in a farmhouse by using a variety of base malts, throwing in raw grains; and using our open fermentor.”
Saison I and Saison II, both on tap at opening, were variations on a theme with small riffs on ingredients, similar ABVs and the same yeast strain. However, the brothers say to expect wildly different saisons in the future. From sessionable beers (4 percent ABV) made with Belgian Ardennes yeast, to the aforementioned sweet potato, grit and local honey saison.
With plans for wood-aged beers, sours and other one-offs in addition to the stable of West Coast style beers and Belgians, will non-beer geeks be overwhelmed at Wicked Weed?
“Not at all,” Walt says. “It really just comes down to what you like. The nice thing is that we’ll always have three to four offerings in a variety of different styles. So feel free to just come in and tell us, ‘I want a hoppy beer,’ or ‘I like dark beer.’”
Then again, “I like all our beer,” he says.
Wicked Weed Brewing, 91 Biltmore Ave., opens Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 12 to 10 p.m. On weekends, the kitchen closes at midnight. For more information, call 575-9959, visit the brewery Facebook page, or check out wickedweedbrewing.com.