Wicked Weed, indeed
The name of the newest brewery to announce plans to open in Asheville will be Wicked Weed Brewing — but it’s not what you think. Supposedly, Henry VIII banned the use of hops, and referred to them as “a wicked and pernicious weed.”
Brothers Walt and Luke Dickinson and partner Ryan Guthy want to use a whole lot of this wicked weed to brew their beers. On May 31 at Wedge Brewing, the business partners revealed the name of the heretofore mystery brewery to a large and enthusiastic crowd of beer lovers. I was lucky enough to talk to them beforehand and tour the amazing old building at 91 Biltmore Ave. (former site of Asheville Hardware, which is now on Buxton Avenue).
The owners hope to have Wicked Weed Brewing open for business later this year. With support from local entrepreneurs Denise and Rick Guthy (Ryan's parents), the Dickinsons and Guthy will splash out a 15-barrel brewhouse with a bar in the basement and another bar and restaurant upstairs. A portion of the parking lot (next to the Orange Peel, in the front of the building) will be turned into patio seating.
"We believe in Luke's beer,” says Denise. Her husband, Rick Guthy, is a chief operating officer of multinational infomercial company Guthy-Renker.
Wicked Weed will be a pretty big brewhouse in the scheme of Asheville beer. They plan a 15-barrel system, five 15-barrel fermenters, a 30-barrel fermenter, three brites and 10 serving tanks (that’s big compared to most of our current local breweries — not when compared to the big boys and girls from Colorado and California who are opening facilities in the region). Equipment is on the way. The brothers also have purchased an open fermenter to make some big Belgian beers (I know of several brewers who are having tank envy as they read this).
“We want to focus on hoppy, West Coast-style beers and big Belgians, with some traditional English-style ales and lagers as well,” says Walt Dickinson, 30, currently CEO of Higher Grounds Rainwater Solutions of Asheville.
Both Dickinsons are home brewers, but Luke, 27, will spend most of his time in the brewery, while Guthy will oversee restaurant operations, and Walt will serve as general management. In the most "awwww" moment of the interview, Walt told me he gave his brother a home-brewing kit for his 21st birthday — and Luke's been brewing like crazy ever since.
Luke currently tends bar in Delaware and works parttime at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Del. He plans to move back to Asheville in September (the brothers both moved to Asheville with their family in the early '90s and attended T.C. Roberson High).
While Luke says he’s obsessed with brewing, he has little commercial brewing experience (though he brewed his first commercial beer with brewer icon Sam Calgione). The brothers will hire another brewer to help out.
Initially, they’ll only sell their beers in house, and though the brewhouse will have a 5,000-barrel capacity, Walt says they certainly won’t be putting out that much beer in year one.
“First, we want to make sure we’re making the best beer we can, then we’ll see if we want to sell our beer around town or elsewhere,” he says.
WNC’s next brewery
We’ve known for a while now that Waynesville watering hole Tipping Point Tavern planned to join the region’s brew-vival. And it’s true. Any day now, Brewer Scott Peterson will start serving brews from a three-barrel system at the tavern. Peterson has a great pedigree, having brewed at Wyncoop Brewing and Ska Brewing previously (both in Colorado). Initially, the beers will only be available at the tavern, says owner Jon Bowman, and he notes that Peterson likely will brew twice a day just to keep customers at the year-and-a-half-old brewpub happy.
AVL Beer Week/Beer City Fest
My liver did survive the first ever Asheville Beer Week, but I must say, it’s kind of depressing to only have two beer events on my calendar this week, instead of 60.
Despite a tiny bit of beer drama here and there, our 11-day festival celebrating the world’s favorite alcoholic beverage went swimmingly. (I define “beer drama” as anything that can happen when two or more beer industry folks are in the same room at the same time selling different beers.)
I was incredibly excited to get to meet and lift a pint or two with several brewers and brewery folks who came here specifically for Asheville Beer Week: Greg Engert, beer director for Churchkey in D.C., Scott Jennings and Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada, Vinnie Cilurzo, brewer/owner of Russian River Brewing and a whole team from New Belgium, including Grady Hull, assistant brewer. And that’s just to name a few of the fun beer geeks I got to chat with. All three of the breweries that are opening second facilities in WNC — Sierra, New Belgium and Oskar Blues — showed up and were shown some Southern hospitality (Matty Guillard of New Belgium told me so).
Just a word about Grossman and Jennings, who soon will be Western North Carolina’s own beer celebs: Grossman will be managing Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River, and Jennings will be head brewer there. While we won’t see any beer from the facility until probably early 2014, Jennings and family will most likely move to the area next fall. Jennings has been in charge of Sierra’s 10-barrel pilot system, so he’s been producing lots of small batch experimental brews. Hope he’s still able to do so when he's down the road.
Also, a huge shout-out all who organized Beer City Fest, especially grand festival master, Jimi Rentz. The third Beer City Fest was the best yet. A sold out crowd of more than 2,200 soaked up the sun and the suds while cheering Asheville’s fourth Beer City, USA, win. Thirty-two breweries poured tastes. Represented were all of the Asheville-area breweries, plus a number of standouts from elsewhere, including Surly Brewing of Minnesota, whose beers currently aren’t distributed here. It’s been a heckuva beer year for this region, for sure.
Finally, thanks to the Asheville Beer Week organizing committee for doing a stupendous job (myself included), to Honey Badger head Mike Rangel of Asheville Brewing Company for herding drunk cats for several months, and to Win Bassett, executive director of the N.C. Brewers Guild, for spending 10 days in town tweeting his thumbs off. Also, big congrats to Our Taco Truck for winning the first Battle Food Truck. If you haven’t tasted Pisgah Brewing's Blind Pig Coconut Porter, hunt it down and imbibe. Speaking of coconut porter, another congrats goes out to home brewer Alex Zdanovich. I was honored to again judge the amazing Just Economics of WNC Home Brew It Fest, and I chose Zdanovich's Chocolate Coconut Coffee Stout as the Brewgasm winner. This beer also won The People's Choice Award.
Let’s do it again next year, y’all. Slainte!