My wife and I visited Portland, Ore., earlier this year. While we could only hit a small fraction of the city’s 50-plus breweries, we made sure to stop at Cascade Brewing, a legendary producer of sour beers, and Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.
At Cascade, we found no fewer than a dozen sour beers on tap, from fruity apricot- and raspberry-infused ales to oak-forward beers that spent years in barrels and were blended to taste. At Hair of the Dog, you could order any of the brewery’s flagships on draft. However, you could also order cellared versions of the beers from a bottle menu. For example, there was a special edition of Hair of the Dog’s old ale, aged on cherries and wood before bottling, from as far back as 2009.
Here in Asheville, some of our breweries don’t yet date back five years, never mind the beers. Even at our oldest brewery, Highland, nobody expects to walk in and order beer off a menu instead of a chalkboard. Yet when Wicked Weed opened in 2012, there wasn’t a brewery in town where you could regularly order sour beers either. So perhaps Wicked Weed’s latest idea, dubbed the Funkatorium, is a sign that our beer scene is evolving into one with the variety of Portland’s.
While the Funkatorium’s warehouse side debuted in Xpress a couple of months ago, the operation has two parts: It’s a taproom as well as a barrel-aging and bottling facility for Wicked Weed. More than 1,000 barrels of all types will eventually fill the warehouse space, and the taproom will almost exclusively pour sour and wild beers aged in those barrels.
With 16 taps, the brewery expects to devote 14 to sour beers with the other two pouring Freak of Nature double IPA or seasonal beers from the main brewery. In addition to the taps, as time goes on Wicked Weed will also showcase its bottled offerings. Currently it only has a couple of years of brewing to draw on, but as time goes on management expects both the variety of beers and the vintages to increase. The brewery points out that for these beers — which have many cultures in play besides the standard yeasts used for brewing — flavors and aromas change noticeably over time. So even the small roster of beers it’s starting with should prove interesting.
The look and feel of the taproom echoes the main Wicked Weed brewpub on Biltmore Avenue. The bar is made of reclaimed poplar, and the tables were built from reclaimed heart of pine salvaged from Old Crow Distillery in Kentucky. A small outdoor space is more an extension of the indoor area than anything else, although the brewery says there are plans to expand it in the future.
In addition to the beers, there is a small food menu at the Funkatorium. Chef Cardiff Creasy says it departs significantly from the menu at the main location. It’s smaller and more of a tasting menu for one, but Creasy says he also wants it to function as a flavor flow chart. Thus, it is arranged in categories based on flavors rather than dish style: Earthy, salty and sweet will be the headings rather than salads, sandwiches and dessert. Menu items include a charcuterie board featuring Hickory Nut Gap meats, a salted chocolate bar, brined olives and smoked mussels.
The Wicked Weed Funkatorium is at 147 Coxe Ave. and opens to the public at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.
Oskar Blues Named Top 5,000 Fastest-Growing Company by Inc.
If it seems as if Oskar Blues is always up to something down in Brevard — opening new bike ranches, adding fermenters and hiring new staff — that’s because it is. Now, Inc. magazine has officially recognized the company, headquartered in Longmont, Colo., as one of the 5,000 privately held companies growing the fastest in the United States. Other companies that made the list include Zappos, Clif Bar, Pandora, Patagonia and Oracle.
According to Oskar Blues communicatrix Anne-Fitten Glenn, the company grew beer production and distribution 40 percent over the past year — thanks in large part to its Brevard-based second brewery. What’s more, Glenn says it expects both East and West Coast breweries to expand in the year ahead. In fact, in Colorado there are plans to add 60,000 feet of production space, including a six-lane bowling alley that will be open to taproom customers. (No word yet on a bowling alley for Brevard.)
As a reminder, the Oskar Blues REEB Ranch opened recently in Henderson County, about 8 miles from the brewery. It’s set up to be an all-in-one stop for mountain bikers, including camping and accommodations. There’s also space for music and events, and the ranch will host its first large event on Saturday, Oct. 11, when the Red Bull Dreamline Ultimate BMX Dirt Bike Competition takes place.