Green Man Brewery is commemorating its 20th year in operation, and one day of celebration would not have sufficed. Instead, Asheville’s second-oldest brewery has scheduled a weeklong series of events featuring its most coveted beers, including a few that haven’t been seen since the brewery initiated the first sour program in town almost a decade ago. In addition to releasing cellared bottles of some of the brewery’s most highly acclaimed products, Green Man will also be introducing some noteworthy new offerings, including its first multivintage blended sour.
“We’ve always been that brewery that you sort of discover,” says Green Man owner Dennis Thies. “We’ve historically never really put a lot of hype behind what we’re doing, but we’re really excited about this because it’s a cool milestone that we wanted to commemorate through all the beers we’ve been putting out. It’s exciting. Twenty years in this crazy universe that is the craft beer industry — to make it to 20 is extremely significant.”
Although Asheville Beer Week doesn’t officially begin until Friday, May 26, Green Man got a head start on the festivities by debuting this year’s La Mas Negra Imperial Black Ale and offering vertical tastings of its Dweller Imperial Stout and Demon Dweller Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout on May 22. And on Thursday, May 25, the 2017 batch of Holly King Barrel Aged Holiday Ale premieres along with the opportunity for on-premises consumption of several rare bottles that showcase the brewery’s sour program.
Spearheaded by former Green Man specialty brewer and current owner and brewmaster of Zebulon Artisan Ales, Mike Karnowski, in late 2009 and early 2010, the program is one of the oldest of its kind in the Eastern U.S. Its history will be covered as part of an educational roundtable on Thursday, May 25, at 6 p.m. Open to the public, the event will be moderated by members of the Mountain Ale & Lager Tasters homebrew club and will include some extraordinarily rare offerings from the brewery’s cellar.
More than 11 cases of the 2016 editions of both Bootsy Sour Black Ale and Maceo Imperial Brown Ale have been aging for a year and will be available for bottle service that night. Attendees will also receive the first chance to try Wilder, which Green Man head of marketing Elizabeth Keil calls “one of the most complex beers we’ve ever made.”
Named after actor Gene Wilder well before his death in August 2016, Wilder was the designation given to the base beer for the brewery’s Snozzberry American Sour Blonde Ale. Inspired by Belgian lambics, the multivintage blend of Wilder was conceived by former Green Man specialty brewer and current Archetype Brewing head brewer Josh Jiles, alongside current Green Man specialty brewer and lead cellarman Kyle McKenzie. While the beer is intended to be less acidic and more complex than the brewery’s current sour offerings, McKenzie is quick to point out that it shouldn’t be confused with gueuze.
“I didn’t want to call it lambic or gueuze out of respect to those beers stylistically. There are some traditional things we’re not doing — we’re not turbid mashing or spontaneously fermenting. We don’t want to bastardize that style,” says McKenzie. “But Jiles and I had been wanting to put out base Wilder for a long time because, in tasting through barrels, we always seemed to find a few barrels that had a really nice character that was just going to get covered up when we threw fruit on it.”
McKenzie tasted every barrel of Wilder in Green Man’s possession before settling on four, ranging in age from 9 months to almost 40. They were then blended and allowed to rest for two months before being packaged. Since the beer’s May 25 debut is solely for on-premises consumption, the first opportunity to take home Wilder in 750-milliliter bottles is Saturday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at the Greenmansion with a limit of two per customer. Next door, Dirty Jack’s will be open to serve customers who don’t want to brave the bottle release. Within the Greenmansion, all exits from the sale line will be final, so attendees wanting bottles are cautioned not to go upstairs to the taproom for a beer unless they have already purchased their packaged products downstairs.
In addition to Wilder, Green Man will continue to pour beers from its 20th Anniversary Pub Series, creations that harken back to the early days of the brewery and will close out AVL Beer Week with the release of Old Hearty Ale, a collaboration with Bruisin’ Ales as part of the bottle shop’s 10th anniversary Golden Gloves 2017 Series. A tribute to the classic Old Ales of England, 750-milliliter bottles of the 13.4 percent ABV brew go on sale at Bruisin’ Ales at 5 p.m. Friday, June 2, giving Green Man an impressive and potentially symbolic total for the week.
“I’m not exactly sure how many beers we’re actually releasing, but including the vintage stuff, it’s got to be around 20 — 20 beers for 20 years,” says Thies. “I think, in a nutshell, Beer Week is a great time for us to celebrate having been at this for 20 years, and we want to share it with our fans in Asheville. Local support here has been so incredibly overwhelming. We couldn’t be happier to be able to share this occasion with our community.”