In the days since Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing announced it was being purchased by global beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the reaction from customers and craft brewery peers in the U.S. has been loud and mostly negative.
Now beer drinkers in Switzerland are showing their dislike of the sale. In a Boston Tea Party-like action, some customers in Bern bought Wicked Weed bottles from a pub, took them outside and promptly dumped the brews in protest.
The incident happened May 11 at the Biercafé Au Trappiste pub, customer Urs Meier told Xpress in a May 17 email conversation. He says the events began when the café’s owner decided he “did not want the beer in his bar” any longer and discounted his remaining stock to 1 Swiss franc per bottle, down from its usual price of 7 or 8 francs. A Swiss franc is currently worth U.S. $1.02.
On May 11, Biercafé Au Trappiste had posted on its Facebook page a link to a Paste magazine article about Wicked Weed’s sale to A-B InBev with an announcement about the “take-away” deal on Wicked Weed products. “We will take a loss, but we can absolutely no longer stand behind their products, and we will be happy when we have rid our coolers of their negative spirit,“ says the post (as translated from German).
“Many beer drinkers here in Bern thought it was a great gesture to say we only want craft beer,” Meier says.
Some café customers, however, took the gesture one step farther. Meier says “a couple of guys went to Au Trappiste and … bought all the [Wicked Weed] bottles and went outside and poured the beer on the street,” an incident that has since been dubbed the “Bern Beer Party” by locals.
Meier was not present at the beer dump, but says news of the incident quickly spread through the Bern beer community. He does not know the exact number of bottles that were poured out, but calls the customers’ actions a “a small and strong message.”
An employee at Biercafé Au Trappiste confirmed in a Thursday telephone conversation that several customers entered the shop on May 11, bought the discounted bottles of Wicked Weed beer and took them outside the building where they poured them in a public fountain. “We understand [the customers’] action, of course, and we agree,” said the employee, who did not provide a name. “It’s a shame — and our customers share that reaction. We will not be buying or selling their products in the future.”
Famed for its award-winning sour and barrel-aged beers, Wicked Weed has arguably been Asheville’s most popular brewery, but has drawn widespread criticism since the May 3 announcement of its sale to AB-InBev, makers of Budweiser, Bud Light and other domestic brands. The fallout has included numerous breweries pulling out of their commitments to Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium Invitational, which had been slated to take place Saturday, July 8. As a result of the cancellations, the celebration of sour beer that doubles as a fundraiser for Eblen Charities has been rescheduled and, according to a May 9 Facebook post, “reimagined” for Saturday, Aug. 26, at the brewery’s South Asheville production facility.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s global headquarters are in Leuven, Belgium.
UPDATED May 19: Biercafé Au Trappiste co-founder Olivier Vurchio provided the following statement to Xpress:
We had sold beers from Wicked Weed with us and this brewery belongs to us among the top new breweries of last year. We find the quality of their beers excellent. When we heard the news that they were sold to ABInBev, it really hurt our hearts. Even then we had the idea to get rid of all beers — but just as I said, they make excellent beers, and so it was not easy for us. But few days later came the headline that A-B InBev bought South African hops and denied access to these hops to the small breweries. This is an absolute misconduct and not the idea of craft beer, where family conditions are prevalent and mutually supported. This is just a war effort!
Vurchio went on to say that some customers who purchased the discounted bottles emptied them into Bern’s Chindlifresser public fountain and noted that the Chindlifresser depicts a mythical ogre who eats children. He points out the significance of that specific choice of locations in which to dump the beverages: “A-B InBev, the big one, eats the little children, Wicked Weed.”
Virginia Daffron contributed to this story.