Swiss beer drinkers protest Wicked Weed sale

Image courtesy of Wicked Weed Brewing
Image courtesy of Wicked Weed Brewing

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:

Beer drinkers in Bern protested A-B InBev's acquisition of Wicked Weed by dumping Wicked Weed products into Bern's Chindlifresser fountain.  Photo courtesy of Olivier Vurchio
Beer drinkers in Bern protested A-B InBev’s acquisition of Wicked Weed by dumping Wicked Weed products into Bern’s Chindlifresser fountain. Photo courtesy of Olivier Vurchio

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.

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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9 thoughts on “Swiss beer drinkers protest Wicked Weed sale

    • Juan

      Yeah the guy knows nothing about beer yet decide to write an article on it

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    Many people consider Carolina Journal mainstream, certainly NOT ‘ultra-conservative’ … sheesh, gain some NC reality. And they made a good point about WW.

    • The Real World

      Reality has almost no basis in many viewpoints about a variety of topics the last few years. Reality is simply annoying, and to be avoided, if it doesn’t line-up with what someone WANTS to believe.

      Like promoting the idea that a region that produces just 1% of the hops in the world is somehow an important factor in the beer world. There is simply no reasoning with minds like that.

      Sidebar: I drove past WW last night about 9:15 and they were clearly doing fine business. Probably were packed at 6 – 7pm.

      • NFB

        Not all hops are created equal. South African hops may indeed be only 1% of the hops in the world but are of a different variety and are heavily used by craft brewers.

        If you had read the whole article you would have seen that. Then again, maybe you did but decided to cherry pick. I’ll leave it to others to decide which.

      • qq

        South Africa produces about as many hops as NZ or Australia, it’s in the top 10 global hop producers (or thereabouts).

        And the point is less about US imports – what’s more significant is the impact on their domestic industry. If you’re South African, you don’t care what % of world production is is – you want **”your”** hops. Imagine the US hop farmers saying “we’re going to sell all our Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic to AB, but it’s OK because you can easily buy some Hallertau from Germany”. (I know it isn’t quite that extreme, but it’s a useful thought experiment)

  2. Todd Nelson

    Given that the craft breweries in Switzerland such as BFM, Trois Dames, Storm & Anchor, 523, Kitchen Brew, La Nébuleuse, Degen Bier, Bier Factory, Docteur Gab’s produce some of the most boring, unoriginal and unprogressive craft beer in the world, you’d think the Swiss would have second thoughts before dumping out bottles of Wicked Weed…even if it is in protest of WW selling their soul. Stick with what you know best Switzerland: chocolate, cheese and protecting the pope. Let the others take care of the craft beer.

  3. Mike

    Good rational act by the Swiss (they are known for this, besides chocolate ;-) ) The sale of Wicked Weed to AB InBev should be an affront to anyone in the Asheville community that cares about local business and keeping our city a special place. Change and growth are inevitable, but there is no reason to continue supporting Wicked Weed with your beer dollars when there is SOOO much great local beer in our community, which is still owned and made by people who love good beer and haven’t sold their soul. Let’s take our cue from the Swiss Beer Party and support our local businesses when we want high-quality, great beer, and leave Wicked Weed to the tourists.

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