The South's Best Brewery 2017: Wicked Weed Brewing
Asheville's Wicked Weed Brewing never planned to start on a sour note. Originally, it was just going to be a small microbrewery, but in five short years, the business has exploded, expanding into a restaurant, three taprooms, and two brewing facilities. Now they're really attracting attention with one of the most serious sour beer programs in the country.
Ryan Guthy is a co-owner with his parents, Denise and Rick Guthy, and their partners, Ryan's friends Luke and Walt Dickinson.
The Guthys started in California, where they were close friends with the Dickinson family. Rick was working for a company that did support and shipping and moved here to open an East Coast center. He chose to put it in Asheville because, he says, "I wanted a beautiful place to raise my kids."
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Luke and Walt were both home brewers, Ryan had majored in finance, and Rick knew manufacturing. So they found a 1920s Gulf station on Biltmore Avenue in the heart of Asheville's beer scene, across the street from Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria. They focused on bold West Coast beers, particularly IPAs, and added a restaurant with a seasonal menu. Then Walt Dickinson got interested in something that's still edgy, even in craft: sour beers.
Based on Belgian lambics, sour beers use all kinds of different ingredients, from fruit to coffee, along with an aggressive wild yeast called brettanomyces. You can get anything from lighter, farmhouse styles (like dry ciders) to dark, high-alcohol beers (like porters and stouts with a twang).
"This is beer meets wine meets cocktails," Walt says. "Sour connects the dots. We convert the wine drinker who doesn't like beer."
Wicked Weed's main taproom and restaurant, along with a bottle shop and a beer garden, focus on what they call "clean" beers, while their new facility, the Funkatorium, houses a sour-beer taproom and warehouse.
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The name, Wicked Weed, hasn't hurt in countercultural Asheville. But it really has nothing to do with "that" weed: In the 1500s, when the hops used in Belgium and Germany started moving into England, Henry VIII allegedly proclaimed them "wicked and pernicious weeds."
"It's a true beer story," Rick is happy to explain. "And it's easy to say: ‘We're going to the Weed.'"