Every morning brings another opportunity for mind-blowing news to hit the beer scene. Well the news of Wicked Weed signing with Anheuser-Busch’s unit specializing in craft and imports called The High End almost made me spit out my coffee.
There seems to be a civil war of sorts going on in the brewing industry regarding craft breweries (see the official definition here from the Brewers Association) and what some call the Bigs, the Majors, the Macros, or even is some social circles, the Evil Empires. This is something that I have been keeping an eye on for a while now. There are so many subplots to how this affects consumers, bar owners, marketing, retail, employees, media…hell, even hop growers.
I am honestly torn.
There is no doubt that I will always have a place in my heart for the underdog, the minority, the scrappy dude who uses any means necessary to thrive independently. It’s in my blood and have to be in that state of mind my whole life just because of constantly being in that situation one way or another. In the beer world, there are certainly some similarities. There were many times where I simply saw what was going down and was like, word? Did that just happen?
Like remember when that A-B commercial campaign was constantly run where they shitted on microbreweries and craft beer snobs a couple of Super Bowls ago? Hell yes. Cussed like a drunk sailor the first time it came on.
And of course, there is the worry that those breweries who do merge with one of the majors will lose the soul they put into the wondrous craft brews that garnered respect in the first the place. Will they be watered down? Will they suck? Will there no longer be any one-offs or barrel-aged gangster releases anymore? Will there be any more risqué marketing gimmicks and eye-popping art on the labels? Will they still host events for the community and support the arts?
|Wicked Weed bringing brews |
to a tap takeover at The Porter.
Plus, there’s that consistent cloud over every purist’s head wondering who will be next.
Well, being a Libra and always about balance, I have sat down with those who were involved with a brewery partnering with a macro; homies who kept it real and are true friends of mine. They usually began conversations with a somewhat defeated “I know, I know.”
Yes, they know that some of their favorite beer bars who solely support independents will not pour their beer anymore. They know handshakes from some loyalists will not be as firm. And yes, they also know a lot of their usually casual, shoot-the-breeze chats will involve fielding questions about the merger.
I also know that, according to what they have told me, they will (in many cases) have more benefits, resources, and access to markets and regions they previously couldn’t dream of entering. And I know they will still have a gang of beers from independents in their refrigerators at home. And I know some of the owners are realizing their dreams of having their brews poured in hotels, stadiums, pubs, and restaurants throughout the nation and in some cases, overseas.
Of course, I also know there are others who get pissed at being overruled to join majority, bounce, and start from scratch once again. Which some eventually find refreshing.
It is what it is.
I just pray the playground is as even as possible when it comes to the access of hops, grains, and other ingredients for cats like Three Floyds, Creature Comforts, Beachwood, Wrecking Bar, Three Taverns, Alchemist, Bissell Brothers, and Scofflaw to name a few. That enough shelf space, menu print, and taps will still be allotted to beer worthy of prominent placement. Basically, that everybody will play nice. But only time will tell.
Regarding Wicked Weed’s latest business move, I can’t wait to talk with some of their reps and staff about this. They are my peoples. They have showed me love wherever I went. I have Instagrams with me rocking their schwag. I have visited them numerous times at the main brewery, the Funkatorium, and Pub in Asheville. And I will continue to do so. They are good people and shit, they make good ass beer.
And hell, if I have the chance to sip their Pernicious IPA in Jamaica or somewhere accustomed to having a bullshit selection of brews, I definitely won’t be mad at that. But I promise you this: I will be objectively holding it up to the light, smelling it, and sipping it with some scrutiny to see if shit done changed.
Below is the official press release straight from Anheuser-Busch.
|This image is straight from Anheuser-Busch's site.|
New York and Asheville, NC, May 3, 2017– Wicked Weed Brewing, one of Asheville’s most creative and fastest-growing craft breweries will be joining The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit focused on its craft and import brands.
Wicked Weed, founded in Asheville in 2012 by Walt and Luke Dickinson and lifelong friends Ryan, Rick and Denise Guthy, has created over 500 different beers since it opened almost five years ago. Starting with clean West Coast IPAs and authentic Belgian ales, Wicked Weed has progressively moved into creating sours. Now, Wicked Weed is widely known for their west coast style IPA’s including GABF silver medal winners Pernicious IPA, Lunatic Belgian Blonde as well as a wide range of award winning barrel-aged sour and farmhouse ales.
“This is an exciting time for the entire brewing team,” said co-founder Walt Dickinson. “Our ability to create a wide range of really well executed beers that are focused on creativity, quality and drinkability is what makes Wicked Weed great. We have chosen to partner with The High End to position ourselves to make Wicked Weed what we imagined it could be when we first sat at a craft beer bar and talked about opening a brewery. As a brewer, giving our team more resources to continue innovating our portfolio and the ability to reach more craft drinkers, allows us to keep putting the beer and the people first.”
Wicked Weed Brewing owns and operates four facilities in Asheville: their original Downtown brewpub where they produce over 150 different beers a year, the “Funkatorium,” the first dedicated sour beer taproom and barrel house on the East Coast, a 50-barrel production brewery in West Asheville, and the “Funk House and company headquarters,” a custom-designed brewhouse and training facility.
“Asheville has been our home for almost thirty years, and we believe this partnership will benefit our entire community, which has a deeply rooted passion for beer,” added co-founder Rick Guthy. “With our team’s heightened ability to innovate our hoppy and sour styles using the highest-quality ingredients around, we hope more and more beer drinkers will flock to Asheville to taste what we have to offer. Our pub and Funkatorium will stay focused on producing creative beers and will be part of Asheville’s beer tourism for years to come.”
“We are excited to welcome Walt, Luke, Ryan, Rick, Denise, and the entire Wicked Weed team into our High End family, said Felipe Szpigel, president, The High End. “It’s clear to me Wicked Weed is redefining what sophistication in beer can mean, with their amazing offerings being relevant in a wide variety of occasions. Their ability to brew the highest quality beers, in a variety of styles, along with their exciting barrel program, leads me to be optimistic about what our futures hold together."
Anheuser-Busch's partnership with Wicked Weed is subject to regulatory approval. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
About Wicked Weed Brewing
Wicked Weed Brewing is based in Asheville, North Carolina. Founded in December 2012, the original brewpub consistently hosts 25+ beers on tap including hop-forward, West Coast-style ales, open fermented Belgians, and barrel-aged beers. With the opening of the second location, The Funkatorium, in October 2013, Wicked Weed is striving to become one of the leading producers of barrel-aged sour and wild beers in the Southeastern United States.
Wicked Weed Brewing was awarded a gold medal for both 100% Brettanomyces Serenity in 2013, Mompara Honey Ale in 2014, a silver medal for Pernicious IPA in 2015, and a silver medal for Lunatic Belgian Blonde at the Great American Beer Festival. The brewery also received a bronze medal for Tyrant Double Red IPA in 2014, a bronze medal for La Bonté Pear in 2016 and a bronze medal for Red Angel in 2016 at the World Beer Cup. Wicked Weed continued its expansion in summer 2015 with a 50-barrel production brewery allowing for a wider distribution footprint in select states, and added a sour and wild dedicated brewery and barrel-house in South Asheville in fall 2016. Learn more at www.wickedweedbrewing.com
For more than 160 years, Anheuser-Busch and its world-class brewmasters have carried on a legacy of brewing America’s most-popular beers. Starting with the finest ingredients sourced from Anheuser-Busch’s family of growers, every batch is crafted using the same exacting standards and time-honored traditions passed down through generations of proud Anheuser-Busch brewmasters and employees. Anheuser-Busch owns and operates 19 breweries, 21 distributorships and 22 agricultural and packaging facilities, employing more than 16,000 people across the United States. For more information, visit www.anheuser-busch.com.
About The High End
The High End is a business unit of Anheuser-Busch, created to provide its unique craft and European import brands with autonomy and support for growth, while fostering a collaborative environment for the brightest brewers in the beer community. The High End brings dedicated resources to support the growth of its brands, create successful partnerships and deliver more variety to consumers. Established in 2015, The High End includes brands such as Stella Artois and Shock Top, along with craft partners Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone, SpikedSeltzer and Karbach Brewing Co.