Continuing my foray back east led to me a town with a craft beer scene that I have wanted to visit for a while: Asheville, North Carolina. With an hour to spare and nothing to do, I discovered I was just down the street from Wicked Weed Brewing, one of the big names in the local beer scene. Founded by two brothers in 2011, they grew rapidly in to a local and regional name, focusing mostly on hop-forward ales and Belgian style beers, with an emphasis on experimentation and creativity. In 2017 they garnered a bit of controversy, at least in the craft brewing world, when they were acquired by ABInBev. That being said, and all my personal feelings regarding corporate beer aside, I did enjoy my visit to this local powerhouse brewery. So sit back, grab a beer, and enjoy this wicked review of my first North Carolina brewery.
- Beer – True to their purpose, bold, hoppy creations abound on their tap list. You will also find a handful of Belgian, German, sour, and barrel-aged beers, though nothing leaning towards the dark side currently, though you can find them in the bottle shop. The flavors do not disappoint, nor does the creativity and complexity that has gone into all of these brews. Who knew that cucumber, mint, and hibiscus would go so well together and be incredibly refreshing on a warm day in late spring? I can’t wait to visit again to try more of their excellent beers. Score: 4.5/5
- Brewery – From the outside the brewery appears nondescript, with a plain white facade and a spacious, dog friendly patio seating area under numerous sunshades. Step inside and you will enter a chic, shiny, brick and wood accented gastropub upstairs, with the true tap room down a flight of stairs off to the side. Whether you are seated at the expansive bar, the numerous tables scattered around the room, or the more intimate pub setting downstairs, there is always something to draw the eye, some new facet of the décor that you will notice for the first time. My favorite, and the most obvious, is the stylized mural of Henry VIII that dominates the upstairs. Once seated with a beer in hand, be sure to peruse their food menu. It consists of what the hipsters call “elevated gastronomy fare”, which is mostly just pub food with an artisanal flare. That being said, it is tasty and filling, and I recommend going with an appetite. The prices are reasonable for the area, but still expect to pay around $40 for food and drinks for two people. Their hours are from lunch time until late every day, affording you plenty of opportunity to stop in for a visit. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – This particular location is geared more towards sit-down dinning and spending time with friends, and if you are looking for live music, their nearby Funkatorium is the place to go. There they have weekly live music as well as a full restaurant and many sour beer offerings. Be sure to plan your visit to include a behind the scenes tour of the brewpub, which comes with not only some cool swag but a few beer samples as well, and its FREE! If that isn’t enough, look up the next beer release party and stop by when it’s happening, I bet it is a great time. Score: 3.5/5
- Location – To me, all of Asheville is a great location, but Wicked Weed found an excellent spot right on the edge of downtown. Within easy walking distance are several other top-notch breweries, tons of restaurants, and great shopping. Parking can be a little challenging during the busy times of day, though they do have a lot behind the building that can accommodate a couple dozen cars, plus ample street parking. Just be sure to check the posted signs when looking for a spot so you do not get towed. Score: 3.5/5
- Customer Service – The place was hopping when I first arrived, and I was directed to the open seating in the bar area fairly quickly. Despite it being bar seating, there was still table service, including full food and drink meus. Service was quick enough considering how busy they were, and everything came out shortly thereafter once placed. Everyone I met was very friendly, cheerful, and super helpful, even the folks in the bottle/gift shop, making this an enjoyable visit all around. Score: 3.5/5
Total Score: 19/25
Favorite Beer: Java the Hop – 6.4% American IPA
Final Thoughts: My first foray into Asheville’s beer scene did not disappoint. Well-rounded beers and great food paired with a funky brew pub make it easy to see why they have become one of the top breweries in the area. Definitely worth a visit if you are in town, I am looking forward to trying some of their other locations next time I visit.