phirx On the Road: Asheville, North Carolina
This is the third and concluding post in my series about Asheville’s remarkable brewery restaurant Wicked Weed, which opened in December 2012.
World Cup Beers:
Brazil, 6 ABV (7)
France, 6 ABV (7)
Mexico, 4.3 ABV (8)
Germany, 5.9 ABV (8)
(phirx ratings) are on a scale of 1-10.
On my second visit to Wicked Weed, Japan vs. Greece was projected on the big screen above the patio outside the tasting room and many of the brewers were at the other end of my table as I started my session with the World Cup series beers that were available at that point. Brazil was a a dry ale inspired by the Capirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, which is made from cachaça (a sugar cane liquor), sugar, and lime. Brazil was served with a wedge of lime and tasted strongly of lime, alcohol, and cane sugar – just like a cocktail.
Fermented with saison yeast, France was an ale unique in my experience, brewed with Chanterelle mushrooms and Aramis hops, a new varietal derived from Strisselspalt and grown in Alsace. This beer was very easy to drink with fruit more toned down than is usual in a saison, slightly earthy with no bitterness. Mexico was a low alcohol session ale brewed with Chico ale yeast. Cilantro was included in the brew, as were Anaheim and Habanero peppers which were evident in a subtle lingering finish that smoldered in the throat. Fruity and opaque (it looked like orange Tang), Germany was a hefeweizen brewed with 40% wheat, and two new varieties of hops bred in Germany: Polaris and Huell Melon. This beer had a bubblegum nose and clove accents from the yeast, with more complexity and interest than this drinker usually finds in a hefeweizen.
Empyrean Barrel Aged DIPA, 10 ABV (9)
Sweet Talker, 4 ABV (8)
Sangria Blanc (Tripel), 8.5 ABV (7)
XXXIII Rosemary Ginger Saison, 6.2 ABV (9)
XXXIV Poperinge Saison IPA, 8 ABV (9)
Empyrean is a huge beer from the brewery’s Wicked from the Wood program – a double IPA at a whopping 10% ABV, aged for three months in bourbon barrels. The sweet, sugary nose introduces a bourbon-flavored ale redolent of Columbus and El Dorado hops, with the strong presence of alcohol.
Sweet Talker is WWB’s low-alcohol session ale from their Hops Are Heresy menu; at only 4% ABV this is a beer designed for a long conversation around the table. Sweet Talker has a crisp attack and a light body, and is an IPA rather than a Pale Ale, with an enduring hop bitterness.
I closed out my second day at WWB with three ales from their Beautiful and Belgian program. Sangria Blanc is a Tripel inpired by white sangria. Brewed with juice from Chinan Blanc grapes, mango, blood orange, white peach, and spiced with Thai basil, this effervescent, fruity ale hides its alcohol well and has no apparent bitterness.
The Rosemary Ginger Saison is another cocktail-inspired ale – this beer draws its muse from a Moscow Mule, a drink composed of vodka, ginger beer, and lime. A golden ale infused with fresh ginger and rosemary which inform the nose, it was dry, astringent and slightly bitter. I wrapped up my tour with the Poperinge Saison which derives its name from a city in West Flanders, Belgium on the border of France. The villages surrounding the town of Poperinge are renowned for the production of hops and lace. This beer had a full, lacy head and its high ABV was hidden under layers of hop flavor with surprisingly little bitterness – pine and bubble gum most apparent.
For a brewery that has been in production for only eighteen months, Wicked Weed makes beers with astounding skill and assurance. The effort and care that the brewers impart to their craft carries over into the other aspects of the restaurant as well – from the design of the interior and exterior spaces of the restaurant to the food offerings on their menu. I look forward to my next visit.