Asheville start-up craft brewery Wicked Weed Brewing has been hot topic of conversation since Wednesday’s announcement that big beer’s Anheuser-Busch InBev would acquire Wicked Weed.
Opinions have been pouring out over social media networks, and over sipped craft beers, and have generally fallen into two camps. One side applauds the Wicked Weed founders (Walt and Luke Dickinson and lifelong friends Ryan, Rick and Denise Guthy) for a job well-down in making delicious beer and creating a desirable brand. The other takes issue with the fact that Wicked Weed sold out to a beer behemoth that has actively worked to suppress craft competition, whose success has chipped away at BUD’s bottom line.
The deal is Anheuser-Busch’s 10th craft brewery acquisition since 2011. It must still meet approval by the Department of Justice. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In Asheville, Wicked Weed produces beer out of its original location, a restaurant and taproom on Biltmore Avenue in downtown, as well as the Funkatorium featuring sour beers on Coxe Avenue. It opened its third production space in an Enka business park in 2015 and last year bought 17 acres in Arden that includes a 57,000-square-foot warehouse devoted to the production of sour, farmhouse and wild-fermented beers.
Reaction to the deal has been swift. Anheuser-Busch shares spiked yesterday on news of the acquisition; some bottle stores started pulling Wicked Weed off its shelves; and a couple of collaborating breweries announced they would no longer work with Wicked Weed.
Here’s more about the deal:
–Jester King Brewery’s statement on the deal:
It’s no secret that Wicked Weed has been one of our closest friends in the beer industry. Regardless of what has transpired, we’ll always consider the people of Wicked Weed friends, and want the best for them and their families.
With that said, we have some core principles that define who we are as a brewery, and those principles must not be compromised. One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates. We’ve chosen this stance, not because of the quality of the beer, but because a portion of the money made off of selling it is used to oppose the interests of craft brewers. In Texas, large brewers (and their distributors) routinely oppose law changes that would help small, independent brewers. We choose not to support these large brewers because of their political stances, and in some cases, their economic practices as well.
Because of this core principle, it pains us to say that we won’t be carrying Wicked Weed anymore at Jester King.
There’s an important thread in these decisions: Few are begrudging Wicked Weed owners their decision to take the Anheuser-Busch windfall. It’s a dream of a lot of small businesses – including brewers and retailers – to get successful enough to be bought by someone bigger. Good for them.
Still, there’s an aftertaste to this sale, especially in this industry. Like a lot of successful products, craft beer is a movement, a community of makers and consumers who feel like they’re part of something good and shared. What’s also shared is a disdain for big macrobrewers like Bud who make inferior products yet still dominate the market. So in the minds of many, when Wicked Weed decides to sell itself, it’s also deciding to join the dark side.
–Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales statement on Wicked Weed deal:
As some of you may know, and something many people have asked us about today, we have two collaboration beers with Wicked Weed currently in-progress; one beer at our facility and one at theirs. We also had plans, and were looking forward to attending, the Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational this July. We had a decision to make – to continue a business relationship with Wicked Weed now that they will be owned by ABInBev, or to cut ties and hopefully remain friends.
For us, the choice is clear. At this stage, we don’t feel we are able to have a business relationship with Wicked Weed because that connection, ultimately, is one with ABInBev. Unfortunately, we don’t feel that having any connection with ABInBev is something we can do while still maintaining our mission, values, and core beliefs.
What this means is that we will not be able to lend our name to the unfinished collaboration beer currently aging in Asheville, NC. Additionally, the beer we brewed with Wicked Weed here at Black Project will be blended with other existing aged beer we have on hand to make something totally different which we will not consider a Wicked Weed collaboration. Finally, we will not be attending the Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational in July.
We wish the best to everyone at Wicked Weed and we are happy for their success. We know they will continue to make great beers and we hope to remain personal friends in the future.
–Some Charlotte beer stores pull Wicked Weed off the shelves: Brawley’s Beverage and Bottled and Tapped both announced they would no longer be selling Wicked Weed.
Here’s the full press release:
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.
Congrats on the deal. This is great for the industry.
This shows that with a few million dollars in pimple cream money to spend on facilities and national PR, you too can attract beer-bros from Charlotte and Atlanta then sell out to Anheuser-Busch.
Wicked Weed was never intended to be a long-term “local” brewery. It was set up to be sold to a larger brewer. The Dickinson brothers backing came from family friends, the Guthy family (who made their fortune through Guthy-Renker, the company responsible for Proactiv skin care). When they invested in WW they wanted to be active partners, and they put up a larger portion of the starting capital. A man named Rick Guthy was childhood friends with Luke & Walt Dickinson’s father. The Guthy family is famous for the Guthy-Renker, which is a direct marketing and infomercial company that most famously marketed and distributed Proactiv acne treatment. After retiring, Rick helped the boys start Wicked Weed but under the condition that he (and maybe his wife and son as well) be active and not silent investors. So, the Guthy family may have fronted a larger portion of the money to start the brewery, and coming from a big business background, may have had more influence and say than the Dickinson brothers did when it came to selling to AB.