This Saturday, Wicked Weed Brewing will tap a Brett IPA that was brewed in collaboration with New Belgium. The beer will be released at 3pm in Wicked Weed’s downstairs tasting room at 91 Biltmore Ave, and it is expected to go quickly.
Last summer, Wicked Weed brewers and owners Luke and Walt Dickinson travelled to Fort Collins Colorado to brew a collaboration with Matty Gilliland of New Belgium. Their twist on a traditional IPA included using malted spelt from Asheville’s own Riverbend Malt as part of the grain bill and fermenting with Brettanomyces. The beer has since aged for six months, letting the Brettanomyces slowly add character and complexity.
Brettanomyces is a yeast strain that is known for consuming a lot of sugars in fermenting wort, resulting in a very dry beer. In addition, the strain lends its own signature “funk,” that is often described as similar to a barnyard or horse blanket (but in a good way, I assure you). While the unique flavors and aromas from a beer fermented with Brettanomyces are super popular these days, fermenting with “Brett,” as the cool kids call it, takes time. Sacchromyces, the yeast typically used to ferment ales, will turn sugary wort into beer in a couple of weeks. Brettanomyces works at a much slower pace and will continue to lend character to a beer for months and sometimes years after it is first brewed. Don’t expect this beer to be sour, bacteria are used in conjunction with “Brett” to create that. A more subtle dry funk can be expected here.
The addition of spelt lends a certain grainy rustic character, think multi-grain bread dough, to the beer. Local maltster Riverbend Malt supplied the spelt for this beer, as well as the malted rye that New Belgium used in the Hop Kitchen Rye PA released a couple weeks back. Being involved with a huge craft brewery like New Belgium is a big deal for a local supplier and a testament to the quality of the malts they are producing.
The release party this weekend is technically the second release, though it is the first time the beer will be tapped on the East Coast. The beer was first tapped as part of the Great American Beer Festival last October, a festival that sent Wicked Weed home with Asheville’s first GABF gold medal. At that time the beer was still fairly young. The expectation is that six months of aging will have allowed the Brettanomyces to lend a lot of extra complexity and dryness.
Only 30 kegs of this beer were produced and some of it was already consumed at GABF. With a forecast of temps in the mid 60’s and sunny skies, I expect Wicked Weed to be busy on Saturday afternoon. If you want to try some of this limited release collaboration, get down there early.
Cliff Mori is the owner and operator of BREW-ed, which offers brewery tours and a variety of beer training in Asheville. He was the first Certified Cicerone in Western North Carolina (the beer equivalent to the wine world’s sommelier), then began working for the Cicerone Certification Program by traveling around the U.S. proctoring exams. Cliff also teaches a variety of beer-related courses at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.