The founders of Asheville brewery Wicked Weed announced that AB InBev has purchased their company, pending final regulatory approval. The High End, a business division of AB InBev, will be the new home of Wicked Weed. The High End includes other craft breweries that have been purchased by AB InBev, including Goose Island (IL), Elysian (WA), Four Peaks (AZ), Devils Backbone (VA), Breckenridge Brewery (CO), 10 Barrel Brewing (OR) and more.
Brothers Chris Cox and Jeremy Cox, co-founders of Bend, Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing Company, were in Asheville this week to talk about what their experience has been since 10 Barrel was purchased by AB InBev in 2014. Chris Cox said that “we still do what we do best, and that’s brew great beer every day”, adding that 10 Barrel retained “every single employee except one”. Asked about what benefits the new ownership has given them, Cox talked about “better logistics and access to better ingredients. We can focus on brewing and not worry about ordering cardboard and glass, that kind of thing.” Access to Elk Mountain Hop Farm is also “very helpful”, said Cox. Elk Mountain Farm, located on 1,700 acres in northern Idaho, was founded in 1987 by Anheuser-Busch and is the largest contiguous hop farm in the world. The High End breweries have access to this extensive hop repository, with Goose Island Brewing using the highest percentage of hops grown there.
Walt Dickinson, one of Wicked Weed’s co-founders, was unequivocal in his assessment that the new ownership would only enhance the quality of the beer Wicked Weed brews. “Same people, same beer, same innovation… Innovation, pushing limits, it’s in our D.N.A. We picked this partnership because it allows us to compete in a changing industry. Craft beer sales have gone from 5% when we started (in 2012) to nearly 20% now”, Dickinson states. Rick Guthy, another Wicked Weed co-founder, said the new ownership will allow them to do even more in the community. Currently, Wicked Weed gives to local organizations such as Eblen Charities and MANNA FoodBank. “Wicked Weed will be able to do even more, right here in Asheville”, said Guthy.
Reaction from the public has been mixed, with many online debates occurring on social media since the announcement on Wednesday, May 3 rd . The news has even been picked up by national media such as The Washington Post. The North Carolina Craft Brewer’s Guild states that, while Wicked Weed cannot remain a voting member, they “sincerely hope that (Wicked Weed) will continue…as an affiliate member”. Kendra Penland, executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, said that the ABA “follows the guidelines of the National Brewers Association” and will address the ownership change at the ABA’s annual meeting this month.
“I think people will see where we are in a year, that the beer they love will be the same and Wicked Weed will still be innovating and creating. This just lets us do more of what we love to do.” says Walt Dickinson.