When Wicked Weed Brewing first opened in December of 2012, there were just two sour beers on draught. We say “just” because looking back that number seems terribly low – but at the time having two sours on tap was a bit of a rarity, even for the residents of Beer City, USA. The sours proved wildly popular with customers, and Wicked Weed immediately began ramping up production of their sour program. The expansion culminated earlier this year with Wicked Weed opening up a new satellite tap room and facility exclusively devoted to sour and barrel aged brews. The Funkatorium, as it’s called, is located just a few blocks away from the original brewpub at 147 Coxe Ave.
The Funkatorium has only been open a few months and has already proved itself an unqualified success and must-see destination for adventurers along the Asheville Ale Trail. The Funkatorium opened it’s doors as one of (if not the) largest sour and barrel houses in the southeast, but the size and success of the Funkatorium has done nothing to satiate demand of sour loving consumers. Despite the increased capacity, Wicked Weed has been furiously working to keep up with demand, adding new equipment nearly every week to keep up with the quality and quantity that consumers demand (we’ve just learned a new 2000 gallon foeder is scheduled to be installed on Monday).
With all this new capacity and attention, Wicked Weed will be offering even more special bottle releases. This week, they’ve announced a new Angel series of sours that will be released throughout 2015. When Wicked Weed originally opened, one of those two sour taps available was pouring Black Angel, a black sour aged six months in bourbon-barrels with tart cherries. Through fifteen subsequent batches, Black Angel Cherry Sour remains one of the brewery’s most popular releases and is the inspiration for this new limited series release.
“Over time, we found ourselves coming back to really respecting traditionalism”
Red Angel, the first in the series, is scheduled for release in late March. Red Angel will be a vibrant red sour ale, made with a pound and a half of raspberries per gallon and aged in white wine barrels for nine months. Once aged, the beer was moved to stainless steel tanks where another pound and a half of raspberries per gallon was added.
“These beers utilize the most labor intensive process we employ to make our sour beers so we can only produce them once a year. Using a ton and a half of fruit and allowing the beer to age for eleven months requires extensive time, energy, and resources,” explained Walt Dickinson, Head of Brewing Operations.
Gold Angel, an apricot sour, and White Angel, a wild grape sour, will be ready sometime this summer, with both drawing their inspiration from traditional Lambic fruit styles and processes. “When we first started brewing, Black Angel, Luke (Head Brewer of Wicked Weed) and I approached its creation with unbridled creativity. Over time, we found ourselves coming back to really respecting traditionalism,” says Walt. “Consequently, we’ve retreated more to the roots of sour beer and this is reflected in the series with the Red, Gold, and White Angels all paying homage to that traditionalism.”
The culmination of this amazing series will occur in December with The Angel of Darkness. Expecting to reach about 13-14% ABV The Angel of Darkness will be aged in Portuguese sherry casks on boysenberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries. The brewery tells us that the Angel of Darkness is “representative of Wicked Weed’s marrying of traditional fruiting methods with their own means of crafting American sours, and forecasts a new direction for the future of their sour program”.
“If one were to enjoy the entire Angel series together, it would tell a story of who Wicked Weed is, and where were we are going with our sour program,” says Walt. “The Angel of Darkness is where we found our new voice; a voice tempered by conventional wisdom and simultaneously emboldened by renewed vision.”
Sour lovers can expect to see limited pre-sales and bottle releases throughout the year, with online bottle pre-sales available a month prior to the bottle release (similar to the Dark Arts release late last year). On site bottle release date for the March release of Red Angel will be announced via the brewery’s social media outlets and here on the Asheville Ale Trail sometime mid-February. All bottle releases will take place at the The Funkatorium, (147 Coxe Ave, Asheville, North Carolina). There are no plans for wider North Carolina distribution, so if you want some, you’ll need to be in Asheville during those dates.