Wicked Weed is making its move on the Charleston beer market less than two months after its controversial decision to sell to Anheuser-Busch InBev.
The Asheville-based brewery’s formal debut in the Holy City is happening with a huge tap takeover on June 22 at Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House.
Wicked Weed will be flowing from 40 of the bar’s 52 taps with beers from their core line-up (or “brewery classics”), sours from the Funkatorium, barrel-aged brews, and exclusive offerings otherwise available only at the brewery. The full tap list isn’t public yet, but it will include rarities such as 2017 Red Angel, Chocolate Covered Black Angel, Bourbon Barrel Aged Oblivion, and Imperial Coolcumber.
Craftsman general manager Dan Cook has long been a fan of Wicked Weed’s products and says he’s “excited to have it.” Cook calls the event the restaurant's way of “showcasing the brand to the general population,” but he understands Wicked Weed is a contentious topic around the independent beer community right now.
“I get that there’s a lot of moral or ethical question about AB’s purchase of [Wicked Weed],” Cook said. “Ultimately, when I look at my business, I look at the quality of the liquid — how good is the beer? Obviously the guys at Wicked Weed make some phenomenal brew.”
While there’s little debate about the quality of Wicked Weed’s beers, the issue for some beer lovers is that huge beverage companies continuing to purchase craft breweries makes it more difficult for truly independent breweries to compete. Corporations like AB InBev are able to lower the cost of a “craft” six-pack for the consumer while also taking up more retail space with their distribution power. Charleston will likely see this play out with Wicked Weed hitting the shelves soon. Cook isn’t certain, but predicts Wicked Weed will fully infiltrate the market in the next month or two.
“I definitely understand the political side of it,” Cook said. “I may not personally agree with [Wicked Weed’s] moral or ethical decisions, but my job is to make sure we’re getting quality liquid into the market. If I can take more people and get them off the Bud Light train and into a craft-style beer, then that for me is a win for the good guys.”
Craftsmen does do its part to help the “good guys” win. Cook says 40 percent of their beer sales are local beers. Of their 52 taps, 16 are dedicated to beers brewed in Charleston, with the other 36 used for craft beers from around the country. The also offer hundreds of bottles, none of which are “macro” beers.
When it comes to Wicked Weed, Cook thinks the market is divided, but he suspects there are plenty of people eager to try their beers. For those who want to, there likely won’t be a better place this side of Asheville to experience the full spectrum of their offerings than Craftsmen’s takeover.