Asheville’s newest craft brewery, open about a month, has been met with rave brew reviews. Those in the know tell me it’s unusual for a brewery to open with as many drafts on tap, ready to go, as happened at the Weed. Turns out they’d done a good job prior to opening making sure they were ready. Many of their over 20 taps have been pouring non-stop since opening, and non have run dry.
Located at 91 Biltmore Avenue in a former gas station, come hardware store, the Weed is next door to music venue, The Orange Peel and across the street from French Broad Food Co-op. Seems like a perfect location. Metered street parking is usually available, and is free after 6pm. A city parking garage is also close by, under the Aloft Hotel, up the street at 51 Biltmore Ave (enter garage from S. Lexington Ave. on back side) First hour is free. Local favorites, City Bakery, Curate, and Posana Cafe are also just up the street. Another bonus is LaZoom Comedy Bus loads right across the street.
Food writer (Durham Foodie), published author (Food Lover’s Guide to Raleigh Durham & Chapel Hill), and friend Johanna Kramer, and I met for lunch at Wicked Weed recently.
First, a little background as told to me by Rick Guthy, one of Wicked Weed’s five co-owners. Rick has a childhood buddy he played basketball with in high school and college, and has remained friends with to this day. This friend has two sons, Walt and Luke, by extension, close friends of the Guthys. They had been into home brewing for a long time before approaching Rick and wife Denise about opening a brewery together.
As Rick tells it, once he tasted their beers, he knew they were on to something. Rick felt the only way to go was to set up the business with himself, his wife, one of their son’s, Ryan, and Walt and Luke as co-owners. Adding a restaurant was a natural progression. For an in depth look at the brewery and its owners, read Emily Patrick’s excellent article, “Wicked Weed Brewery opens today at 5pm“.
I was lucky enough to get a tour, upstairs and down. During that tour, Rick talked about the multiple ownership, remodel, and staffing decisions. In a nutshell, he felt it only made sense to give all principles “ownership”, which comes with responsibility for both the good and the bad; hire the best folks available; and turn over most remodel/decorating decisions to Denise.
Turning decorating over to Denise was an excellent decision. Natural finishes abound, creating a warm, neighborhood go-to spot kind of feel. Many interior features were made by local artisans. Take the thick-slab bar made from a single 150 + year-old tree. Whether they came from target practice or Civil War skirmishes, two of the many musket balls embedded in the tree were left where they were as a nod to our area’s history.
Seating was built locally, as well as much of the lighting. Look up and you’ll see filaments softly glowing orange in Edison bulbs attached to pipes hung above the length of long tables that were also made locally.
As you enter Wicked Weed, look to the right (can’t miss it) to see a huge portrait of King Henry VIII commissioned from a local artist.
Take note when you descend into the daylight-basement brewery. Look at the walls. One is rock, but many are sheet metal custom made for the space. The exterior wall has a glass roll-up garage door leading to a sweet patio. Rick mentioned they plan to add a “sail-type” canopy over the patio. Even sweeter! The brewery opens at 3pm, but you can book it for private parties earlier in the day.
Two experienced area Chefs are on board. They are Chef Jason Saunders, formerly of Cucina 24 and Table, and Chef Cardiff Creasey, formerly with Red Stag at the Grand Bohemian Hotel. There has been some conversation on Chowhound about food at the Weed being secondary to the beer. Guess that’s as it should be at a brewery, but the four dishes I tried were very good to excellent.
The arugula salad was refreshing, with stand-out ingredients being brule-feta and black pepper honey. I found myself trying to make the honey last to the final bite.
The black kale salad, on the other hand, was all-around outstanding. Served warm, topped with grilled semi-hard Halloumi cheese, its savory flavor profile struck a happy chord. I’d order this again and again.
Another dish I’d order every chance I got would be their Brussels Srpouts. It’s not on their current menu, so ask if they’ll make it for you. We shared this also, as it’s portioned generously. Caramelized in a pan with the most basic of seasonings, this was one of the best renditions of brussels sprouts I’ve had. Seriously.
Then I saw “sticky toffee pudding + cardamom anglaise + orange chutney” ($6) on the menu, I HAD to give it a try. My plan was to share with Johanna, so it was funny that two spoons arrived on the plate when I hadn’t said anything about sharing to either Johanna or our server. Guess they had me pegged.
It’s rare for me to leave any dessert behind, but I did on this occasion. Although absolutely scrumptious, by the time I got to the bottom-most layer of sticky toffee, I had to put the brakes on, avoiding a sugar coma.
Epicurean Notes: If anything, I’d expect food at Wicked Weed to get better. I expect them to not only survive, but thrive, because they’ve got business/marketing smarts and funding behind them. They also seem very receptive to constructive suggestions. And hey, you can’t beat the beer and that’s what it’s all about. The Weed is most heartily Epicurean recommended!
Wicked Weed Brewing
91 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801