Wicked Weed’s Walt Dickinson and Chef Jacob Sessoms.
by Tony Forder
I don’t get in to the city as often as I used to – I don’t know why, inertia, old age or just busy – or maybe it’s just that there’s good beer everywhere these days.
In the early days of ASN I made the most of my forays into the core of the Big Apple. There always seemed to be another bar to visit anchored by dba in the East Village and Blind Tiger in the West. Somehow, almost miraculously sometimes it seemed, I would find my way to Port Authority and make my escape on the last 163 bus out of town. Often I would position myself in striking distance of PA with a final pint at The Collins Bar up on 46th.
I digress. Recently I made up for some lost time by completing a city-bound trifecta, comprising of Other Half tap takeover at the Blind Tiger, a viewing of a new movie Brewmaster, and a Wicked Weed beer dinner. I coordinated with the BeerSensei 2pm at the Tiger for an initial assault on the Other Half offerings. Brooklyn-based OT, as you may know, has risen to the upper echelons of the Double IPA driven popularity charts. Billed as Other Half, the Whole Story this was Double IPA heaven, with half of the 26 offerings sporting the DDH prefix (Double Dry Hopped). There were nuanced differences on the same basic recipes featuring different hop treatments – Dream Layers, Space Hallucinations, DDH Space Dream, DDH Space Daydream, DDH Space Diamonds, DDH Double Mosaic Dream, DDH Double Mosaic Daydream, DDH Double Citra Daydream, DDH Triple Mosaic Daydream, etc. (It should be noted that the Tiger had featured Other Half Imperial Stouts and Sours the previous Sunday).
It was already getting difficult to extricate ourselves from the Tiger, even though we were only a few pages into The Whole Story, but passes were waiting for us at the Cinema Village for Brewmaster a new movie depicting the struggles of a young lawyer whose heart was set on opening a brewery in NYC and a beer educator intent on becoming a Master Cicerone (for those not in the know Cicerone is the beer equivalent to a wine Sommelier: there are only about a dozen Masters so far). The movie was well shot and edited and provided a pretty good insight into the world of craft beer.
We knew a good number of the characters in the cavalcade of craft beer, but it didn’t really seem to go anywhere. The would-be brewer didn’t open his own brewery yet, but did quit the legal profession and is working as an assistant brewer. The cicerone, after a couple of failed attempts, finally got his masters. Definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the craft brewing world but we felt it a tad long, although admittedly we were perhaps feeling the need to dive back into the Other Half’s whole story.
Which we did: Weather-themed – DDH Hop Showers, Droppin’ Millibars; veg – DDH Broccoli, DDH Cabbage, Rice Proxy Treats; simple – Oh and OK…BK. My date for dinner showed up – my 25-year old daughter Caroline – and we were gratified to discover the venue, the Little Owl Townhouse – was only 3 minutes walk from the Tiger. It seemed appropriate to cut through the hop assault before leaving the Tiger with a collab from Asheville, NC – Burial that is and the Velvet Magnum Imperial Stout, 12% cognac barrel-aged with pineapple and coconut.
Wicked Weed, as you probably know, was acquired by giant AB-InBev in 2017; it was a gut punch to craft brewing aficionados as WW with its Asheville-based Funkatorium and sour beer prowess, had risen to cult beer status in the US. Outcry was rife; brethren breweries withdrew their participation in Wicked Weed’s sour and wild ale Funkatorium Invitation Festival.
I collared Walt Dickinson as the dinner guests were mixing with wine and beer. Walt, along with his brother Luke, founded the innovative brewery in 2012, about 7 or 800 different beers ago! He said everything’s going great, they have so many more resources now, and he enjoys being part of the club of other AB-InBev acquisitions. But, what about the consumer reaction? Oh, that’s been horrible, he said. But, he added that Wicked Weed is hardly the only company to make a decision they believe is for the benefit of their employees and the brand. He pointed to the recent sale of other cutting edge breweries in Europe to Heineken, notably Beavertown and Four Pure in London.
As you may expect from an AB-InBev backed event, they didn’t skimp on the details. The setting was classy, the liquids copious, and the menu…quite interesting! Based on a menu prepared by Jacob Sessoms, Executive Chef at Table in Asheville, it featured some of the sour fruited barrel-aged beers that WW is famous for: La Bonte aged with figs for the hors d’oeuvres; the apricot infused Golden Angel paired with lamb carpaccio; Bomdardile, 100% Brett aged with blackberries and raspberries served with porcini Strozzapretti; the raspberry Medora, aged with Florida strawberries with caramel seeded Calabasa, a squash I found out. Rich raspberry Red Angel handled the pineapple upside down cake no problem.
The wines, mostly featuring Oregon’s Willamette Valley, like the beers, were deftly paired with the dishes – a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir; the Love Drunk Rose was delicious with appetizers,and the Horseshoes and Handgrenades red blend (NV) didn’t suck either.
There were about 30 people in attendance, mostly media, predominantly food and drink bloggers, with women in the majority. The occasion was to celebrate the arrival of Wicked Weed in New York. I’m sure those with lesser scruples about ownership will be appreciative. The beers, I must say, are still spectacular.
As well as the obligatory goodie bag, we were also treated to a $25 Lyft credit for our ride home – for which Caroline and I were appreciative. It had been a long day.
Caramelized Seeded Calabasa delicata salad, pepitas, bergamot berries, mirto vinaigrette.