High on Hops: A Visit to Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium

The transformation of the adventurous drinker’s palate is one of the most interesting side effects of consuming a lot of beer.

The common path for many beer drinkers begins with lighter fare like sweet lagers and orange-tinted wheat beers. Hoppier brews are next, with pale and India pale ales adding bitterness and resin to the taste buds. That non-threatening start leads into darker porters and stouts and then veers toward more extreme interpretations of base styles that introduce complexity and boundary-expanding experiences.

Beyond that pinnacle of technical mastery lies a category of more experimental brews commonly referred to as sours.

Tasting your first sour beer can be an unsettling overload of the senses. It’s not out of the ordinary to experience a slightly painful pucker as your mouth attempts to deal with the intense flavors brought on by barrel aging, wild yeast strains or fruit additions. But once you develop a fondness for sours, you’ll only want to try more.

For fans of tart flavors, fringe Belgian styles, wood aging and the general unexpected, there is a haven for your ilk: Wicked Weed Brewing’s Funkatorium in Asheville, North Carolina.

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The Funkatorium is home to Wicked Weed’s most unconventional beers. Located a few short blocks from the main brewery, it provides storage for their massive collection of barrels, a tasting room and outdoor patio.

In addition to getting sample pours and buying bottles, the tasting room also provides tables and a small but tightly curated menu of small plates, snacks and sandwiches that are just as odd as the beer list.

Canned eel, intensely garlicky popcorn and thick-toast peanut butter and jelly are offered to pair beside a handful of Wicked Weed’s core beers and an extended variety of specialty wild, sour ales crafted for the Funkatorium’s discerning audience.

These are beers that are worthy of your travels. The Genesis Blonde Sour evokes bitter apple and tropical fruit with a sweet-tart twist. Oblivion Sour Red is in the traditional Flanders style but brings in the flavors of blackberries and dates. It’s easy to drink, giving ample opportunity to explore its intricacies.

Wicked Weed’s Red Angel sour ale is so beloved that it has earned its own bottle release day festivities, where patrons line up for the chance to bring a taste home. It’s a transcendent burst of sour raspberries with a paint-peeling aroma that makes your teeth hurt before the first sip. But after it takes your breath away, it then steals your heart. Red Angel is an amazing feat of brewing, combined with an expertly managed aging process.

Asheville is home to dozens of craft breweries and has rightfully earned its honorary title of Beer City, USA. But no beer lover’s visit to Asheville would be complete without a side trip to Wicked Weed Brewing’s Funkatorium to get a taste for the next level in brewing extremes with its impressive collection of sour, funky, small batch wild ales.

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