More than a handful of beer-heads were surprised when Asheville, N.C.-based Wicked Weed Brewery beat out heavy hitters like Russian River when they pulled top honors in the American-Style Brett Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival last October. And far more than a handful suddenly wished it was easier to get ahold of one of the coveted bottles of Serenity. This honor earned Wicked Weed a place on our recent top American sour beer round-up, and we’re now happy to report that what they accomplished with the Serenity was no fluke.
Though the brewery is relatively young, their barrel-aging program houses 200 barrels, and of the three products we recently sampled, the Black Angel should become just as sought-out as the Serenity. Branded under their Wicked and Wild barrel-aged designation, this sour black ale is now on its third release, and it’s really come into its own.
As its name hints, the Black Angel pours a deep, inky black with just hints of purple that seem to glow along the edges of the glass. A tan head builds for a few beats when you pour it, before dissipating. The nose is surprisingly reserved; you get some freshness, a bit of fruit, but not a lot else, which differs from most other sour styles. But the tartness is there—on the first sip and every subsequent encounter. More than a pound of tart cherries were used, per barrel, along with house-made souring bacteria and yeasts, and the ale was aged in fresh bourbon barrels. The brewers then blended together ale from four, eight, and 12-month-old barrels to create the most recent release. And both the sour elements of the fruit and woodiness come through in the most refreshing ways. The tartness isn’t bracing or puckering. Instead, the flavor develops more deeply. Sourness, certainly, but joined with an almost tannic quality, some vanilla and caramel from the bourbon, a bit of roasted malt, and an overall brightness that lingers. An absence of carbonation further encourages slow, explorative sips.
Geographic isolation prevented taste-testing the Black Angel alongside some of the more award-winning West Coast sours. But we think it’d stand up. Wicked Weed also recently announced that they’re opening a new 12,000-square-foot barrel house and sour tap room in Asheville, with 10 to 15 taps, the majority of which are dedicated to sours.
Finally us East Coast lovers of the lambic style have an easier-to-execute pilgrimage.
Brewery: Wicked Weed
City: Asheville, NC
Style: American Wild Ale