Wicked Weed Brewing had only been in business a few months when its team made the trip to Charlotte in March 2013 for Black and Blue, an annual festival presented by Brawley’s Beverage. It was one of the brewery’s first events outside of its Asheville brewpub.
As Wicked Weed grew and started distributing in Charlotte, Brawley’s Beverage was one of the first places to find beers like Freak of Nature double IPA or Genesis, a sour ale aged in white wine barrels. And customers kept asking for the beer at Brawley’s Beverage, to the point that owner Michael Brawley now estimates spending upwards of $60,000 a year on the brewery’s beers.
But after Anheuser-Busch announced plans on Wednesday to purchase the brewery, Brawley will no longer be stocking its beers.
“It’s not an insignificant loss in revenue,” said Brawley, who has owned the store since 2003. “But at the same time, you know how you know you’re doing right? Because sometimes it really hurts.”
Brawley has been through this several times over the years. Wicked Weed will be the 10th craft brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev has purchased, following brands like Goose Island Beer Co., 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. and Karbach Brewing Co.
You’ll find none of those on the shelves at Brawley’s Beverage, and now Wicked Weed Brewing is on its way out. Yesterday on Facebook the shop posted that it would be donating all of the profits from its last Wicked Weed kegs to Doctors Without Borders.
Bottled and Tapped in Cornelius posted on Facebook that the store would no longer carry Wicked Weed’s beers.
Rob Jacik, the founder of Carolina Beer Temple, has also pulled breweries after acquisitions such as this. While his shelves abound with beers from North Carolina breweries, Wicked Weed could be on its way out there as well.
“We haven’t made a decision on this one yet as the news is just sinking in, but I can’t see us continuing to carry Wicked Weed in the future with our commitment to the craft beer community,” he said in a text message.
The same is true at Salud Beer Shop in NoDa.
“I maybe took an hour to think about it,” said founder Jason Glunt. “It was definitely harder. I’ve been friends with those guys since they started.”
As a business owner himself, Glunt said he’s not in a position to judge anyone for selling the businesses they’ve worked so hard to build. But he, like Brawley, thinks that Anheuser-Busch engages in practices that could harm small breweries.
Salud Beer Shop has become known for its extensive selection of sour beers, and they do move through a lot of beer from Wicked Weed. He acknowledges that he could stand to lose money by not selling the brand.
“I am taking a step out there,” he said. “It could affect our business. At the end of the day, if I say I’m going to do something I’ve got to stand up for it.”
That also means the brewery will no longer be invited to pour at Salud’s annual Release the Funk sour beer festival. Wicked Weed Brewery will throw its own celebration of sour beer at its Funkatorium Invitational, though it remains to be seen which of the invited breweries will pull out. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales stated they will not attend, and Jester King Brewery also announced it will no longer sell the brewery’s beer or collaborate with them going forward. Several North Carolina breweries are currently on the festival’s brewery list, including Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing and Wooden Robot Brewery.
The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild also issued a statement Wednesday saying that Wicked Weed was no longer a voting member of the guild.
Which bottle shops around Charlotte will continue to carry Wicked Weed remains to be seen, but you’ll still be able to find their beers at Trackside Crafts in Pineville. While he’s disappointed, founder Kit Burkholder said that he will continue to sell their beer due to customer demand and to support the people behind the brewery, like its local sales representative.
Good Bottle Co. founder Chris Hunt said his store will continue to carry beers from the brewery.
Photos: Daniel Hartis, Justin Driscoll