Last Friday, the craft brewer invited several members of the media on a hard hat tour of its new “Funkatorium,” a 9,000 sq. ft. facility dedicated to sour beer production. The new location, which is scheduled to open to the public in September, will allow the company to quadruple the size of its sour beer program.
“Ever since day one we’ve wanted to be known as one of the best sour producers in the country,” said co-founder Luke Dickinson. “We’re just reinvesting in that program to make the quality of our sour beers better and better.”
Journalists who attended the preview party were treated to a surprise announcement: Wicked Weed is planning to invest $5 million and will build a third production facility, boosting brewing capacity to 50,000 barrels and creating 82 jobs in the process.
Located nine miles from Wicked Weed’s downtown Asheville brewpub, the new 40,000 sq. ft. location in Candler, N.C., is expected to be operational by next fall. The space, currently owned by the county, will house a semi-automated 30-barrel brewhouse and enable the company to grow production of both its core line of beers and barrel-aged offerings. According to a press statement, the new facility will include a tasting room, and the company may also construct an outdoor music venue.
Wicked Weed, which launched just 18 months ago, would not disclose how it is financing the expansion.
But despite the company’s multiple facility expansions, it isn’t eyeing huge double-digit production growth numbers.
“Our intention is to be very mindful about our growth,” said Abby Dickinson, Wicked Weed co-owner and events director. “We’re kind of looking at 20 percent growth each year.”
Wicked Weed is planning to expand distribution to other states, however, but does not have any specific territories in mind, she added. For now, the company will continue self-distributing in its home state of N.C., primarily in the Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte areas.
The brewery is on pace to produce 5,000 barrels this year, up from the 2,800 barrels it made in 2013.
Wicked Weed said it still plans to continue operating out of its brewpub location in Asheville, a region of the country that has been in the national spotlight since acclaimed craft brewers Sierra Nevada and New Belgium announced plans to launch secondary brewing facilities in the area.
Mr. Dickinson credited his own company’s growth in part to that national attention, adding that the community itself has also been incredibly supportive.
“Having the national attention that we’ve had on Asheville, with Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and New Belgium, that has kind of put a spotlight on the town,” he said. “It’s been just a cool process for me to see. The city and county are really behind the craft beer movement that’s happening right now.”
Paul Szurek, chairman of the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), said the brewery and the area’s craft brewing industry in general, should serve as an example to other area entrepreneurs.
“Wicked Weed’s rapid expansion in high-quality, innovative craft brewing shows its tremendous entrepreneurial talent and energy,” he said. “I expect other entrepreneurial sectors to follow the high-growth example of the craft brewing industry as our great quality of life and creative attributes continue to attract innovators and highly-skilled individuals.”