PorchDrinking’s Weekly Denver Beer Beat

Flavors of wine, bourbon, and tart acidity melt together in one bottle. It starts with a custom blend of two beers, both fermented from coolship-caught microbes. Once fermented, the beer is transferred to oak barrels that first held bourbon before their second life aging cherry wine from Red Fox Cellars, in the Palisade region of Colorado. After being freshly emptied at the winery, the beer was transferred to cherry wine barrels and allowed to rest and soak up all the beautiful cherry wine, rich oak character from the wood, and some of the original bourbon notes.

PEACEMAKER is part of our experimental series, which uses a blend of two spontaneous solera fermented beers. The blend is a combination of two base beers, one 100% wheat and the other, a golden ale, made with pilsner malt. Both beers were brewed on our 4 BBL system and then cooled in our coolship, a custom-built copper 12 BBL vessel designed to cool wort overnight while inoculating with wild yeast and other microbes from the air. In November, we expanded into the space next door to add 100 oak barrels and a new coolship, which sits under an open window with fans overhead to circulate the air. This allows the boiling wort to cool for 12 hours, which inoculates the wort with airborne microbes, including brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus, and saccharomyces. Once it is cooled, the wort is transferred to stainless-steel totes where it aged and fermented for 8-12 months.

This beer was created using a solera method, a process where unfermented wort is added to finished beer, which causes the active microbes in the beer to referment the new wort, creating an almost identical copy of the original spontaneously fermented beer. When the total volume has finished fermentation, a portion of the beer is then transferred to another container and the new, unfermented wort, is topped off to replace and referment on the existing beer. This is a continuous process that we have used for over three years to create one of a kind beers, as each beer changing slightly from the previous batch.

The base beer is funky and tart and pairs perfectly with the sharp flavors of the barrel, while still peeking through with a complex and unique character. This beer is the culmination of years of spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging, and a unique partnership with Red Fox Cellars. Bottles are extremely limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis. This beer will continue and develop with age so drink fresh or save for later.

PEACEMAKER was named after the production of the Convair B-36 “Peacemaker”, originally created for the United States Air Force by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation in 1946 as a piston-engine bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons intercontinentally without refueling, with a range of 10,000 miles and a maximum payload of 87,200 lbs.

The B-36 set the standard for range and payload for subsequent U.S. intercontinental bombers.
___________________________________________________

PEACEMAKER
750mL bottle, cork and cage
LIMITS AND PRICING TO BE ANNOUNCED*

*All limits are subject to change, at anytime, without advanced warning.

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Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is releasing Peacemaker, a new spontaneous "solera" blend at noon. Part of the brewery's experimental series, the beer is a blend of two base beers: a 100 percent wheat brew and a golden ale made with pilsner malt. "Both beers were brewed on Black Project’s four-barrel system and then cooled in the brewery’s coolship, a custom-built, twelve-barrel copper vessel designed to cool wort overnight while inoculating with wild yeast and other microbes from the air," the brewery says. "Once cooled, the wort was transferred to stainless-steel totes, where it aged and fermented for eight to twelve months." For much, much more information on the beer and recent changes at Black Project, go to the brewery's Facebook page.

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Ten Boozy Highlights From This Year's Denver Passport

Time's rapid march toward Memorial Day means tha one of our favorite drinking deals is back for a fifth year. The Denver Passport just went on sale, offering two-for-one drinking deals at 68 different Mile High establishments. Hit them all between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day and you'll save more than $350 on booze. Not bad considering the Passport costs just $25. Here's the catch: You've got just a short window to score yours. Two Parts, the events company behind the deal, says it's likely to sell out this week.

The Passport aims to serve as a road map to Denver drinking, and to lure you into establishments you haven't yet patronized. Deals come from breweries, distilleries and bars in neighborhoods all over the city, and they give you access to cocktails, beer, wine and whiskey. Here are ten highlights that we think make the Passport especially worthwhile this year, though our aim, of course, is to let no page in the Passport go unstamped. Pick up your Passport via the program's website.

Adelitas Cocina y Cantina and Palenque Mezcaleria — The Fortaleza Coin
Adelitas and Palenque were our Best Bars for Agave Spirits in this year's Best of Denver, and the Fortaleza coin is a great way to sample an introduction to what's on offer at these spots. Then move on to the rest of the cocktail list, which consists entirely of drinks made without agave syrup or processed sugars.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales — IPA
Black Project was once a special project from Former Future, but its popularity was such that it replaced the brewery whence it came. The South Broadway brewery specializes in wild ales, letting its yeast cultures evolve naturally from batch to batch, which means you'll find some of the more unique beer currently being brewed in Denver. After your IPA, taste something sour or barrel-aged.

Call to Arms Brewing Co. — Any Core Pint
The owners of Call to Arms set out to create a neighborhood pub, and the busy taproom often has the slightly unruly and energetic feel of a beloved local hangout: You might spot a book club meeting, an impromptu band practice and a first date, all in one night. Core pints, as Call to Arms explains, rotate, and might include anything from an IPA to an oatmeal porter to a saison. You can upgrade to a more expensive pour, but your free beer has to be from that core line.

Cerebral Brewing — Core Beers
Cerebral's beers range from fairly traditional to pretty wild, but the brewery especially shines when it comes to hazy IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Summer is the perfect season for IPA, and Cerebral's Rare Trait IPA is a core beer included in the passport deal. Graduate to one of the others on tap, or explore the rest of the lineup, which rotates frequently.

Colt & Gray — Drinks From a Bigger Boat
Ste. Ellie — Neo-Classics

The Passport is already built to share, but Colt & Gray is upping the ante by offering shareable drinks at a two-for-one value (hence, Drinks From a Bigger Boat). When you're done, head on down to Ste. Ellie and have a neo-classic, which bar manager Kevin Burke describes as drinks from the modern cocktail era — the strawberry-and-bourbon-infused Kentucky Buck, for example, or the Penicillin, which matches Scotch with lemon, ginger and honey.

Fort Greene Bar — Cranes in the Sky Cocktail
Tucked into a moody space along the main Globeville strip, Fort Greene serves up well-crafted cocktails and a hip vibe, and it remains relatively underrated, which makes it a great place to while away an evening. Your Passport gets you the Cranes in the Sky — a blend of Lee Spirits dry gin, Cardamaro, orange curaçao, floral bitters and soda water, garnished with an orange twist.

Hearth & Dram — Bartender’s Choice
Whiskey anchors the drinks program at Hearth & Dram; the bar stocks more than 300 varieties, which pair with a menu centered on wood-fired cooking. After your bartender's-choice cocktail, work your way through bourbon and Scotch options, or choose something from the cocktail menu, where you'll find more whiskey, but plenty of other spirits as well.

Laws Whiskey House — Flights
Tasting-room hours are limited at Laws Whiskey House; the doors are open for short, irregular windows Thursday through Sunday (see the Laws website for exact times). Planning a visit for a taste or two pays off, though, as it gets you access to this distillery's core bourbon and rye plus interesting experiments, like a wheat whiskey and a single-barrel bourbon chosen by the farmers who supply the ingredients. Taste them all in a flight, then pick up a bottle of your favorite to take home.

Sarto's — Aperitivo Hour Drinks, Drafts, Wines by the Glass, Spritzes and Season Cocktails
Sarto's is probably the best place on this Passport for pleasing a crowd, since it's offering a variety of two-for-one options. We'd head straight for the spritz section; the Italian restaurant makes one of the best Aperol spritzes in town, and its Campari Americano is nothing to sneeze at, either.

TRVE Brewing Company — Pints
TRVE bills itself as a heavy-metal brewery and carries its bold persona into its brewing, putting out innovative beers with names culled from the same musical genre. Don't miss the mixed-culture offerings, made in the Acid Temple on the west side of town, which is dedicated to sours, wild ales, barrel aging and funk.

By the way, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have their own versions of the Passport. Boulder's gets you access to places like Arcana, Pizzeria Locale and Upslope; the Fort Collins booklet takes you through Elliot's Martini Bar, Funkwerks and New Belgium; and in Colorado Springs you can land at spots like the Blue Star, Bristol Brewing and the Whistle Pig.

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Black Project Bottle Release & Meet the Brewer!

This Thursday, May 18th at 7pm: Black Project Bottle Release! 

Leading up to this weekend’s Festival Of Funk, the good folks from Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales - a fantastic sour brewery from Denver, Colorado - are in town and brought some bottles! 

We are super stoked to be able to offer up a limited amount of the following bottles at each Bottlecraft location, starting at 7pm: Reheat, Rocket Sled, Jumpseat and Ejector. *Two total bottles per person*

...but wait, there’s more! MEET THE BREWER!

Swing by Bottlecraft Little Italy for BOTTLE POURS of Black Project Dreamland and MEET THE BREWER - James Howat - who will be hanging out and chatting about his amazing creations alongside our friends from Modern Times Beer. 

_____________________________
About Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales:

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is the passion project of James Howat, owner, brewer, and blender; and Sarah Howat, owner and operation manager; of what was formerly Former Future Brewing Company. The brewery began production in January 2014 and won two bronze medals for their coolship ales (Category: Experimental, Subcategory: Wild Ales) at The Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Black Project expanded production with a small addition to the property which allowed for the expansion of their barrel program. This allowed the brewery to evolve from Former Future Brewing Company to only serving Black Project beers. In 2017, Black Project hopes to produce 250 BBL of beer and increase distribution.

Every Black Project beer is fermented with microbes captured from the local environment via a coolship or foraged from nature. We believe this creates a beer that is unrivaled in complexity. Our beers are intended to have a sense of place, or terroir. No matter how hard one tried to, our beer cannot be replicated outside of our brewery. In fact, our microbe cultures are purposefully allowed to evolve from batch to batch, creating variations and interesting twists from different releases of the same beer.
We are meticulous about designing recipes and processes that will allow nature to take over and create beers unrivaled in their beauty and complexity. Through experimentation and research, we are continuously developing new and different techniques for use with wild and spontaneous fermentation.

We are not and do not have any intention of being a Lambic brewery. We use science and experimentation to find which processes and ingredients we want and often use that in parallel to traditional Lambic producers, however, other than the use of a coolship, we maintain no strict adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake. Spontaneous fermentation is merely a starting point and core of our process, from there our research and development extends much beyond the scope of the great Belgian brewers and blenders.

www.blackprojectbeer.com

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Black Project Releasing Peacemaker Spontaneous Solera Sour in Bottles

Denver, CO — Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is releasing PEACEMAKER, a new spontaneous solera blend on Saturday, May 27, 2016 at 12:00pm.

PEACEMAKER is part of the brewery’s experimental series, which uses a blend of two spontaneous solera fermented beers. The blend is a combination of two base beers, one 100% wheat and the other, a golden ale, made with pilsner malt. Both beers were brewed on Black Project’s 4 BBL system and then cooled in the brewery’s coolship, a custom-built copper 12 BBL vessel designed to cool wort overnight while inoculating with wild yeast and other microbes from the air. In November, the brewery expanded into the space next door to add 100 oak barrels and a new coolship, which sits under an open window with fans overhead to circulate the air. This allows the boiling wort to cool for 12 hours, which inoculates the wort with airborne microbes, including brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus, and saccharomyces. Once it is cooled, the wort is transferred to stainless-steel totes where it aged and fermented for 8-12 months.

This beer was created using a solera method, a process where unfermented wort is added to finished beer, which causes the active microbes in the beer to referment the new wort, creating an almost identical copy of the original spontaneously fermented beer. When the total volume has finished fermentation, a portion of the beer is then transferred to another container and the new, unfermented wort, is topped off to replace and referment on the existing beer. This is a continuous process that the brewery has used for over three years to create one of a kind beers, as each beer changing slightly from the previous batch.

After the new wort refermented for six more months, on top of the original spontaneous beer, a portion of the finished solera was transferred to Bourbon barrels that Red Fox Cellars, a Palisade, CO winery, used to age cherry wine. The beer aged in the barrel for a month to soak up all the beautiful cherry wine, rich oak character from the wood, and some of the original bourbon notes.

The base beer is funky and tart and pairs perfectly with the sharp flavors of the barrel, while still peeking through with a complex and unique character. This beer is the culmination of years of spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging, and a unique partnership with Red Cox Cellars. Bottles are extremely limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis. This beer will continue and develop with age so drink fresh or save for later.

PEACEMAKER was named after the production of the Convair B-36 “Peacemaker”, originally created for the United States Air Force by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation in 1946 as a piston-engine bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons intercontinentally without refueling, with a range of 10,000 miles and a maximum payload of 87,200 lbs.

The B-36 set the standard for range and payload for subsequent U.S. intercontinental bombers.

###

About Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales
Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is the passion project of James Howat, owner, brewer, and blender; and Sarah Howat, owner and operation manager; of what was formerly Former Future Brewing Company. The brewery began production in January 2014 and won two bronze medals for their coolship ales (Category: Experimental, Subcategory: Wild Ales) at The Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Black Project expanded production with a small addition to the property which allowed for the expansion of their barrel program. This allowed the brewery to evolve from Former Future Brewing Company to only serving Black Project beers. In 2017, Black Project hopes to produce 250 BBL of beer and increase distribution.

Every Black Project beer is fermented with microbes captured from the local environment via a coolship or foraged from nature. We believe this creates a beer that is unrivaled in complexity. Our beers are intended to have a sense of place, or terroir. No matter how hard one tried to, our beer cannot be replicated outside of our brewery. In fact, our microbe cultures are purposefully allowed to evolve from batch to batch, creating variations and interesting twists from different releases of the same beer.

We are meticulous about designing recipes and processes that will allow nature to take over and create beers unrivaled in their beauty and complexity. Through experimentation and research, we are continuously developing new and different techniques for use with wild and spontaneous fermentation.

We are not and do not have any intention of being a Lambic brewery. We use science and experimentation to find which processes and ingredients we want and often use that in parallel to traditional Lambic producers, however, other than the use of a coolship, we maintain no strict adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake. Spontaneous fermentation is merely a starting point and core of our process, from there our research and development extends much beyond the scope of the great Belgian brewers and blenders.

Event Links:
www.blackprojectbeer.com/affairs/peacemaker-bottle-release
www.facbook.com/events/1887656784843243

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales Links:

www.blackprojectbeer.com
www.facebook.com/blackprojectbeer
www.instagram.com/blackprojectbeer
www.twitter.com/blackprojectale

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Weekend Beer Buzz

Professor Phineas Barleyhop, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Denver, CO, 4 PM

Former Future Brewing Company will always hold a special place in our hearts, the boxes of old merchandise – not so much.

So, we are getting rid of all of it, for FREE. Come down to Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales and buy a pint and we will let you pick from a random assortment of shirts, growlers, hats and other merchandise* that is taking up space at the brewery. 

Cheers to FFBC! 

*Merch is not available online or by phone, you must come into the brewery and purchase a 10oz beer to receive any merchandise.

Black Project is located at: 1290 S Broadway, Denver, CO.

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Professor Phineas Barleyhop

Former Future Brewing Company will always hold a special place in our hearts, the boxes of old merchandise – not so much.

So, we are getting rid of all of it, for FREE. Come down to Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales and buy a pint and we will let you pick from a random assortment of shirts, growlers, hats and other merchandise* that is taking up space at the brewery.

Cheers to FFBC!

*Merch is not available online or by phone, you must come into the brewery and purchase a 10oz beer to receive any merchandise.

How Beer Became A Moral Issue

Very recently--it might even have been at the beginning of last week--I considered whether we'd come to the end of the first age of brewery consolidation. Well, that was ill-timed. First came news that Wicked Weed, the belle of Asheville's ball, was throwing in with AB InBev. Then Tony Magee made a very strange announcement that he was selling the second half of Lagunitas to Heineken.

While I'm on confessions, let me mention another: I also thought the world of craft beer had adjusted well enough to the age of consolidation that it would be inured to freak-out. Well, not only did the Wicked Weed news cause a freak-out, but it was led by other brewers, not just customers. Jester King kicked things off, followed by the Rare Barrel and Black Project. The announcement came a bit before an annual Wicked-Weed hosted festival of wild ales, which a mass of breweries have decided to skip. (Customers were pretty angry, too.)

The age of consolidation has surfaced one of the more unusual quirks of the American craft beer segment: the strange morality that has come to pervade it. There's really no other word, either. Morality is that agreement among groups about what is acceptable. It is a self-protective urge, a code to minimize harm either through social norms or ones of purity. It enforces loyalty, which further strengthens the group. Although our friends the 18th-century philosophers tried to argue for a natural or universal morality, it's clear that morality is a purely a social construct that varies place to place. And there is a moral code both craft breweries and craft beer drinkers recognize, as this latest blowback demonstrates.

Within societies, moral violations are the most serious. Laws have one kind of power, but people forgive a tax cheat a lot sooner than they do a pedophile. To moral transgression, societies exact the harshest penalties--shunning for infractions or, most seriously, excommunication--expulsion from the group. Craft breweries have several different identities and associate themselves with others according to these (size, location, beer type, etc), but the unifying morality is independence. It is the taproot for all that has grown up around craft beer--the punk rock attitude, notions of "craft," fealty to authenticity, creativity, and a vague sense of wholesomeness.

One could go back the Brewers Association (or its precursor) as the source of this, but I think it was a more organic, spontaneous impulse--one that started just as craft brewing dawned. The little breweries themselves, small and delicate as a water bubbles in a sea of big beer, felt a sense of solidarity as they fought there way into taverns and restaurants. But pretty soon customers had adopted this ethos. I recall when first Redhook and then Widmer Brothers sold minority stakes to Anheuser-Busch in the mid-90s. This was before there was a Brewers Association forced orthodoxy. The blowback that followed those unions was entirely ground-up and seemed obvious and intuitive to beer drinkers across Oregon and Washington. No doubt the Brewers Association codified and attempted to institutionalize this moral code, but I don't think it began with them.

Our own, mostly hidden moral beliefs are exposed by consolidation. You see it in the way your own view of a brewery warps right before your eyes (I speak from experience). You also see it in the way the sellers behave--completely conflicted, like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They also feel the warping, but find themselves on the outside, expelled, looking back to the community of which they still very much wish to be a member. Lagunitas' Tony Magee, who built his brewery on the spirit of craft morality, can't let it go, which is what made his letter such a strange document. The whole thing is worth reading, but this passage is particularly resonant:

“Some who don’t fully understand it all may say it is selling out. Truth is that we did then, and are now ‘buying in’… Money has value and equity has value too. I am using Lagunitas’ equity to buy deeper into an organization that will help us go farther more quickly than we could have on our own. You hafta imagine Jonah standing on the gunnel of the storm-tossed ship and intentionally leaping into the mouth of the whale to embrace the transformation and emerge to become his own destiny.”

— TONY MAGEE ON TUMBLR, MAY 4, 2017

In one paragraph we have the tiredest of cliches about selling out (no, buying in!) contrasted with the image of Tony-as-Lagunitas swallowed whole by Heineken the whale. It's an acknowledgement of this craft morality and an attempt to somehow remain contained within the narrative. The whole post is a long justification, the subtext of which focus entirely on this moral question, He's beseeching us not to vote him off the island. "There may be talk about corprocratic this or that and ideas of domination or selling out, but the words above reflect what I am aspiring to and where I hope Lagunitas and beer lovers will take us." He wants both what Heineken offered, but also to remain a part of the tribe. It's not a statement of business calculation, it's a plea.

That same dynamic is at play in all the public pronouncements of divorce given by breweries to Wicked Weed. They identify--accurately and pragmatically--why AB InBev represents a real threat to their business. (Lest you think this is overblown, here's a story from just yesterday about how giants can abuse their power.) But all of these statements end with a nearly identical comment at the end. Here's how they put it at Black Project:

“We wish the best to everyone at Wicked Weed and we are happy for their success. We know they will continue to make great beers and we hope to remain personal friends in the future.”

— JAMES AND SARAH HOWAT, BLACK PROJECT

The excommunicators try to reassure their erstwhile community members that this is only a business expulsion--outside beer they hope to remain friends. It illustrates the conflicted feelings from the other side. (It also, remarkably, comes after this remarkable statement: "the beer we brewed with Wicked Weed here at Black Project will be blended with other existing aged beer we have on hand to make something totally different which we will not consider a Wicked Weed collaboration." Nothing more explicitly illustrates how how morally impure Wicked Weed has become--the beer has to be blended out to avoid polluting the entire brewery.)

If this seems normal, I'd suggest that's because you've internalized the same morality. In other industries, all of these statements would seem bizarre. All of these are at base just basic business decisions. It makes sense for small breweries to work together to counterbalance the might of industry giants; nothing about that suggests those little breweries would become friends or feel the need to emphasize the continued friendship. Would Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Mark Zuckerberg make a public show of writing BFF after a public dispute?

I'm not even sure this morality is wrong. I can't entirely separate it out in my own mind. But it does exist and it is little discussed. It's also fading, and will continue to do so with every passing sale or acquisition. Something will linger afterward, but it will be a diminished thing--in countries like Britain and Belgium, family breweries have a slightly special status. We are stepping from a kind of naivete into a more mature, but perhaps less fun, more cynical, world. The sale of Wicked Weed shows we still have the capacity for betrayal, but not for many more of these.

UpdateAdweek has a short piece that stands as another perfect example of all this.

It didn’t take long for The Beer Necessities, a handsome new website underwritten by Anheuser-Busch’s division The High End, to upset the hops cart. Via a May 3 Facebook post, Beachwood Brewing, a company headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., admitted that they should have done better research before agreeing to be interviewed by a writer for the site, which was not yet live at the time.

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Westword Beer Calendar

If you loved Former Future Brewing — which is now called Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales — and its steampunky, penny-farthing cyclist logo, then head to Black Project today for some throwback merch. "Former Future Brewing Company will always hold a special place in our hearts, the boxes of old merchandise — not so much," the brewery says. "So we are getting rid of all of it, for free. Come down...and buy a pint, and we will let you pick from a random assortment of shirts, growlers, hats and other merchandise that is taking up space at the brewery."

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When Bad Beer Goes Good

In December of 2016, I flew from Pittsburgh to Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales in Denver and waited three hours in the cold for two beers. I passed the time by stomping my feet, thinking of hot tubs, and comparing beer trophies with my fellow line-goers. When the doors opened, I shuffled forward with quiet glee, ready to claim my prizes.

The first beer, Oxcart, was a marvel of modern beermaking, a testament to everything that brewers have learned about flavor and fermentation over the last several thousand years. It’s a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old spontaneously-fermented beer, all aged in neutral oak. To invoke spontaneously fermentation, brewers don’t add microbes, but let wild microbes settle on the beer as it cools in an open-air container. “Oxcart is the purest expression of our goals with Black Project, and is a beer so complex it is difficult to describe,” wrote James and Sarah Howat on their brewery’s website.

The second, Stargate, a rye barrel aged sour fermented over peaches, was perhaps less lofty, but expected to be just as delicious. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out. As soon as Sarah popped the cork on the first bottle, it erupted like a geyser and struck the ceiling 15 feet overhead.

In the moments that followed, everyone had the same reaction. We gasped in awe, reveled in the explosion, then sunk to disappointment. What was wrong?

Days prior, owners James and Sarah Howat had tested bottles from a single case, but they hadn’t picked from across the entire bottling run. The ones they pulled? Perfect. But on others, the carbonation was way off.

Luckily, Black Project planned to make things right in epic fashion.

The most renowned Belgian producers of sour beer don’t filter their product, and neither does Black Project, so thick bits of peach ended up inside some of the bottles. In simple terms, fermentation results from yeast eating sugar and producing alcohol and carbon dioxide, and the peaches provide a ton of sugar. In bottles with particularly large peach bits, the hungry yeast went to work creating excess carbonation.

So Stargate couldn’t be released. “Highly over carbonated bottles are dangerous,” Sarah said. “They could explode.”

Without another choice, I quietly took my bottle of Oxcart and left the brewery, wondering what Stargate might’ve tasted like. Luckily, Black Project planned to make things right in epic fashion.

🍻 🍻 🍻

Release day mistakes aren’t particularly rare. On a Tuesday in 2016, The Lost Abbey opened an online sale for their famous Duck Duck Gooze, accidentally selling more bottles than they had in inventory. In the end, Adam Martinez—Lost Abbey’s Director of Media and Marketing—refunded everyone’s money and took to the company blog to issue an apology: “If you want a villain, I’m your guy,” he said.

Perhaps most famously, in January of 2015, Chicago’s Goose Island announced that they detected off-flavors in their Bourbon County Brand (BCB) Coffee Stout and BCB Barleywine, the result of an infection from a bacteria called Lactobacillus acetotolerans. They quickly offered refunds; some 40,000 bottles had to be returned. Later in the year, they offered a similar refund for bottles from nine different runs of their BCB Stout and one of their Proprietor’s BCB Stout.

Throughout the industry, the monetary return and public apology has become something of a panacea for botched projects. But is it adequate? “Took time off work to do this, thanks a ton,” wrote one unhappy customer on Twitter after Lost Abbey’s 2015 screw up with Duck Duck Gooze. On Black Friday 2015, my brother and I woke up at 5 a.m. to stand outside a Total Wine in Orlando, Florida and buy the BCB Coffee Stout. The store didn’t open until 8 a.m. Across the country, tens of thousands of craft beer fans did the same. Sure, we got our money back from the infected bottles, but didn’t our time mean something as well?

Growing up, my family had an expectation that you needed to leave things in better condition than when you found them. If you saw a cereal box left open, you closed it. Mud in the hallway? Wipe it up. Mistakes happened, and were immediately forgiven — as long as you took responsibility and left the situation better than it was. High standards, to be sure, but my parents ran a children’s summer camp. Left unchecked, oversights could snowball.

Black Project recognized this. Instead of simply refunding everyone’s money, they asked the community to wait while they diagnosed and fixed the problem. Then they committed to giving each fan something even bolder and more rare than their original offering.

According to Sarah, the brewers heard a story about the beer blender Pierre Tilquin, founder of Belgium’s Gueuzerie Tilquin. In 2012, a batch of Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne became over-carbonated, just like Black Project’s Stargate. Instead of dumping the beer, Tilquin and a bunch of friends opened every single bottle of over-carbonated Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne and poured them back into barrels.

“I had 20,000 over-carbonated bottles that I couldn’t sell,” said Pierre Tilquin over email. “We decided to empty them, and, as the beer was very cloudy, let it clarify and de-saturate progressively. I tasted it and measured it regularly for carbonation, and after 1.5 months, the carbonation was gone, the beer was clarified, and the taste was good (it had taken oak character from the barrels), so I decided to bottle it with a small amount of sugar to get a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and a normal carbonation. After 6 months of bottle conditioning, the beer was delicious, and ready to sell.”

“The beer was really appreciated,” Tilquin added. “It was more tasty, oaky and funky than the normal gueuze.”

🍻 🍻 🍻

At Black Project, James and Sarah emulated Tilquin’s experiment (named Gueuze² because it went twice in barrels and twice in bottles). They opened each bottle and poured each beer back into a fermentor, where it sat until it became flat. Then, like Tilquin, they tried a second time.

“It ended up being perfectly carbonated,” Sarah said. “And we refined our entire way of bottling. We added a small mesh filter to remove any hop or fruit particles from the beer.”

Three months after the botched release, Black Project released a second beer to anyone who’d been waiting in line for the first. In homage to Tilquin, the Howat’s named their beer Stargate².

It took a few extra months, but I actually had the opportunity to try both beers. A friend had sent me one of the few coveted original bottles to escape the brewery, and Sarah Howat herself got me a bottle of Stargate². Regular Stargate poured clear and tasted like white peach juice, with a bit of lemon and funk. Imagine someone handing you a glass and saying, “This is peach wine.” Stargate² was a different beer. It was riper, peachier, and ultimately juicier, like biting into a fuzzy summer peach.

At the Hop Culture offices, the jury was divided. One writer liked Stargate better, while two others preferred Stargate².

Whatever the outcome, the fact remains that Black Project committed to rectifying their error by providing their fans with something better. In a world where most businesses get by with the bare minimum, that type of service stands out.

And now more than ever, service is an important component of the brewery experience. Over 5,000 breweries operate across the United States, with another 2,000 in planning. As with any young and fast-growing industry, mistakes are common. And this level of competition means it’s not enough to have a good product. If you assume that half the breweries in America maintain a basic level of competence, that’s still more than 2,500 direct competitors in your market. Quality is only one of many differentiating factors.

Is it unfair to ask The Lost Abbey or Goose Island for a little something extra? Perhaps. Everyone makes mistakes. But those companies shouldn’t fuss when upstarts like Black Project steal their lunch.

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30+ Colorado Beer Releases You Should Know About This Summer

Good beer is everywhere in Colorado. Great beer can be found without much effort too. But special or limited beer — that is the type of thing that gets the beer drinkers of Colorado excited. These limited or special release beers are worth the excitement.

If you find a beer being released that you just can’t resist from a favorite brewery, do a little bit of research. Visit the events page on their Facebook to check out both past and future events along with Instagram posts from similar releases to find information. How limited is the beer? Is there a certain number of cans or bottles available? Using those numbers and the comments of people who have previously attended will help you create a plan of attack.

Here is a breakdown of the three main types of releases and how you can best prepare for them.

Level One: The Accessible Release

This release is more about trying something new and trying something first. This beer is generally being made one time but they are making enough to ensure plenty of their fans get a taste. You can arrive anytime on release day and enjoy a sip or if it’s being bottled pick up one before everyone else. There might be lines, but they will be minimal and will move fast. Often there are taproom party events to celebrate the distribution of this special beer.

Level Two: The Competitive Release

This release will require some planning. Whether on tap, in bottles or in a can, there may not be enough for everyone. The brewery will often share the quantity of the beer produced, even if the figure seems high, it’s being released for a reason. You will want to arrive on time to make sure you get what you are after. You will need to decide if waiting in line for beer is for you.

Level Three: The Extremely Limited Release

This is a challenge. The quantity of beer being released more than likely will not meet the demand of the number of people in attendance. There will be a line and people will begin to line up extremely early. This doesn’t mean you have to be there at the crack of dawn, reach out to the brewery and ask what time has been the best to show up in advance. Come ready to have fun, it’s limited and people will be people but if you are lucky enough to snag the sought-after beer it will be awesome. If you happen to miss out, you can still enjoy the other beers on tap and meet new members of your beer community.

Below is a list of upcoming releases in and around Denver for this summer and we have included the type of release we expect them to be. The list is broken down by month and the breweries are in alphabetical order. Save this list because we will be updating it throughout the summer as more dates become firm and other releases are announced. 

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales

Location: 1290 S. Broadway, A51, Denver
Beer: UNKNOWN. The information around this beer and this particular event is strictly confidential but what we can share is that it is going something you cannot miss. Follow their AFFAIRS page here.
Release Type: Level 3
Release Date: To be determined in July

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Beer Industry Whacks at Wicked Weed Deal

The fallout from Wicked Weed’s sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev is still being felt days after the transaction was announced.

In the wake of the deal — which will require approval from the U.S. Department of Justice — at least 44 breweries announced they would no longer participate in Wicked Weed’s annual Funkatorium Invitational in Asheville on July 8, according to Tenemu.

Among the more recognizable names pulling out, according to the beer blog: Allagash Brewing Co., Avery Brewing Co., Crooked Stave, Grimm Artisanal Ales, Night Shift, Troegs, Trillium and Springdale by Jack’s Abby, which has begun making plans to host a similar event for Funkatorium dropouts that same weekend.

Wicked Weed has promised that the Funkatorium Invitational — an annual showcase of wild and sour ales from across the country — will go on, and a new brewery list is expected to be released at a later date. Tickets go on sale May 20, and 100 percent of the profits will benefit Eblen Charities, which helps Asheville’s underprivileged citizens with access to health care, energy assistance, emergency assistance and housing.

“Regardless of what has transpired, we’ll always consider the people of Wicked Weed friends, and want the best for them and their families,” Stuffings wrote. “With that said, we have some core principles that define who we are as a brewery, and those principles must not be compromised. One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates. … Because of this core principle, it pains us to say that we won’t be carrying Wicked Weed anymore at Jester King.”In addition to posting updates about their decisions to boycott the Funkatorium festival, a few brewery owners also used Wicked Weed’s deal with A-B as an opportunity to double down on their own independence. In a statement, Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings called the sale “quite a shock”

Jester King has also backed out of present and future collaborative brewing projects with Wicked Weed, and has vowed not to pour any of the North Carolina brewery’s beers at its tasting room.

Similarly, The Rare Barrel and Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales have also distanced themselves from Wicked Weed.

“In order to stay true to our values, we’re pulling out of the second part of our collaboration, will not be attending their festivals, and will not be able to serve their beer in our Tasting Room anymore,” The Rare Barrel posted on its Facebook page.

In a blog post, Black Project owners James and Sarah Howat wrote that while their friendship with Wicked Weed’s owners would remain intact, they would cease their business relationship due to the company’s new affiliation with ABI.

“In Denver alone, we’ve seen several instances of highly aggressive, predatory, and what we consider to be unethical practices,” the Howats wrote. “We truly believe that ABInBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it. We don’t personally buy, seek, trade, or acquire any of their products for this reason, and we’ve been known to encourage our friends to do the same.”

Breweries aren’t the only ones severing ties with A-B’s latest acquisition target, however. Several Denver craft beer bars and restaurants have said they will no longer serve products from Wicked Weed or other ABI-owned breweries in the company’s “High End” portfolio.

“We will not be purchasing any more Wicked Weed beers to be sold at Freshcraft,” the bar’s co-owner, Jason Forgy, told Westword. “We do have a few kegs that we have already purchased squirreled away that we will tap and sell, however.”

According to Westword, the list of boycotting bars and restaurants in Denver include Hops & Pie, Falling Rock Tap House, Euclid Hall, the Crafty Fox, Walter’s 303 Pizzeria and Publik House, and First Draft Taproom.

Meanwhile, Brawley’s Beverage owner Michael Brawley told the Associated Press that his Charlotte, North Carolina-based stores and restaurants would stop selling Wicked Weed products.

“If we continue to buy those brands then we tacitly approve of Budweiser’s attempt to buy out their competition and use that competition by dropping the prices to hammer my friends’ brewery,” Brawley told the AP. “We don’t have a choice.”

Additionally, the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild has rescinded Wicked Weed’s voting rights but will continue to allow the brewery to participate in the organization as “an affiliate member.”

Elsewhere, Creature Comforts co-founder and CEO Chris Herron offered his perspective on the Wicked Weed sale in a guest post that is reportedly “on its way” to becoming the most read story on Good Beer Hunting.

Prior to starting Creature Comforts, Herron spent a combined 12 years working for Miller Brewing Company and Diageo in finance. He offered this hypothesis:

“While everyone thinks that AB InBev is truly interested in getting into craft and building these brands (which is a secondary goal at best), I submit that maybe buying craft breweries is more of a tool to devalue the craft category and increase the brand equity of their core legacy beers,” he wrote.

“These craft brands, whether they realize it or not, may just be pawns in the AB InBev game of chess. AB InBev is not a collaborator, they are a competitor, and a damn smart one,” he added.

Herron views A-B’s acquisitions as a “sleight of hand,” intended to add add “downward pricing pressure” within the craft segment. In doing so, A-B is forcing the hands of regional craft breweries to follow suit, and closing the gap between ABI’s premium legacy brands and craft in the process, he argued.

“Over time, minimizing this price gap increases the brand equity of their legacy premium brands (Bud and Bud Light), since these brands no longer appear to be at a significant discount,” he wrote.

In an interview with Business Insider, Wicked Weed co-founders Walt and Luke Dickinson defended their decision to sell to global brewing conglomerate.

“They’re the largest company in this segment. And, to have that kind of support behind our mission is immense,” Luke Dickson told the outlet. “We are going to be able to achieve things that we never imagined and have an impact that we never imagined, and that’s incredible.”

Walt Dickinson added: “There was a big fight to take market share from those big guys — the Anheuser-Busch’s of the world. And I think the exciting thing about beer now is it doesn’t need to be take down the big guys any more. It’s not a civil war here.”

Walt Dickinson also told the Associated Press that moving some production of Wicked Weed beers to Anheuser-Busch facilities outside of North Carolina is a “very real possibility.”

Despite the swift backlash, Walt Dickinson toldMen’s Journal that Wicked Weed hasn’t lost an employee yet, and he’s pretty confident that the company would retain most of its workforce.

“We’re growing, and that’s exciting. It’s also really galvanized our community,” Dickson said. “Having a moment like this really helps to bring the team together. This is very much about protecting the Wicked Weed family here, and it’s been a great moment for that.”

Dickinson also discussed how the company hopes to win back any lost fans.

“This is a move not to take Asheville out of Wicked Weed, but it’s to make Wicked Weed more a part of Asheville — to be able to have more resources, to create more jobs, and have a bigger impact on the community that we love. So I think in the end this is going to be a great thing for our city,” he told Men’s Journal.

However, one former Wicked Weed employee, Jed S. Holmes, has penned an open letter to the brewery’s founders on the website wickedweedsoldout.com.

“When you chose to sell your brand to Anheuser-Busch, you decided that local no longer mattered,” Holmes wrote. “This wasn’t your decision to make. You had an opportunity to prevent another big corporation from infiltrating downtown Asheville. The floodgates will open soon. This was a poor choice of precedent for the community. It didn’t have to be this way.”

Finally, Draft Magazine, in an effort to peek under the hood of an AB-owned craft brewery, convinced an anonymous “high-level staff member” to discuss their experience working for the global brewing giant. As expected, there is more pressure to sell and to grow and to innovate. But what happens to the culture post-acquisition?

“They really go above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen to ensure people stay. They want people to be happy,” the anonymous AB-owned craft brewery employee wrote.

Read the full interview here.

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Here are All of AB InBev's Craft Brands

By now, you’ve heard that Wicked Weed was purchased by AB InBev and will soon be wrapped up into their High End portfolio. To put it lightly: people lost their mind. Reaction to the deal from the craft beer community was swift and often brutal. The North Carolina Brewer’s Guild stripped Wicked Weed of their voting rights within the organization. Two other independent breweries cancelled collaborations with WW (Jester King and Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales), while some stores claimed they would stop selling Wicked Weed’s beer. Meanwhile, more than 50 breweries have dropped out of Wicked Weed’s impending Funkatorium Invitational, a sour beer fest where the profits go to a local charity.

It seems as if almost every notable brewery felt the need to chime in on the acquisition via social media (Sierra Nevada simply posted a picture of one of their six-pack holders that said “still family owned and operated”). Maybe the only craft brewery that was psyched about Wicked Weed’s announcement was Lagunitas, which announced almost simultaneously that Heineken would purchase the remaining 50% of their company. Nobody seemed to notice because of all of the Wicked Weed outrage.

And the number of breweries craft beer purists are going to probably (maybe) try to avoid is only set to grow. Since establishing the High End portfolio in 2015, AB InBev has gone on a spending spree; they now own 10 craft breweries (as well as a cidery and hard seltzer maker). Curious about which breweries are owned by Anheuser Busch? Check out the gallery to see the full list.

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Businesses, breweries pull support for Wicked Weed after Anheuser-Busch buyout

Asheville, NC -- The fallout continues after Anheuser-Busch bought a popular Asheville brewery, with several business and breweries cutting ties with the company.

Multiple businesses now say they will no longer carry Wicked Weed beer.

Several stores in the Charlotte area posted on Facebook that they are pulling the beer from their shelves.

Black Project Beer in Colorado posted on its blog that it was working on two collaboration beers with Wicked Weed, but will end that immediately.

"At this stage, we don't feel we are able to have a business relationship with Wicked Weed because that connection, ultimately, is one with ABInBev," the blog post said in part. "Unfortunately, we don't feel that having any connection with ABInBev is something we can do while still maintaining our mission, values, and core beliefs."

At least 10 breweries nationwide and in North Carolina have also posted on Facebook that they are pulling out of Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational in July because of the buyout.

On Wednesday, Wicked Weed Brewing announced it was partnering with the High End branch of Anheuser-Busch "in order to innovate, push the boundaries, and grow." Following the announcement, North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild issued a statement Wednesday saying "Wicked Weed can no longer be a voting member."

Wicked Weed posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon that the Funkatorium Invitational would go on as planned, and they would have an updated brewery list as soon as it was available. The post also said people who have already purchased tickets but no longer wish to go can get a refund.

"This decision has been made out of respect for all of our fans and the breweries who have always supported this festival with us," Wicked Weed's post said. "In the end this is a great festival that supports the community in need, our community of brewers and celebrates our industry. We look forward to celebrating with you in July."

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Craft Brewers React Strongly to AB InBev Acquisition of Wicked Weed

Reaction to yesterday’s news that Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing is being acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev has been swift. Jeffrey Stuffings, owner of Austin’s Jester King Brewing, was one of the first to respond, with a lengthy post on his company’s blog explaining why they would pull out of on-going collaborations with Wicked Weed and would no longer sell Wicked Weed beer at their brewery. James Howat of Denver’s Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales issued a similar post later in the day announcing that his brewery, too, would pull out of current and future collaborations with Wicked Weed and would no longer be participating in Wicked Weed’s upcoming Funkatorium Invitation festival slated for July 8.

MORE: Wicked Weed Brewing Joins Anheuser-Bush

In fact, many breweries are now pulling out of the festival, for which tickets go on sale on Saturday at noon and cost up to $250 per person for VIP access and $100 for general admission.

In an article about the acquisition on the Good Beer Hunting website, Jackie O’s founder Brad Clark explained why he’s no longer participating. “It was pretty simple. They’ve always rubbed me the wrong way, particularly Walt, because he introduces himself to me every time and says, every time, 'Pleasure to meet you, I’m a big fan of your beers.' A total lack of relevance and compassion and being present.”

ALSO: 33 Surprising Corporate Brewers

Alex Wallash, owner of The Rare Barrel in Berkeley, California, said, “We’ve made a decision not to serve, collaborate with, or affiliate with AB InBev because our values do not align with theirs. In order to stay true to our values, we're pulling out of the second part of our collaboration [with Wicked Weed], will not be attending their festivals, and will not be able to serve their beer in our tasting room anymore.”

He added, “While our values diverge and we part ways, we wish the people at Wicked Weed all the best.”

Reached by email and phone, many other high-profile breweries scheduled to appear at the festival said they would no longer be participating. Boston’s Trillium, Brooklyn’s Other Half and Grimm, Miami’s J. Wakefield, and California’s Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, among many others, all indicated that they were out. Local North Carolina breweries are jumping ship, too, including Fonta Flora, Haw River, and Steel String Brewery.

Gabe Gordon, owner of Long Beach, California’s Beachwood BBQ and Brewing said his brewery would no longer be participating in the festival, adding, “I really feel strongly that AB InBev and other mega-brewers are an existential threat to our industry. I really love what I do and am truly saddened that their endless pursuit of profits have claimed another stellar brewery.”

Just yesterday Gordon released a statement, independent of the Wicked Weed acquisition, about his brewery being covered in a web publication called The Beer Necessities. The site is sponsored by ABI’s The High End division and recently featured a story on Beachwood BBQ. Gordon says at the time when the article was being written that he didn’t know the site was owned by ABI.

“As an independent brewery that has fought hard against the predatory business practices of macro beer for almost a decade, we wholly reject this free promotion and all that it stands for. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. And if we knew that it would be used, in our opinion, to help AB InBev in their intensifying quest to dilute the definition of ‘craft,’ we certainly would have refused participation. With this in mind, we ask The Beer Necessities to remove the story.”

Asked about the Wicked Weed purchase, Gordon says, “I find it laughable, though, that all these sell-out breweries put out the same statements. They all make it seem as if they had no other choice but to be purchased by big beer. There are so many ways to raise capital. Its a false choice.”

Scott Vaccaro of New York’s Captain Lawrence Brewing, who also canceled their participation in the Funkatorium Invitation, had a similar sentiment.

“ABI can extol the virtues of their high-end division and the access to ingredients, markets, and equipment they provide to their new brewing partners,” he says. “But let's be serious. The people who sell out get paid, which is their right and privilege for building a brand of value, and ABI gets another weapon to deploy to provide a wider range of false ‘choice’ to the consumer. They want to control market share and nothing more.”

Vaccaro says that The High End doesn’t care about IPA’s or sour ales. “They crave market share and money,” he says, adding, “I will continue to support my peers who continue to brew innovative and flavorful beer without the help of ABI.”

It isn’t clear whether the festival will go on as planned. Emails and calls to Wicked Weed seeking comment were not immediately returned. A small number of tickets reserved for local Asheville-area residents and sold only at the brewery were purchased last week before the ABI acquisition was announced yesterday. It isn’t clear whether refunds will be offered. 

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Wicked Weed founder expected criticism, but says sale means better beer

Wicked Weed co-founder Walt Dickinson says he expected fallout from fans and fellow brewers following the Asheville brewery’s announcement that it would join beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Known for unusual and experimental soured brews and hoppy India pale ales, Wicked Weed announced Wednesday that it would join The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit focused on its craft and import brands. The sale was condemned by some brewers and fans who accused Wicked Weed of selling out, but Dickinson says it won’t change the business’ mission and should lead to better beer.

Dickinson said it was hurtful to see people posting pictures on the internet pouring out Wicked Weed beer and criticizing the decision to join Anheuser-Busch, but not everyone reacted negatively. While some Triangle bottle shops and bars say they will no longer carry the company’s products, others say they’ll continue stocking the brews as long as quality doesn’t suffer.

On the company’s Facebook post announcing the deal, more than 1,500 people voiced both positive and negative feedback to the move.

“It was a good run,” Dan Adams wrote on the Facebook page. “Unfortunately I cannot buy your products going forward, but thanks for the beers. I’ll miss your brewpub especially, you had a great thing going on there and excellent staff.”

Zane McGinnis struck a more hopeful tone, saying, “As long as Pernicious and Napoleon stay crisp and clean. I hope this only means better distribution.”

Dickinson and other employees all decided to stay on at Wicked Weed after the acquisition, but did expect fans to decry the loss of an independent brewery to joining a corporation like Anheuser-Busch. The large multinational company is seen as a villain by some craft brewers and has been accused of predatory business practices.

“I love this industry, it’s full of very passionate people,” Dickinson said. “If they didn’t get upset, it would mean they didn’t care.”

Several independent breweries, including Denver’s Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales and Austin’s Jester King Brewery, announced they would end partnerships with Wicked Weed. Black Project announced on its website that it will not lend its name to an unfinished collaboration beer now aging in Asheville, and a beer brewed with Wicked Weed in Denver will be scuttled.

“The beer we brewed with Wicked Weed here at Black Project will be blended with other existing aged beer we have on hand to make something totally different which we will not consider a Wicked Weed collaboration,” the brewery’s statement said.

Other breweries also vowed to boycott Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium Invitational, an annual event where brewers across the country share some of their soured and wild ales.

Wicked Weed was founded in 2012 by Walt and his brother Luke Dickinson and lifelong friends Ryan, Rick and Denise Guthy. There has been interest from larger companies about an acquisition in recent years, but Wicked Weed didn’t reach out to The High End until January, Dickinson said.

The company believes that joining The High End will be good for the brewery, which expects to produce about 40,000 barrels – about 13.2 million 12-ounce cans – in 2017, Dickinson said.

The brewery will remain mostly autonomous from The High End, but it will have better access to ingredients and won’t have to worry about logistical issues that involve packing and distributing beer across the country, Dickinson said.

“It’s the same people, the same brewers,” he said. “We’re in the same brewery working hard, and the beer isn’t going to change. It’s going to get better.”

The High End includes brands such as Stella Artois and Shock Top, along with craft partners Elysian, Golden Road and Devils Backbone. Dickinson said he spoke with some other brewers owned by The High End before the sale, and they had good things to say about the company.

Since the sale, he has talked to some independent brewers about Wicked Weed’s decision and says they still support him as a person and as a friend but dislike Anheuser-Busch and what it stands for.

“I believe my true friends will still be there because, again, this is just beer,” he said. “And life’s a lot more important than beer.”

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Craft Brewer's Sale to Bud Owner Has Fans Hopping Mad

(NEWSER) – To a craft beer aficionado, the only sin worse than drinking a Bud would be if your favorite brewery sold out to the company that owns it. That's the situation that has fans of the Wicked Weed brewery now crying "treachery," per the Washington Post, which reports on the news that the Asheville, NC, institution has teamed up with Anheuser-Busch InBev "as a strategic partner." The reason for the move by Wicked Weed—which the Citizen-Timesnotes was founded in 2012 by Walt and Luke Dickinson and friends Ryan, Rick, and Denise Guthy—is, as Walt Dickinson explains, to stay competitive. A fellow craft brewery owner in Oregon backs him up, noting that his own brewery's acquisition by AB InBev offered him access to better ingredients and distribution.

But the buyout has craft beer fans livid, especially after Budweiser's 2015 and 2016 Super Bowl ads that mocked craft beer drinkers. Wicked Weed's Facebook announcement was met with angry and sad emoji, with "very disappointed" and "disheartened" just a sampling of the negative comments. Some of Wicked Weed's distributors and partners aren't happy, either, with Denver's Black Project brewery cutting its ties to WW—not because it doesn't love the beer, but because it believes AB InBev has "unethical practices" and "intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it." Other commenters on Wicked Weed's Facebook page say they will remain loyal fans. "At the end of the day, great beer will win," Walt Dickinson tells the Citizen-Times. (Walmart recently took heat on the craft beer front.)

'Treachery': Favorite craft brewery Wicked Weed enrages fans by joining Bud

Just last week, all seemed well on Wicked Weed Brewery's Facebook page.

Sales of tickets to a charitable event at the Wicked Weed Funkatorium, ("live music, over 70 breweries, food selections from 8 Regional chefs, plus much more!) seemed to be picking up.

The Asheville brewery basked in the glory of being named the best craft brewery in North Carolina by "the awesome people at Thrillist" and the best in the 17-state South by Southern Living magazine. The brewery, after all, was beloved by many in the South, where the rise of craft breweries lags behind the rest of the country. To many, Wicked Weed was proof the South could compete with the coasts.

And then, on May 3, Wicked Weed posted this announcement:

"Just over four years ago, we started out with a simple idea: make great beer. From west-coast IPAs, to barrel-aged sours, we've been able to create world-class ales in a city that we love. We've grown from a small Brewpub with 60 employees, to a company with 4 locations and over 200 employees. In order to innovate, push the boundaries, and grow, we've decided to take on the High End branch of Anheuser-Busch as a strategic partner."

Translation: Wicked Weed sold out to a Big Brewery.

And not just any big brewery. To Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev), the maker of Bud, the most despised brand in the world to craft beer aficionados not only for what passes as its flavor but for mocking craft beer aficionados in two successive Superbowl ads.

A sign against large beer companies is placed on the bar near bottles of Wicked Weed beer at Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 4, 2017. Brawley's is among at least a handful of stores or restaurants that announced they don't intend to stock Wicked Weed in the future.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (Chuck Burton / AP)

One of the ads, titled "brewed the hard way" (which seems to imply craft brewers take an easier route when working with less money and equipment) states in bold all-capital letters "It's not brewed to be fussed over."

"The people who drink our beer like to drink beer brewed the hard way," it stated, adding, "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale."

Wicked Weed brews both pumpkin and peach beers, such as its Peach Habenero Saison and its Pumpkin Up The Volume.

The ads were likely a reaction to the rise of craft breweries - more than 3,000 opened since 2012, putting the number of craft breweries at 5,234 of the country's 5,301 breweries.

Budweiser VP Brian Perkins defended the spot to Ad Age, saying, "occasionally we do have a little bit of fun with some of the overwrought pretentiousness that exists in some small corners of the beer landscape that is around beer snobbery," which he called "the antithesis of what Budweiser is all about."

Reactions to the sale were swift and furious.

Several companies announced they won't be selling Wicked Weed beers any longer, nor will they be working with the company.

"We will be tapping all of our Wicked Weed kegs as soon as taps free up starting now and donating 100% of the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders," Brawley's Beverage, a South Carolina beer retailer wrote on Facebook. "We will no longer sell Wicked Weed. Best of luck to the people we have gotten to know at Wicked Weed."

Black Project brewery, which was in the middle of two collaborations with Wicked Weed, announced that it will cease its relationship due to the sale, citing AB InBev's "business strategies, mission, and overall ethics."

"In Denver alone, we've seen several instances of highly aggressive, predatory, and what we consider to be unethical practices," the company wrote on its blog. "We truly believe that AB InBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it."

Indeed, when it comes to buying craft brewers, AB Inbev has been the "most aggressive" of the Big Beer makers, according to Fortune. The company has purchased such popular craft breweries as Goose Island, Breckenridge Brewery, Blue Point, Golden Road, Four Peaks and Devils Backbone.

Many of the brewery's fans expressed disappointment on its Facebook page.

"Your cowardly embrace of the enemy of craft brewing has made my birthday dinner the other night the last time I will be patronizing your business," wrote one. "If I had known this treachery was in the works I would have picked a more reputable establishment."

"Sold your soul for cash, thankfully there is enough competition to avoid you completely. thanks for the beers, good riddance," wrote another.

"I don't fault craft owners when they sell out, but I refuse to spend money that further enriches A-B. I'd rather support the true small breweries. I love Wicked Weed, but you won't be getting anymore $ from me," wrote a third.

Wicked Weed co-founder Walt Dickinson, though, said the move was a strategic way to remain competitive in an increasingly saturated market and fans should not worry — he isn't.

"If we see a small dip in the immediate future, I'm comfortable with that, because I feel like a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, they're going to come back and realize the beer hasn't changed, it's gotten better," Dickinson told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "I think we make some of the best beers in the region, and we do so consistently and we get great support. At the end of the day, great beer will win."

He was backed by Chris Cox, who co-founded Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing, which was eventually acquired by AB InBev. Cox said all the acquisition did was provide the brewery access to better ingredients and more distribution.

"We still run our company, we still make all our own decisions, we still brew our own beer, and we're still there every single day with our team," he said.

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Wicked Weed beer sale ignites brewery war

RALEIGH — Within hours of announcing its sale to the maker of Budweiser, North Carolina’s beloved Wicked Weed beer lost its voting rights in a craft beer guild, was booted from collaborations with two independent breweries and exiled from at least a handful of stores and restaurants.

The deal announced Wednesday represents the latest front in the battle between macro- and micro-brewers as behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev acquire independent brewers to harness the craft segment’s fast growth.

Wicked Weed will be one of a dozen brands in Anheuser Busch’s unit called The High End, which includes Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado and Goose Island Brewery in Illinois.

“Our consumers are very, very passionate consumers,” said Walt Dickinson, who co-founded Wicked Weed in 2012. “They feel passionate about the brand. I’m respectful of their feelings. It’s going to be our job going forward to win them back and show them that we’re the exact same people.”

Other well-known craft brewery acquisitions include the purchase of California’s Ballast Point by Constellation Brands, while Molson Coors owns stakes in smaller brewers such as Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co.

However, craft beer lovers seemed to take the sale of Wicked Weed harder than other recent deals, judging from scores of social media comments, said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association trade group. He believes that could be because of Wicked Weed’s reputation for creativity, particularly sour beers.

“This one seems to have really struck a nerve moreso than some of the previous acquisitions,” he said.

Craft brewers’ share of U.S. retail beer sales was nearly 22 percent in 2016, according to recent figures from Gatza’s group, which represents small and independent brewers. The number of barrels produced by craft brewers has more than doubled since 2011 to nearly 25 million, the group said.

Dickinson said other companies were interested in buying Wicked Weed, but Anheuser Busch offered the best opportunity for the brewery to maintain a high level of autonomy.

“I could name 10 other partners we could have chosen besides The High End that the beer industry would have had a lot better feelings about, but at the end of the day I believe this was the right choice for our brand and our company,” he said.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, will make Wicked Weed a subsidiary owned outright by Anheuser Busch Inbev, said Adam Warrington, a spokesman for The High End unit. Terms of the deal were not released.

At the bar at House of Hops in Raleigh, 34-year-old Robert Royster said the sale will be a deterrent.

“It really feels like they are trying to monopolize things for profits and not for taste,” Royster said of Anheuser Busch.

Asked whether any production could shift to Anheuser Busch facilities outside North Carolina, Dickinson said it’s a “very real possibility,” and he wouldn’t be worried about quality declining.

The Wicked Weed news drew scores of comments online. Many people decried the sale, while others said they intended to keep drinking the brand’s flavors that include Pernicious IPA and Lunatic Blonde.

The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild announced that the Asheville brewer would no longer be a voting member, adding it was “disheartened” by the sale. Craft brewers Jester King Brewery in Texas and Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales in Colorado said they were backing out of joint projects with Wicked Weed.

“We truly believe that ABinBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it,” said Black Project’s James and Sarah Howat in a blog post.

Brawley’s Beverage in Charlotte was among the stores and restaurants that said they would stop selling Wicked Weed.

“If we continue to buy those brands then we tacitly approve of Budweiser’s attempt to buy out their competition and use that competition by dropping the prices to hammer my friends’ brewery,” owner Michael Brawley said. “We don’t have a choice.”

Still, Brawley said he’s been getting calls from Wicked Weed drinkers who are mostly interested in buying the beer on the cheap through his fire sale.

“These greedy little people are more worried about getting Wicked Weed at a discount,” he said.

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