Beer Review 0479: Wicked Weed Coolcumber Golden Ale

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“Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed.” — King Henry VIII, 1519

We’ve come a long way.

Wicked Weed Brewing opened in December 2012 in downtown Asheville after much planning. In 2009, brothers Walt and Luke Dickinson had an idea to open a brewery with a focus on American West Coast-style hoppy beers and rustic, authentic Belgian ales. It took them two years to develop a business plan and brew hundreds of test batches of beer; in 2011, with their lifelong friend Ryan Guthy and his parents, Rick and Denise, they all sat down and tasted the beer and reviewed the plan. The Guthys were immediately on board, and over the next year, Wicked Weed was assembled.

King Henry VIII, who was a heavy investor in spices, banned hops from beer because they messed with his bottom line. But his son, Edward VI, passed special legislation in 1552 to permit the use of hops again by British brewers. A giant canvas painting of King Henry VIII hangs on a wall at Wicked Weed, and their hoppy lineup effectively spits in his face. Ironic that of all the 20+ beers that they strive to keep on tap (all of them their own) that I’m reviewing one that is brewed with a large amount of spices!

Coolcumber is a summer-only offering, inspired by Hendrick’s gin basil cooler. The beer is an American Golden Ale, brewed with cucumber, basil, and juniper berries. Coolcumber is 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and hits 20 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring from the growler generated no head despite opening it less than 24 hours after the container was filled. That said, at the brewery, the beer generates a small head that is bright white and diminishing. Color of the beer is as described, appropriately golden with a very clear, translucent body that is free of particles and sediment. Despite the lack of head, the beer does gently lace the glass with a sparse layer of soapy suds.

No need to press your nose into the glass to get the aroma on Coolcumber — from high above, you are greeted with a very fresh blast of basil. And when I say fresh, I mean it’s like you just went into your garden, picked some basil, and ripped the leaves in your hands. It’s incredible and there’s a softer layer underneath of cucumber skin. Putting the basil aside, the nose really reminded me of aloe vera lotion, or something you’d rub on to soothe a sunburn. I’m not hinting at medicinal, I’m getting at refreshing. This beer smells wet and with the herbal component, just super fresh. And just so you don’t think you’re sniffing a garden, there is a bit of grainy malt to tie it back to beer. Inviting and super pungent.

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The taste pretty much follows the nose, note-for-note. There’s an initial sharp hit of basil that has just an edge of, well… cool cucumber! Appropriately named beer, indeed. The basil is heavy and very fresh, so if you don’t care for that flavor, stay far away. The beer mellows the basil a touch in the middle in exchange for some wheat and graininess, adding some depth before finishing on a very light note of bitterness and residual sweet basil. This beer is light-bodied, and I’ll say it again: super refreshing, with a fairly clean finish even thought the flavors last long.

I know this probably sounds like a simple beer, and maybe it is, but sometimes the most simple of things are the best. I didn’t think I would dig this beer but damn, it’s one of my highlights of the year so far. This might be the most perfect beer to have with pizza, and it certainly is a superstar in the realm of typically boring summer beers. Served with a cucumber slice at the brewery, I think “fruiting” this beer is acceptable! (Yes, a cucumber is an accessory fruit.)

Wicked Weed Coolcumber Golden Ale, 91 points. Price: $15.00 for one 64 oz. growler fill.

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