BrewDog Taps Former Wicked Weed Brewer to Run Forthcoming Sour Venture

Austin Ray

THE GIST
Scottish craft beer outfit BrewDog has tapped into the American talent pool to find a leader for its new sour venture in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The company announced Tuesday it has hired Richard Kilcullen, the former head of sour production at North Carolina’s Wicked Weed, to serve as brewmaster at BrewDog Overworks, the brewery’s forthcoming “standalone sour facility.”

“Richard combines over a decade’s worth of brewing experience with a lifetime obsession with homebrewing old-world styles and wild ales, picking up imported sour beers and propagating the yeast for his own experiments,” the company says. “Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit the Funkatorium in person, or try Wicked Weed’s bottled beers in the UK, knows the astonishing skill and talent displayed in the brewhouse on a weekly basis.”

WHY IT MATTERS
Just as sour beer has been pegged as “the next big thing” Stateside, the nebulous designation has been propped up in the United Kingdom, supported by trend pieces and (admittedly limited) sales data. All About Beer wrote of the “Sour Brits” in 2015, while the Independent noted sales of tart beer at the UK’s largest online marketplace shot up up 240% the same year. Our own Matthew Curtis, who resides in the UK, has himself noticed an apparent uptick in brewers investing in wood aging programs. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that BrewDog is set to start construction on its own sour facility this month, which is slated to be operational by fall.

Of course, given that the company has ample business on both sides of the pond (and, indeed, all over the world), it’s not overly surprising to see the company tap a yank to oversee things. As for Kilcullen, he has been with Wicked Weed since the company launched in 2012, holding rank as an assistant brewer before ultimately serving as the head of Wicked Weed’s highly renowned sour program.

At BrewDog, Kilcullen says in a statement he plans to imbue beer with a heavy sense of Scottish locality.

“One of my greatest passions as a brewer is incorporating the local flavors and flora into my beers,” he says. “I look forward to finding native yeasts and microbes everywhere from the heather-strewn fields, the oldest of orchards, and maybe some of the icy peaks in the Highlands as well. The Scots are no strangers to wild yeast and barrel aging and I hope to tap into that tradition to give BrewDog beers an identity all their own.”

It’s unclear at this time when, exactly, Kilcullen is departing Wicked Weed, or who the company plans to hire or promote to fill the role he’s leaving vacant. GBH has reached out to both Kilcullen and Wicked Weed for comment and will update this post accordingly.

—Dave Eisenberg