(1) THE BREWERY & OUR EXPERIENCE
Our final brewery visit in West Virginia was to Charleston Brewing Co located in the city with the same name. The head brewer, Ryan Hastings, was unfortunately in Ohio at the time of our visit so we were not able to meet him in person; however, he kindly chatted with us over the phone for about half an hour before we went inside to check out the brewery. He told us that they use a ten hectoliter high efficiency brewing system (HEBS) from I.D.D. Process and Packaging which features a mash filter rather than a traditional lauter tun. We also learned that a different business, Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, occupies the same space and manages the entire restaurant. Though beer is brewed on site by Charleston Brewing Co, it is then sold and ‘distributed’ to the restaurant for serving. Beers are listed according to three flavor categories – malt driven, hop driven, or yeast driven – and there are 16 taps in the restaurant as well as cask conditioned ales available. We spent a good amount of time there sampling their brews while we munched down on some amazing brunch and definitely suggest that you do the same when you’re in town!
(2) VITAL INFORMATION
Date of our visit: Saturday, 04/26/2014
Open since: April 2013
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2013: 800
Projected bbl Output 2014: 1300
Brewhouse size: 10 Hectoliter
Founder(s): Ann Saville; George Saville
Head Brewer: Ryan Heastings
Packaging: Kegs Only
Distribution: West Virginia
Other things we learned:
* Founder Ann Saville, who also owns Taylor Books on Capitol Street, is responsible for introducing legislation in the 80’s to legalize homebrewing in West Virginia.
* They originally opened as a traditional brew pub, however, ownership decided that they wanted to focus on making beer and now they operate essentially a packaging brewery that in many ways functions as a brew pub. A different business, Black Sheep, occupies the same space and manages the entire restaurant. Though beer is brewed on site, it is then sold and ‘distributed’ to the restaurant for serving.
* Brew on a ten hectoliter high efficiency brewing system (HEBS) from I.D.D. Process and Packaging which features a mash filter rather than a traditional lauter tun. Utilizing a diaphragm pump and the filter, wort and grain separation occur far more quickly and efficiently. This gives about 75% of pre-boil volume. The other 25% comes from the plate filters which have bladders that can be inflated with water to gently compress the grain in a manner that does not extract unwanted tannins, polyphenols, etc.
* They also boast a high-pressure steam boiler and water retrieval system that allows a smaller environmental impact.
* Previously utilizing five 10-hectoliter fermentors and bright tanks. Addition of three 20-hectoliter fermenters increased capacity from 1,000 bbl to around 2,100 bbl.
* Ryan is the sole employee of the brewery and is responsible for all of the beer production. He lives in Columbus, OH and commutes frequently to take care of those roles while still working at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing in Ohio.
(3) BEERS AVAILABLE DURING OUR VISIT
# = Year Round; $ = Seasonal; @ = Specialty/Limited Release; * = Beers We Sampled
* Brawley Bitter – English Ordinary Bitter
* Mr. Malum – Belgian Tripel
* Antonine – Strong Scotch Ale
* Unsteady – The Wobbly English Bitter Base with Belgian yeast
* 1919 – Cream Ale
* Innit? – English Mild
* Mark 1 – Oatmeal Stout
* Citra Ob-Session – American Pale Ale #
* The Raj – American IPA #
* Listing of beer on tap now
What we learned about their beer during our visit:
* Currently only available in 1/2 bbl kegs but they are looking to package in the future as space allows.
* Wish to be open to to brew any style and do it well – from classic English pub ales to Belgian styles to American IPAs. Also, to brew a variety of styles that are not available in the market with goals to tap new beers constantly and allow people to try new styles and flavors. Regardless, Ryan says that, while craft beer is in it’s emergent phase in Charleston, he refuses to dumb it down.
* Each beer is carefully crafted in small test batches.
* Beers are listed according to three flavor categories: Malt driven, hop driven, or yeast driven. Beers in each category are listed on the brewery website.
* 16 taps in the restaurant as well as cask conditioned ales available.
* The Raj and Citra Ob-session are the primary beers in year round distribution throughout accounts. They are planning to send out Milk Stout in the future along with Mr. Malum, the belgian tripel.
* Currently, approximately 75% of sales are through the Black Sheep restaurant on site.
(4) EXPANSION PLANS
Recently doubled production capacity.
(5) BACKGROUND OF PEOPLE WE SPOKE TO
Name: Ryan Heastings
Title: Head Brewer
Been with company since: Beginning
Previous Brewing Experience: Long time homebrewer; Assistant at Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville
Previous Occupation(s): History and Economics Teacher
Favorite Superhero: Neo – The Matrix
(6) MORE LINKS ABOUT BREWERY
(7) You can find the rest of our photos here
Author: Michael Roberts & Brandon Wurtz