After taking a short break back in our home town of Dallas, TX, we started off our second leg of the trip by heading north into Oklahoma to visit COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City. While there, we spoke with co-founder JD Merryweather about the brewery; he told us that COOP had just celebrated their 5 year anniversary about a week and a half before our visit. To celebrate the occasion, they held an event that included live local music, food trucks, and over 20 beers on tap. We were also informed that the brewery has six year-round flagship beers – F5 IPA, Elevator Wheat, Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber, Gran Sport Porter, and DNR Belgian-style Dark Ale – but they also do a lot of small batch recipes and firkins. Later on, JD (who is also President of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild) gave us insight into beer and breweries in Oklahoma before we had to head to our next stop!
Our last brewery visit before returning home to Dallas for the first time since we left at the beginning of the year was to Stone’s Throw Brewing in Little Rock, AR. The co-owner we had been in contact with, Ian Beard, is a historian who was away for a conference about the Civil War, so we spent the day talking with Lindsay Brown and Devin Foster in the taproom. While there, we found out that the four owners were previously in a homebrewing group together and won multiple awards at competitions before deciding to open up Stone’s Throw with a 3bbl system. The brewery is located in the MacArthur Park Historical District of town, so extra steps had to be taken in order to open their business in the location it resides. Currently they offer eight beer taps – some of which are rotating local & regional guest taps – as well as different meats, cheeses, and regularly scheduled food trucks. Do yourself a favor and pop in the next chance you get and, if possible, walk or bike there to get a discount!
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!
Some of you might recognize Chestnut Brew Works from our List of 10 most memorable breweries that we put together, and there’s multiple reasons it was on there. Chestnut Brew Works opened in March of 2013 and is the passion project of Bill Rittenour. He is the sole employee of the two-barrel brewery, which is currently operating out of the stand alone garage of his private residence. However, during our visit he shared with us plans to expand into a seven-barrel brewery with adjoining taproom that would be moved to a space in downtown Morgantown. While attending nearby West Virginia University, Rittenour studied the blight of the American Chestnut tree (hence the brewery’s name) and following completion of his doctorate in Nebraska, moved with his family back to West Virginia where he began the brewery after becoming disenfranchised with his day job. This business exemplifies the do-it-yourself mentality we have witnessed within the craft brewing community throughout the country.
Rittenour is growing hops on the property and even shared plans to partner with the university in isolating wild yeast in hopes of creating a beer made with solely West Virginia ingredients. The brewery’s flagship beer, Halleck Pale Ale, can be found in draft accounts in the Morgantown area, but Rittenour constantly releases different brews ranging from Belgian wits to Jack Daniels barrel-aged imperial porters. We truly enjoyed chatting with him and drew inspiration from hearing about how his sacrifice and hard work has paid off in a growing business.
During our time in Pittsburgh, we received multiple recommendations to visit Roundabout Brewery while in town, so we made our way over there on April 23rd, 2014. Husband and wife, Steve & Dyana Sloan, are running the operation on their own in the Lawrencville area of Pittsburgh utilizing a 6 barrel brewhouse. Steve has been working at breweries for years – one in Florida, one in Hawaii, three in California, one in Colorado, two in Missouri, three in Pennsylvania, plus a winery in New Zealand – and the time came to finally open up his own. Roundabout recently celebrated their one year anniversary in July with an event at the taproom where they had live music, BBQ, and Ice Cream. Their brews can only be found on tap in the taproom, as they made the decision to not distribute off-site in order to have full control over how their beer is served. You won’t want to miss out on the deliciously unique New Zealand & American themed beers that Roundabout is brewing, so definitely make time for a visit to the brewery when you’re in Pittsburgh.
After getting in touch with Mark, the owner/ head brewer/ sole-operator of Relic Brewing, we visited with him on a rainy Tuesday morning. The brewery was not open to the public that day, so we talked with him while he kept himself busy brewing away. Mark is very well traveled and has been to over 50 countries across the world, so we first spent some time talking about our travel experiences. He ended up ordering a pizza later on, so we all indulged while tasting some of his unique, delicious, small-batch beers and talked about which breweries we need to visit later in our trip. If we weren’t on such a tight budget, I would have definitely walked out of there with some of the artwork hung in the taproom for sale, but alas, we are, so we said our goodbyes and ran out to the van in the rain.
We spent the morning of Wednesday, 3/19/14 at Bluejacket in DC and then fought some brutal traffic as we made our way up to Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD. We met with their director of communications, Erin Weston, who told us that Flying Dog originally started in 1990 as a brewpub in Aspen, CO then became a production brewery in Denver in 1995. After taking note that their facility was in dire need of repair and was too small for them to grow anymore, they made the decision to move their entire operation across the country to Maryland in 2006. There was about a year overlap when they were still brewing in Colorado and had begun brewing in Maryland, and that, coupled with the fact that they were able to mimic water profiles upon the move, lead to a seamless transition.