After going to the Fayetteville Visitors Center to pick up our handy-dandy Ale Trail passport and then checking out a few bonus stop breweries on the Fayetteville Ale Trail, we found ourselves at Fossil Cove Brewing just as they were opening up for the day. Their founder and head brewer, Ben Mills, spent time with us spilling details about the dino-themed brewery before two Arkansas-based bloggers met up with us there for a drink; Woo Pig Brewey! and Fayette Brew. Fossil Cove offers one-off brews that are only available in the taproom and they were also the first brewery in the state of Arkansas to release a sour beer. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the brewery thanks to the unique environment, tasty beers, and great people, so do yourself a favor and check out all the information below then make a trip to Fayetteville to check them out!
Immediately after leaving COOP Ale Works back in mid-May, we drove across town to meet with the guys at Roughtail brewing. When we arrived, co-owner Blaine Stansel greeted us before having to commit to a 12th Round challenge that involved their 12th Round Strong Ale and 12 minutes of time. It was quite entertaining, so we were all in a good mood the rest of the time. While chatting with him and the other co-owner, Tony Tielli, we learned all about Roughtail’s business model, beers, and history. There are many attributes about the brewery and beers that are quite unique, so we can assure you that Roughtail Brewing will satisfy your thirst whether you’re trying them offsite or at the brewery. A new taproom was opened quickly after laws changed to allow breweries to pour samples, so stop by and tell them hi for us when you’re in town!
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!
As we neared the end of our fourth month on the road, we made the trek from Louisville, KY down to Nashville, TN and met with the owners and staff of Jackalope Brewing Company on a hot Tuesday afternoon. We spent some time talking to them about their business, indulged in some of their brews including Thunder Ann American Pale Ale fresh off the canning line, and then they let us have some of the pizza they had ordered! Jackalope was the first all-female owned brewery in Tennessee and Robyn Virball & Bailey Spaulding have done some amazing things with their business, with the help of Steve Wright who was brought on as a third owner. This brewery was also the first one to use cans in Nashville, comes out with new rotators every 6 weeks or so, holds multiple events throughout the year (including an anniversary celebration and a Bruce Springsteen-focused festival), and also shares their building with a coffee shop. Under the slogan ‘Drink Legendary’ they have been able to brew a plethora of unique beer options for you to enjoy, so be sure to drop in and say hi when you’re in town checking out the capital of Tennessee – America at its best.
After visiting Against the Grain in Louisville, KY, we made the short drive over to Apocalypse Brew Works. Co-founders Bill Krauth, Leah Dienes, and Paul Grignon opened up the taproom (which they call “The Fallout Shelter”) on May 11, 2012 with the 3 1/2 barrel system they are using today. We spoke to Leah, the head-brewer, while sampling their brews and learned all of the information found below – including the fact that Leah is an active BJCP judge. Between the three co-founders, there is over 40 years of homebrewing experience which helped them open the taproom with 10 beers on tap and maintain that number since. Also, if you happen to be in the area when the world gets taken over by zombies, keep in mind that the brewery makes for a nice Apocalypse bunker since they can lock the razor wire laden gates to keep the zombies out; hence their motto “Drink Beer Til the End.”
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!
Our visit to Jackie O’s was top notch and ended up being the longest one we’ve had yet, as we spent just over 12 hours talking to their owner, brewers, and other staff between our visits to the new production brewery and the original brewpub location downtown. This growing Ohio brewery has many unique things going on, like having their own farm offsite to grow ingredients on, multiple bottle releases every year, expanding barrel age and sour programs, and more; all of which you can get more information about by reading below. Their brews are packaged in kegs, cans, and multiple sizes of bottles for you to purchase and share with your friends, growler fills are offered at the production facility tap room, and the brewpub has excellent food to pair with whatever you end up drinking. As of now, you can only find Jackie O’s beer in Ohio and in a few counties in Kentucky, so be sure to pick some up if you’re ever in the area!
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.
After waking up in Pittsburgh and realizing our van had been spray-painted over night, we made the drive down to Mountain State Brewing in Thomas, WV. The location we visited is in a beautiful ski town and they also have two other locations nearby. Kate Lane was there to speak to us during our visit and she told us that she gets to focus on the seasonal recipes. At Mountain State they’re “making good beer and we’re making people happy,” and they further making people happy by holding the annual Brew Skies Festival which is being held on July 25 & 26th this year (more info below). A trip to West Virginia without a visit to Mountain State would be a poor choice, so make sure to drop by when you’re in the area!