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 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.”
During our time in Lexington, KY, we received multiple recommendations to check out Blue Stallion Brewing company. We originally made our way over there on Saturday night and then went back the following day to speak with co-founder Jim Clemons. Blue Stallion is currently the only brewery in Kentucky distributing lagers, which became a focus of head brewer Nico Schulz after getting his brewing start in Germany and then attending the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. Blue Stallion has a principal focus on traditional German lagers and English ales featuring traditional and proper glassware to pair with each style; they do not make any American styles. The taproom features a bar taller than any we have experienced in a space that used to house an old iron working studio. We had an incredible time there both days and thoroughly enjoyed all of the beers we got to try, including a collaboration they did with Against the Grain called All Funked Up Berwynnerweisse.
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!
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!
We visited River Horse Brewing Company in NJ on National Beer Day, however they were not open to the public so we were given a private look at the inside of the brewery while the staff told us all about what makes River Horse unique. It was obvious that they work hard to make a great product rather than get wrapped up in the glamorous media side of brewing. The head brewer Chris said: “It’s fun and it’s great; I love it. There’s nothing else I ever want to do or plan to do, but we’re working in a factory. We’re not ‘too cool’ for anything, ya know?” All of the beer we sampled was straight forward, clean, & well-done, all of the staff were great to talk to and humble, and the facility has plenty of room for expansion. Gotta love the art on their walls.
Our earliest appointment so far was at 9 am on Wednesday, 3/12/14 with Midnight Brewery, who we met after slamming down some coffee and making our way from downtown Richmond over to Rockville. Upon our arrival, we spoke with brewer Becky Rudolf and owner Trae Cairns who told us that “We have a passion for craft beer and really take the beer personally. If somebody doesn’t like it, I want to know why. If people love it, that’s great, but if they don’t like it, I want to know why. To me, that’s really an extension of our craft, and when you find a beer that people like, you stick with it.”
Our final brewery visit in Asheville was on Tuesday, 2/25/14 to the first and longest standing brewery in the area, Highland Brewing Company. The brewery originally started in 1994 in the basement of Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria in the heart of Asheville and their first beer was the Gaelic Ale. For a few years, Highland was only sold on tap through kegs at Barley’s, but started gaining popularity fairly quickly. We got to speak with Asheville native and employee of Highland, Drew Stevenson, while we were there, and he informed us that downtown started to really get refurbished in the late 80s / early 90s just before Highland began brewing their first beer.