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.
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!
After our visit to Blue Mountain on Thursday, 3/13/14, we took a scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains over to the brewpub that serves as a basecamp for Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, VA. Devils Backbone has incredible views in the valley where they are located close to the Appalachian Trail and was awarded Small Brewpub & Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year in 2012 as well as Small Brewing Company & Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2013. We lucked into our visit there after running into COO Hayes Humphreys over at Three Notch’d Brewing the night before, who set us up to meet with head brewer Jason Oliver and assistant brewer Aaron Reilly.
Our visit to Blue Mountain on Thursday, 3/13/14 was a unique one, in that we visited both the brewery/ restaurant Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA as well as the production facility Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, VA. Both facilities have taprooms, fields of cascade hops, incredible views, and awesome beers, but are also distinctive in their own ways.
In preparation for a few days off for my upcoming birthday, 3/12/14 was perhaps our busiest day of brewery visits to date. We started off early morning at Midnight Brewery then promptly made our way through the country to Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery before noon. We then managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello prior to finishing the day off with a stop to see the fine folks at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in nearby Charlottesville. The city is home to the University of Virginia as well as a burgeoning craft beer scene. Three Notch’d is the latest to open its doors in the area, launching for business about 6 months prior to our visit. The company was founded by Derek Naughton, Scott Roth, and George Kastendike with Dave Warwick taking over the helm of all things beer. The founders all share a passion for great beer and thought to taking up homebrewing to create the perfect beer for their tastes. Thoughts traveled further as they dreamt up ideas of how to finance their habit by selling beer to local pubs and eventually made their way to the only logical conclusion – opening up a brewery. At that time there were no distribution breweries in the city so they set to work with the business plan. We were privileged to get the occasion to speak with both Derek and Dave on this chilly Virginia evening.
Following an early 9 am stop at Midnight Brewery, we traveled west through the VA countryside to visit our second brewery of the day before lunch. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery sits on 221 acres of land, 83 acres of which are wooded and will remain untouched for the enjoyment of guests to the brewery. Their name pays homage to the small creek running through the property that was named in pre-colonial times for the wildlife that stopped for a refreshing drink. The farm style building was built on site to house the brewery and is intended to appropriately blend in with the landscape. The concept is to be as water conscious and sustainable as possible by growing many of the brewing ingredients on site – many crop terraces can be seen in the fields surrounding the building. Currently various hops, barley, pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are planted with further plans to do herbs, additional berries, grapes, figs, oranges, and more in the future.