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!
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.”
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.