From a basement to a marketplace
The new Wheeling Brewing Company is actually an outgrowth of the tiny Basement Brewery that was really started in a basement in 2012 by local homebrewers Chad Hill, Jimmy Schute, and Dave Cornett. It was both the success and difficulties of that start-up that led the owners to plan an expanded operation that would be a full-fledged brewpub and restaurant located in Wheeling’s historic Centre Market. As a result of those plans, Wheeling Brewing was born.
To move their brewery up to the commercial success they desired, the owners realized they needed to bring a full-time brewer into their business. Back in December, 2013, Josh Clarke was living in Fairmont, WV, where he had become frustrated with the difficulty of planning to open his own brewery, when the guys from Wheeling called. It turned out to be just the opportunity that Clarke needed to hear. Soon, he was overseeing the build-out of the new Wheeling Brewing Company. A year later, with the opening of the brewery, Clarke was living his dream.
The brewery currently is in an extended soft opening period that began last December. Its official grand opening celebration will take place on Saturday, March 14, 2015. But it’s fully open now, so give it a try when you are in the Wheeling area.
Wheeling Brewing offers a variety of beer
Clarke put his decade of brewing experience to work and created five full-time beers. It’s most fun to sample these beers in flights or four or five. He will keep a seasonal on tap most times too, and there will also be room for occasional one-off specialties.
Recent beers on tap included McColloch’s Wheat Ale, Moon Dog IPA, Panhandle Pale Ale, Nail City Porter, and Old Reymann’s Amber Ale, which is named after the city’s most successful lager brewery of the early 1900s. Some of the seasonals Clarke created so far include Black Frost and Rail Jammer. You will also commonly find guest taps from other West Virginia breweries .
Food and soft drinks too
Beer is not all they brew, however. Their house-made non-alcoholic sodas—cola, ginger ale, lemon-lime, and cherry vanilla—are popular with lunchers, kids, teetotalers, and designated drivers. At $2 a glass, the sodas seem like real bargains.
The brewery restaurant offers a German-influenced menu that also includes fish from the famous Coleman Fish Market across the street. Products from other local suppliers are prominently featured, including Centre Market Bakery and Miklas Meat Market. Also look for the restaurant’s nightly dinner specials.
Beer to go
Growlers are fast growing in popularity as they offer a brewpub like Wheeling Brewing a chance to send some beer home with its patrons. Brewery owners say they may get into other packaging down the road, but for now, growlers are the way to go.
Wheeling Brewing Company (and its predecessor Basement Brewing) values being active in the West Virginia beer community. It has participated in several beer festivals and events, winning medals and recognition for its beer. You can expect the owners to send representatives to another round of state beer events this year.
Plans for the brewery’s grand opening events will be announced on its Facebook page. Tours of the brewery are often available, but it’s best to call ahead and schedule one to be sure.
Wheeling’s brewing history is deep
Through the years Wheeling has been home to over 20 breweries. In the early to late 1800s, ale breweries dominated. From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, lager breweries owned the town. Then in 1914, West Virginia’s state prohibition law shut them all down. Remarkably, none reopened when prohibition was repealed in 1933. It took the contemporary craft beer revolution to occur before a new brewery would open in Wheeling.
In 1996, Nail City Brewing, a beautiful modern brewery and restaurant backed by Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing, opened in the heart of the city’s downtown. Unfortunately, the brewery was caught in the craft brewery shake out of the late 1990s, and it closed within three years. A follow-up brewery at the Nail City site closed after five years of operation. The city then entered another long dry spell.
With the opening of Wheeling Brewing last December the city rejoiced. It was immediately packed with folks who enjoy locally brewed beer. While visiting on opening night, we witnessed first hand the positive reaction the beer received from the community.
Schmulbach Brewing Company, whose old brewery buildings are pictured above, was among the more successful Wheeling’s lager breweries of the early 1900s. It closed at the start of state prohibition in 1914 and did not reopen. The very size of the structure is testament to the vibrant brewing culture that once existed in Wheeling, West Virginia.
In December 2014, Wheeling Brewing Company began a new chapter in the city’s brewing history. It’s an historic revival we are most pleased to see.
Address: 2247 Market St., Wheeling, WV 26003
Links: WBC Facebook Page
Phone: (304) 905-8757