With 16 breweries making scores of different craft beers, which is the best West Virginia brewery? It’s time the best get some recognition for a job well done.
To select the breweries and beers that best represent the proud and resilient heritage of the Mountain State, BrilliantStream.com asked a group of WV craft beer enthusiasts for help. With their input in hand, BrilliantStream selected the best for 2015. While all our breweries have done some good work this year, the decision is now in on the ones that did it best.
Best New Brewery
Four brand new breweries opened in West Virginia this year. Receiving support for the best in this category were Berkeley Springs Brewing Company, Dobra Zupas Brewery in Beckley, and Stumptown Ales in Davis.
Craft beer folks appreciated Berkeley Springs’ Karl Wagenbrenner for his strong advocacy for improving the state’s craft brewing laws. They loved on Dobra Zupas’ Steve Redden for his coffee stout. But in the end, Stumptown Ales won out.
Best New Brewery: Stumptown Ales
Stumptown dared to break away from the common small-brewpub syndrome of producing a short list of easy-drinking beers. Instead, they jumped out of the gate flaunting double and triple IPA hop bombs. This takes courage and we admire that.
While they may still need to work a bit on beer consistency and growing their production capacity, you will definitely get a mouthful of flavor when you drop by this brewpub. We encourage them to keep drivin’ ahead with their hops and their big flavors. It’s a nice complement to the other breweries in that area. Congratulations to Jonathan and Cindy Robeson who are off to a great start.
Best Brewery Marketing
Two breweries stood out in the competition for the brewery showing the most marketing savvy during 2015.
Runner Up: Big Timber Brewing Company
We loved Big Timber Brewing’s strategy of selecting key accounts and then servicing them well. With their limited production capacity, BTBC didn’t try to be everywhere. On the contrary, they selected the best craft beer accounts around the state and then kept them supplied with tasty Big Timber brews. We call this very smart. And their 16 oz. cans have a great look too.
Best Brewery Marketing: Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company
When Greenbrier Valley Brewing six-packs hit the market last winter, we couldn’t get enough of the eye-catching, fun can graphics. Each tells the story of a West Virginia legend, making them most memorable and unique. GVBC’s website is superb and takes a back seat to none in the industry. The great packaging and web site combined with a very aggressive schedule of beer events and outreach to their distributors and key accounts made Greenbrier Valley the most marketing savvy WV brewery in 2015.
Best Brewery Taproom
This was the most hotly contested category. So many WV breweries have great taproom facilities. In the running for the best this year were Blackwater Brewing, Big Timber Brewing, Charleston Brewing, Greenbrier Valley Brewing, Morgantown Brewing, Mountain State Brewing, and Stumptown Ales.
Best Brewery Taproom 2015: Big Timber Brewing Company
We like that Big Timber’s taproom has quickly become a true Elkins community center. It’s a home to local craft beer lovers and a friend to tourists and travelers as well. The warm wood interior and bar are consistent with the Bg Timber theme. You can occasionally find special brews there not available anywhere else. And it has the most consumer-friendly beer pricing anywhere. It’s open regular hours, afternoons to evenings, six days a week. If you haven’t already, get over to Elkins and enjoy the friendly laid-back atmosphere that perfectly complements Big Timber beer.
West Virginia Beer of the Year
With scores of beers to choose from, selecting a winner in this category was difficult. To give a better picture of the top echelon of beers being brewed in West Virginia this year, three places were awarded.
Third place: Bridge Brew Works Moxxee Coffee Stout
Moxxee Coffee Stout has become a perennial favorite with the WV craft beer community. Its shine has not diminished one iota. This strongly coffee-flavored brew rides on a smooth yet rich American stout backbone. Beautiful tan head. It could easily be popular in any craft beer bar in America. Offered as a winter seasonal at 5.5% A.B.V.
Runner-up: Big Timber Bourbon Barrel Porter
Wow, did this beer make splash when it hit taps around the state this year. Call it definitely the best example to date of a bourbon-barrel aged beer this state has seen. Based on Big Timber’s excellent American porter, the well-executed bourbon-barrel aging takes this brew to the taste stratosphere with a soaring mix of luscious flavors. Such great drinking. 7.0% A.B.V.
Beer of the Year: Greenbrier Valley Devil Anse IPA
Introduced mid-year and only on draught, Greenbrier Valley’s Devil Anse IPA quickly made a lasting impression on state beer fans. It’s the first widely-distributed West Virginia IPA that holds up well in comparison to popular ones from larger, national craft breweries. Rich and flavorful with great balance, Greenbrier Valley has a winner here in the most popular craft beer style category. This is an important beer for West Virginia. We can’t wait until the canned version hits retailer shelves next month. 6.9% A.B.V; 65 IBUs.
West Virginia Brewery of the Year
West Virginia breweries accomplished much during 2015. We saw lots of construction, expansions, new equipment, new taprooms, and new products. Among West Virginia craft beer fans overall, two state breweries stood out above the others during 2015.
Both contenders only got their licenses and began brewing in 2014. To reach the top level that fast shows that both had serious business plans and hit the ground running. Together, they raised the bar, big-time, for craft brewing in West Virginia. Their success, in part, has led to some rethinking, revised strategies, and new investments from some of the state’s older breweries.
While, across the board, it was a virtual tie, only one brewery could be selected as 2015’s best.
Runner Up: Big Timber Brewing Company
Big Timber Brewing Company proves you don’t have to sit in a larger urban area in order to have craft beer success. Their products are consistently good; their marketing is strong; and their following is loyal. They’ve done pretty much everything right. Co-owned by two Elkins area families, who are investing back in their community, Big Timber Brewing is a shining example of mountaineer resourcefulness and hard work. Brewery leaders Matt Kwasniewski and Sam Mauzy are absolutely great people. West Virginia is very lucky to have this brewery.
Brewery of the Year: Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company
When Greenbrier Valley opened in the last half of 2014, they had the state’s largest brewhouse and tank capacity. They had made the largest dollar investment in a brewery. They had a beautiful facility. What we didn’t know then was if they could make and sell great beer.
Well, the verdict is in, and the word is out. Greenbrier Valley is 2015 Brewery of the Year. Stellar core brands, solid seasonals, statewide distribution, effective marketing strategy, increasing investment, involvement in Brewers Guild and legislative issues, involvement in craft beer events, involvement in local community, fun taproom, growing employment. In total, GVBC is doing all things pretty darn well. The sum of the parts provided the edge they needed to move them to the top of our rankings.
Wil Laska, Dave Kucera, and crew bring strong leadership to the West Virginia beer community. They’re trying harder, and it’s paying off. It certainly helps to have possibly the state’s best brewer in Brian Reymiller. Congratulations to GVBC and thanks for your commitment to West Virginia craft beer. We are honored to have you guys brewing here.