Mountaineer Brewfest founder Jeff Hayes woke up one morning in March 2013 with a single thought lodged in his head: Wheeling needs a craft beer festival. It wasn’t long before the ball was rolling and the organization of a brewfest was underway.
Now, three years later, Mountaineer Brewfest is a solid fixture in the Wheeling community, supporting local charities and promoting craft beer culture. But organizing a brewfest was not a one-person job as Hayes found out.
“I tried to pull this together (in 2013) but soon realized there was a lot more preparation and knowledge needed to do this right,” Hayes said. “With input from friends, brewers, city officials, and more, the plan was to make this happen in 2014.”
And happen it did. Mountaineer Brewfest held its inaugural event 0n August 14, 2014.
Brewfest makes a big charitable impact
During the initial planning with community leaders, Hayes quickly realized that the brewfest could be much more than just a fun event for him and his friends.
“It also became evident that this festival could become a means to promote West Virginia’s craft beer industry in the Northern Panhandle and could also provide an opportunity to help local charities,” Hayes said.
Ohio County Commissioner Tim McCormick is one who has noticed the festival’s impact.
“The Brewfest not only provides a great entertainment experience for Ohio County residents, but also to all around the Ohio Valley and beyond,” he stated. “The Brewfest’s true importance is the charity that benefits from the proceeds raised to help provide that charity with funds it may have never been able to raise on its own.”
In its first two years, Mountaineer Brewfest generated $19,500 in donations to two local charities. The recipients were Wheeling Health Right (2014) and Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center (2015). For this year’s fest, the beneficiary charity will be St. John’s Home for Children.
“Our committee is very pleased to announce this partnership with St. John’s Home for Children specially to help them celebrate their 160th year,” Hayes said.
St. John’s Home for Children Executive Director Terry McCormick is thrilled that his organization will be the charity to benefit from the 2016 Brewfest.
“We at the St. John’s Home cannot thank enough the Mountaineer Brewfest and its supporters for helping us in our efforts to meet our mission,” McCormick said.
St. Johns’s Home for Children is the state’s oldest residential treatment facility providing services to youth and families.
New brewfest events, activities for 2016
New at this year’s fest will be a special pre-festival Craft Beer and Food Pairing for VIP ticket holders and sponsors. The activity will be held Thursday, August 18 at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack. Wheeling Island’s Executive Chef Lawrence A. Alexander Jr. will oversee the food and Wil Laska, co-owner of Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, will talk about the beer selections.
On Saturday, August 20, at the Wheeling Heritage Port, festival attendees can expect approximately 40 different beers from 11 West Virginia breweries and around 60 other beer selections from regional and national craft breweries. Attendees may choose either small samples or purchase full pours of available beers. Ten beer samples are included with the general admission ticket.
The brewfest Beer Garden area will offer additional craft beers for purchase, local artisan food for purchase, and entertainment with performances by Roger Hoard, The Joseph Sisters, Joe Zelek Band, and headliner No Bad JuJu! Hayes expects to have about 10 food vendors in the beer garden, among them are Evil Swine BBQ, Vagabond Kitchen, The Cheese Melt, Ideal Provisions, MMM Popcorn, Gullas, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Baby Boyz BBQ, and more.
WV Breweries Committed to Mountaineer Brewfest
Big Timber Brewing (Elkins), Bridge Brew Works (Fayetteville), Charleston Brewing, Chestnut Brew Works (Morgantown), Greenbrier Valley Brewing (Lewisburg), Lost River Brewing (Wardensville), Morgantown Brewing, Mountain State Brewing Co. (Thomas), Mash Brewing (Charles Town), Wheeling Brewing Company, and Brew Keepers (Wheeling). More may come.
Brew Keepers of Wheeling, one of West Virginia’s newest brewery licensees, will be pouring for the first time at this year’s event. They will join local Wheeling Brewing Company in showing off what Northern Panhandle beers are all about.
Members of the Wheeling Alers Craft Beer Club will again be volunteering their time assisting with the beer samples. The festival’s beer garden will be staffed by members of the Circus Saints & Sinners group—people who volunteer their time and donate their tips to charity for St. John’s Home for Children. All servers at Mountaineer Brewfest are TIPS trained for responsible beer serving.
Festival sponsors worth their weight in gold
As anyone who has organized a local festival knows, festival sponsors are so, so important. They are golden. Title sponsor for the 2016 Mountaineer Brewfest is Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, which will mark its third year in that role.
“As we approach our 3rd year of sponsorship for the Mountaineer Brewfest, we couldn’t be more proud of the event’s growth and excitement it brings to the City of Wheeling,” said Kim Florence, Senior Director of Marketing at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack. “The Mountaineer Brewfest Committee has done a great job showcasing the best of West Virginia craft beer in Wheeling for visitors from all over the tri-state to enjoy. We are excited to be a part of the Mountaineer Brewfest and support its continued growth.”
In addition to Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Brewfest Partner Sponsors include: Raymond James Financial Services, Smoker Friendly, Gold Khoury & Turak, The UPS Store, WTOV9, OVMC/EORH, Glessner & Associates, Main Street Bank, Ohio County Commission, Wine & Beverage Merchants of WV, Carenbauer Distributing, McCann Distributing, Northern Eagle Distributing, and Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration. The Brewfest Brewer Sponsors include: Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Carpets by Jamison, IBEW #141, Project BEST, Weelunk, and Wheeling National Heritage Area along with Entertainment Sponsor Generations Restaurant & Pub.
“Without the investment of these sponsors our festival would not be able to sustain our commitment to bringing what we believe is one of the best events to the Wheeling Heritage Port,” stated Hayes.
Beer festivals become tourist magnets
Wheeling has discovered that its local beer festival is also a major tourist attraction. Olivia Litman, marketing director for the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, knows that tourists are seeking stronger connections to places they visit—and a brewfest provides those kind of experiences.
“It’s no longer good enough to merely see the sights and hit the standard tourist destinations,” she explained. “People really want to be immersed in the community. They want to eat local cuisine, drink local beer, and get to know the artisans making the products they’re interested in purchasing.
“The Mountaineer Brewfest hits on all of these traveling trends and is a very sellable product to those that are searching Wheeling as their next destination. It also adds to the quality of life of those that live here and creates an event that people look forward to all year long.”
Mountaineer Brewfest tickets still available
Only 2,000 general admission tickets and 200 VIP tickets will be sold. General admission includes 10 samples, a commemorative mug, and musical entertainment. In addition to the general admission items, the VIP ticket includes early festival entrance (3:00pm), special VIP only beers, special entertainment, a food voucher, 10 additional samples, and a commemorative VIP item.
Ticket prices are $25 for general admission and $65 for VIP. Designated Driver tickets are also available for both General Admission and VIP.