Could it be that West Virginia is finally getting a true farmhouse brewery run by a brewer experienced in big, barrel-aged beer and funk? If you are among those in the local beer community who have been longing for this occurrence, your wait should soon be over.
Weathered Ground Brewery is a brewery-in-planning located on a high-country farm at Cool Ridge, WV. The project is organized by Sam and Aryn Fonda, who have been living and working in Charlotte. While still a number of months away from opening, a launch later this year is a distinct possibility.
Until mid-May, Sam was an assistant brewer for Triple C Brewing Company and earlier spent some time brewing for Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, also in Charlotte. At Triple C, Fonda had a major hand in developing some of that brewery’s better beers, including the superb The Dude Imbibes, which is a rum-barrel-aged Imperial Milk Stout, the barrel-aged Belgian Tripel The Force, and many more. He also had a role in Triple C winning a bronze medal at GABF for its 3C India Pale Ale (2015, in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category).
Home to the mountains
“I have been brewing hop forward beers and big barrel-aged stouts and porters for Triple C Brewing Company in Charlotte for the past two and half years,” he told me recently.
“My wife, Aryn, is a licensed attorney in North Carolina but has also worked in the tap room at Triple C. About a year ago, we decided to move back closer to where she grew up around the Beckley area.”
So they shopped around and bought a farm where they would live and build a brewery.
“We are starting to ease our way into opening a brewery in southern West Virginia,” he notes.
Sam feels blessed to have found such a beautiful piece of property deep in the mountains, yet only ten minutes or so off an Interstate highway exit. His Cool Ridge farm sits along U.S. 19 about halfway between the communities of Shady Spring and Ghent. It’s a gorgeous property for Weathered Ground Brewery.
He has already remodeled the old farmhouse for his residence. This summer he is busy with several bigger projects on the farm, including raising a large garden and constructing the brewery facility.
Brewery now under construction
“We are currently building a 7,400 sq. ft. barn structure to host the brewery and tap room, as well as a large event space and outdoor patio,” he reports. “We will operate on a 7-barrel brewhouse and focus on brewing both traditional and innovative beers.
“We should have a building and equipment installed around Labor Day but no set timeline on opening.”
What does he plan to brew at Weathered Ground?
“Everything from pilsners to bourbon barrel aged stouts and everything in between,” he says. “But right now, I’ve really been enjoying making funky wild ales with interesting ingredients.”
“We’ll also serve a little food and we are living on the 20 acre property in a farmhouse that we restored with a very large garden and orchard that will grow an assortment of ingredients that we’ll use in some of our wild ales.”
This is exactly what the West Virginia beer community needs to hear. I’m betting the drive to the brewery will be well-worth the three toll-barrier Turnpike fare required to get there from Charleston.
Down the road, he also hopes to have his beer distributed around the southern part of the state. Keep up with Fonda’s progress on Facebook and on Instagram @weatheredgroundbrewery. He plans to soon have a website.
A final word on The Dude Imbibes
It’s my understanding that Triple C’s The Dude Imbibes was Sam’s recipe. He wanted to make a beer that would be reminiscent of a classic White Russian cocktail: coffee, vanilla, milk, with warming spirits and smooth drinkability. He started by brewing a big imperial milk stout and then aged it in rum barrels. Next, he took it out of the barrels and rested it a while on coffee beans. The Dude Imbibes was born. It’s an excellent, highly-regarded beer that also has a top-10 beer name.