WOW!!! What an absolutely beautiful facility. That’s the first thing that struck my mind as I made a pre-opening visit to the new Parkersburg Brewing Company (PBC). Managing partners Dan Curtis and Justin Logue have much to be proud of as they prepare to open for business on Saturday, September 17.
The owners have done an absolutely bang-up job of building out and decorating their new downtown Parkersburg brewpub. It is a showcase with many striking features.
Parkersburg Brewing showcase
It’s the custom logo rug that greets you at the entrance.
It’s the custom booths and sofa featuring their signature orange theme color. It’s the modern metal plate details of their table tops.
It’s the orange neon logo light hanging boldly on the west wall. It’s all the other lighting fixtures in the main pub room.
It’s offering the state’s first Crowler™— a one-quart sealed aluminum can growler filler. PBC will also fill traditional 64-oz glass jugs.
It’s the custom, logo-emblazoned beer flight paddles.
It’s the gorgeous pilot brewing system where Dan and Justin develop and perfect their beer recipes. It’s the porcelain tile-finished walls. It’s the cleanliness of every area.
It’s the shiny stainless 7-barrel electric-fired brewhouse, visible to customers through a window in the bar area.
It’s the finished basement that holds a line of 7-bbl fermenters, with plenty of room to grow. They will start out with 43 barrels of fermentation space.PAGE BREAK
It’s the spacious kitchen area where they will cook up a variety of panini, sides, and bar grub. With an experienced trade chef on staff, expect the menu to grow over time.
Certainly, the guys benefitted from purchasing a building that had many of the basics plus a few extras they could adapt and reuse. Formerly home to WVU-Parkersburg’s culinary arts program, the facility included utility hook-ups and a large hood vent system in a spacious rear room. PBC, naturally, is adapting this space for its pub kitchen. There is enough room here for a large commercial catering kitchen should the guys want to venture in that direction.
It’s the glamorous reclaimed-industrial-look bar and tap tower. It’s the handy Bar-Juice system that offers multiple USB charging outlets along the front edge of the bar (another 1st in WV). They will use both their 7-barrel and 1-barrel brew systems to keep the pub supplied with up to 12 different beers.
It’s the attention paid to every detail, every pipe, fitting, hose, and fixture in the brewery. It’s all installed with great forethought and order, something that probably owes a debt to Dan’s profession as a chemical engineer. This shines through in Parkersburg Brewing’s fit and finish. It’s the first brewery I’ve seen in West Virginia to achieve this level of polish.
Parkersburg Brewing – The Beer
PBC will have a good variety of beer when it opens on September 17. You will find stout, pale ale, and brown ale, but then there’s also some more unusual fare.
“We’ve been big fans of Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin,” Dan said, explaining the inspiration for his PBC Citrus Tsunami.
He thinks Citrus Tsunami is a “grand slam” and says it’s “like getting hit with a grapefruit in the face at 100 miles per hour.” In a one-barrel batch you’ll find at least six pounds of hops. (I can’t wait to try this one.)
Here is the rest of the well-thought out opening line-up.
From Ash and Ember. If you like bitterness and hop flavor, rounded out with roasted malt, expect From Ash and Ember Dark IPA to fill your needs. It is a 103 calculated IBU powerhouse with a nice roast coffee finish. 7.1% ABV. (Walt Owens recipe)
Cellblock 304 Brown Ale. This is a honey brown ale with English bittering hops. A very well-balanced brown ale. More complex than many, but finishes just like you’d expect a good brown to finish. 5.6% ABV. (Walt’s recipe)
On the Lam Stout. It’s a classic oatmeal stout with nice roasty flavor and a smooth mouthfeel from the oats. Just the right amount of American hops to finish it off. An easy drinker. 5.6% ABV. (Dan’s recipe)
Hip Hefe. For this classic Hefeweizen-style brew they take an extra step in the mashing to bring out more banana esters. It’s hazy, more fresh banana with a little touch of clove, and the wheat grain finishes it all off. 5.4% ABV. (Justin’s recipe)
Those beers are just the beginning. Expect frequent additions as they ramp up their beer inventory. You are sure to see pub releases range from popular beer styles to some more obscure ones too. Dan is a big fan of IPAs, so you should expect plenty of those. I also heard them mention a Gose and even a barrel-fermented sour Flanders Red Ale down the road. Parkersburg folks should have fun sampling these releases.
The Back Story
Justin said he caught the brew bug while away to college at WVU. His first beers were kit beers. After some trial and error, they began turning out pretty good, and from that point forward, he knew he would some day like to brew professionally.
He came home to Parkersburg in 2012 and formed the Infamous Parkersburg Alers homebrew club. At club activities, he soon met fellow homebrewer Dan Curtis, who had moved to the area to work as a chemical engineer in local industry. At the time, both were working separately on their own brewery projects.
“We realized we had the same passion,” Justin said. “We realized we could help each other out a lot if we joined forces.”
That’s when the idea of Parkersburg Brewing Company came about. In 2013, they began work in earnest. They spent well over a year developing their business plan.
Along the way they got help from other WV breweries. The North End Tavern and Stumptown folks were especially helpful, they said. They also noted that the City of Parkersburg and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have been great to work with along the way.
Dan and Justin officially formed Parkersburg Brewing Company in 2014. Along the way, they added two more partners: Morgantown residents and beer enthusiasts Walt Owens (a 15-year homebrewer) and Jim Hopkins (a Parkersburg native). Each of the partners brings different useful business skills to the table.
“We were trying to build out a diversified team to build this business,” Dan said.
As the business plan writing progressed, the location search proved tougher.
“Finding an acceptable location was a big hold up,” Justin said.
They looked and looked, but nothing fit what they had in mind. Then late last year, the former culinary school building came on the market. They jumped on it and bought it. Dan feels it is the premier spot on the premier block in downtown.
A catalyst for revitalizing downtown
“Our vision for this place was something really high-end, really well-finished,” Dan stressed.
And while producing high quality hand-crafted beer is their focus, Dan says their goal is to be much more than that.
“We have a strong desire to be the catalyst for driving revitalization in downtown Parkersburg,” he said.
Both men spend their time and efforts with local business development and promotion organizations. They believe it’s what you do to be part of the community.
City development and tourism officials know that a successful Parkersburg Brewing will bring lots of foot traffic to the block and create an environment ripe for additional business investment. That’s the power a craft brewery has today.
At opening, PBC will have four employees in addition to Dan and Justin.
Plans on down the road
“The 7-barrel system in this taproom is only the beginning,” said Dan. “We have way, way, way bigger visions in this place.”
First, you’ll probably start to see their draft in limited distribution by the end of this year. They will start with some accounts in the local Parkersburg area, but select accounts in other markets could follow.
Once they get their feet on the ground and get some capital, they intend to build a large, at least 30-barrel, production brewery at an industrial site in Parkersburg and become a regional player. They plan to tackle not only West Virginia, but also Ohio and possibly more markets.
“As you can see from this place, we dream pretty big,” Dan said.
I must say, I like their vision.
On the transition from homebrew to pro-brew
“We may be redneck homebrewers from West Virginia,” says Dan, “but we have spent a lot of time learning the process and utilizing the tools we’ve learned in our day jobs.
“We are extremely hung up on quality and consistency.”
Although they came from homebrewing. they were highly technical homebrewers. With their engineering and chemical engineering backgrounds, consistency, process control, and understanding the chemistry were all things that they focused on. All those things should help PBC become successful as a commercial brewery.
It promises to be an outstanding addition to West Virginia’s brewing community.
Parkersburg Brewing Company
707 Market St.
Opening at 4:00 P.M. on Saturday, September 17, 2016