A barn-raising is underway in southern West Virginia, but it’s not your typical farm structure. This barn is the brewery building going up at Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge.
Upon completion, the structure will encompass about 7,400 sq. ft. of brewery and public space. It should be completed and the brewery equipment installed by later this year.
The wooden barn superstructure will sit on a sturdy poured concrete foundation. The level shown above will house the event space and taproom. At the far left will be an outdoor seating area that should provide a great vantage point on one of the most scenic places in the region to enjoy a beer.
Co-owner/brewer Sam Fonda explains that the lower level will hold his brewing equipment. The L-shaped operations area will be visible through windows in the taproom space a half-story above.
“You’ll be able to watch us working while you enjoy a beer,” Sam said.
With the beautiful natural scenery surrounding the building, I’m not sure how much time patrons will spend watching brewery operations. Full moons, great sunsets, bucolic hay fields, and mountain vistas all await visitors to Weathered Ground.
“We get all four seasons here,” Sam said.
Brewery co-owner Aryn Fonda says their building will look generally like the drawing on the planning blueprints. It will feature lots of natural wood inside and out.
Weathered Ground gets equipment
Nothing makes a mother and child happier than the delivery of their new brewing equipment. The 7-barrel Specific Mechanical brewhouse, fermenters and serving tanks has arrived at Weathered Ground. It’s large enough to supply the taproom and hopefully provide a bit extra for some limited distribution.
A few months back, while Aryn and Sam were getting manufacturer’s quotes on brewing equipment, Sam spotted an online posting that got his attention. It seems a brewpub project in Pittsburgh had ordered a complete brewing system, but the project fell through and it couldn’t use the equipment. The Fondas acted quickly and scooped it up. That move saved them several months of waiting for equipment to be manufactured. Sam calls the equipment the perfect set up for them.
Farm provides local ingredient options
Situated on a high plateau in southern Raleigh County, Weathered Ground Brewery promises to produce a solid mix of traditional styles and more-experimental farmhouse ales. Surrounded by a 30-acre farm, the brewery will make use of ingredients both farmed and foraged.
The farm already has a sizable vegetable and herb garden, which they plan to enlarge, and has fruit and nut trees and a nice producing grape arbor. In addition, the Fondas also plan to forage the forested acreage and source from other nearby farms.
“All of these things that are already on the property,” Sam said. “There’s more than enough available to make production quantities of beer. We just want to use as much of this as we can to make farm-to-table style beers. Not only is this stuff edible, but it’s really tasty.”
Looking forward to a farmhouse brewery
When I learned of this brewery project a few months ago, I immediately got giddy. I’m happy West Virginia is finally getting its own farmhouse brewery.
I’ve written previously about my admiration for the brewing skills of Sam Fonda when he was brewing for Triple C in Charlotte. Recently, he sampled me on several of his prototype beers at Weathered Ground, and I was not disappointed. In addition to some saisons and other Belgian styles he even had a sour gruit, and it was very good too.
From his experience brewing German-styles, Sam says he will always have a soft spot for the traditional-style pilsners and hefeweizens. Then at Triple C he brewed award-winning hoppy beers and big, beautiful toasty. roasty gems too. What really drives him is his and Aryn’s love for Belgian styles and American-style IPAs.
He says half jokingly that maybe their niche is that they like everything.
“We love bourbon barrel aged beers. We love wine barrel aged beers. We plan on brewing a lot of farmhouse style beers with yeast and bacteria and aging them on oak. I’m not afraid to pull the trigger and try something new.”
Events and business management
“When we start aging beer in barrels and packaging, we want to have bottle-release parties,” said Sam. “You won’t be able to get these bottles anywhere else. The whole idea is to get more traffic around here and more people to come in and see this place.”
He plans to have a small 6-head bottle filler that he will use to fill 750 ml and 350 ml bottles. He promises the release parties will include barbecue and live music too.
Aryn, an attorney by trade, will handle the business side of the brewery, including managing events. She said that when they first discussed the dream of opening their own brewery, Sam knew he did not want to deal with all the day-to-day business matters. That wasn’t his strength. Luckily, it is hers.
“Sam’s passion is brewing,” she said. “I don’t mind doing paperwork and the business side. We’ll be a two man show,”
Sam lets me know, however, that Aryn adds much more to the operation than just business management expertise.
“I might be the one brewing the beer, but she has the palate,” he said emphatically. “She’s not afraid to tell me when something tastes too much one way or the other. She really does have a great palate for this stuff.”
Sounds to me like a marriage made in beer heaven.