Morgantown area breweries report activity

This report is a follow-up to the Cabin Fever Craft Beer Festival and focuses on Morgantown area breweries.

Here are news and updates on Pubstomper Brewing, Chestnut Brew Works, Morgantown Brewing, and Cheat Canyon Brewing.

Pubstomper Brewing Company

morgantown area breweries - Pubstomper's Chris DeFazio and Cody Cheesebrough.
Chris DeFazio (L) and Cody Cheesebrough at Cabin Fever C raft Beer Festival.

The newest of the three Morgantown breweries, Pubstomper received it brewery license last fall and has hit the ground running.

Chris DeFazio and Cody Cheesebrough, owners of Pubstomper Brewing Company, were having a great time when we found them at the Cabin Fever Craft Beer Festival.

“This is our very first festival,” Cody Cheesebrough explained. “We didn’t know just what to expect, but I think it’s great.”

Asked about their experience with starting a brewery, Chris DeFazio replied that it’s been a long road.

“We were both WVU students and homebrewers when we entered a WVU entrepreneurs competition on a whim with the idea for a brewery,” he said. “We ended up wining some money to get started.

“It’s been a wild ride since then. Jumping through all the legal hoops.”

Cody explained that during their funding phase they were able to raise money in such a way that they kept all the ownership between the two of them. This gave them a lot of flexibility to move quickly in the direction they desired.

West Virginia’s first gypsy brewery

morgantown area breweries
Pubstomper developed a productive business arrangement with Morgantown Brewing Company. Photo: from Pubstomper Facebook page

“We adopted the model of gypsy brewing because there are already enough stainless steel tanks in the world,” Cody said. “You don’t have to spend $2 million and build your own facility for people to know you’re a real brand.

“Working with another brewery is a win-win. It’s helping another brewery pay for its equipment loans, and it’s helping us get our beer on the shelves quicker.”

“And it’s a lot of fun to collaborate with other brewers,” Chris added.

Chris explained their satisfaction on working with Morgantown Brewing Company.

“They’ve been super hospitable to us,” he said, “and we’ve learned a lot from them, honestly.”

The relationship with Morgantown Brewing allowed Pubstomper to get their beer on the street in a very short time frame. It gave them many advantages that would have been much more costly if they would have had to build it all themselves.

No risk, no reward

Most start-up breweries begin with beer batch sizes of 3-barrels, 7-barrel,15-barrels — or something like that. Not Pubstomper. Chris explained Pubstomper’s first brew day:

“We brewed a 90-barrel batch as our first commercial batch ever, so…”

“It was risky, but…” Cody interjected.

Before he could finish his thought, Chris interrupted.

“It was terrifying,” he said.

Then they both had a good laugh. It’s apparent that the guys are now getting the hang of being commercial brewers.

Not only did they brew a 90-barrel batch, they had to can the 90-barrel batch. These guys aren’t afraid of a challenge.

You could have had a Subaru

morgantown area breweriesThat first batch they brewed and canned was their signature Pale Ale, which they said, half jokingly, cost them about as much to brew as the cost of a new Subaru. Pale Ale is probably a misnomer for the beer, since it is really a big, dank 8% a.b.v. imperial IPA.

They positioned the Pale Ale as their flagship, and then began brewing several other styles to go with it. All their output will be canned in 12-oz cans and packaged as six-packs.

“We’re keeping the Pale Ale in rotation all the time,” said Chris “and then we’re going to do (a series of) one-offs. We’re going to brew 1,200 cases of these beers, one-time each, and never brew them again.”

Two of those one-offs were served at the festival. The Eldorado American Ale is a single-malt (Golden Promise), single-hop (Eldorado), single IPA.  Their Centennial White IPA is Centennial hopped, brewed with German pilsner malt, German wheat and oatmeal, with added coriander and orange peel.

Pubstomper Pale Ale is starting to appear on retailer shelves around the state. Over time, expect to see more of the one-offs out there as well.

Chestnut Brew Works, Morgantown

morgantown area breweries
A rare quiet moment at the Chestnut Brew Works brewhouse.

Chestnut Brew Works owner/head brewer Bill Rittenour said he has been very busy at the brewery. Mostly it’s trying to keep up with the incessant demand for Halleck Pale Ale.

Brewery news
Halleck Pale Ale 22-oz. bottle

“We’ve got a lot of new things going on,” he said. “We’re now bottling Halleck (pale ale) in 22-oz bottles and have it for sale in the taproom.”

He has to limit Halleck brewing or it might actually completely overtake his production capacity. He loves carving out time to brew other interesting things.

“We have a new barrel-aged Belgian sour that we’re only selling in the taproom. It’s been very well received.”

Called Wild & Soulful WV, we tried it at the brewery and can verify that Rittenour was not blowing smoke. The sour, which had spent 14 months in wood, was very well-balanced with a good malt base, not overpowered by the acidity. It had some nicely developed dark fruit flavors.

Newer beers, excellent beers

Chestnut Brew Works beer being served at Cabin Fever Craft Beer Festival.

When Rittenour was approached a couple of months back about the Cabin Fever Beer Festival, he thought it was a great idea.

“This Mylan Park Community Center is a great space for it,” he said.

Knowing that a lot of the attendees might not be very familiar with the range of Chestnut beers, he brought some newer stuff in addition to the ultra-popular Halleck.

Smoke Hole Lager, served at the festival, was Chestnut’s second-ever dive into the world of making a lager-type beer. It’s a German-style Rauchbier, and it was a beauty. Extremely clean, with very defined edges, it had all the qualities a good lager should.

As Rittenour describes it: “It’s got a good campfire/bacon sort of character to it. We went pretty light on the smoke, and it’s dry with a lighter body even though it’s a smoked beer.”

Another outstanding brew they featured at Cabin Fever was the Mo-Bel Prize. Josh Taylor, a brewer at CBW, said Mo-Bel Prize is a play on Nobel Prize, with the Mo from Morgantown and Bel from Belgium. He described it as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale inspired by a homebrew recipe Rittenour had.

“We just beefed it up for the brewery,” Josh explained. “It’s the first time we’ve used commercial liquid brewing yeast at the brewery. It came out really nice.”

Another different beer for Chestnut at the festival was Snake Hill Saison. This Belgian-style saison was brewed with a cupboard-full of spices, including black peppercorns, grains of paradise, orange peel, coriander, cardamom, and ginger. On the surface, it sounds like it could be a bit  over-the-top, but Ron Posey, a Charleston-area homebrewer and craft-beer fan, said it was one of his two favorites among the new beers he tried. Chestnut seems to have the magic touch.

morgantown area breweries
Christmas lights still frame the chalkboard in February at Chestnut Brew Works taproom.

On the horizon

While holiday lights may still adorn the brewery taproom, Rittenour says he’s been planning his spring and summer seasonals.

“I’m thinking about a SMASH beer (single malt and single hop) with all Amarillo hops for the springtime, and also maybe a double/triple IPA that would be bigger than Your Best Option DIPA.”

Morgantown Brewing Company

morgantown area breweries
Morgan Stemple, at left, leads the Morgantown Brewing crew at Cabin Fever Craft Beer Festival.

Morgan Stemple, Morgantown Brewing’s marketing director, was happy to be working a festival close to home.

“Most of the festivals we participate in are not in Morgantown,” she said. “It’s  nice to be on the home turf and get to host our friends from other breweries. We’re excited to see them here in Morgantown.”

One endearing beer they served at the festival is their First Shift Coffee Porter. It’s always a standout.

“We make that with beans we get from  Mountain People’s Coop here in Morgantown,” Stemple said.

Otherwise, the brewery featured its cold-weather-friendly offerings that the public has grown to love. These included Coal City Stout, 80  Shilling Scotch Ale, Old Morgantown Amber, and Zach Morgan IPA.

Upcoming beers to look for

Looking beyond the festival, Stemple said things over at the brewery pub are hopping.

“We just tapped a small-batch  Raspberry Wheat Ale for Valentine’s Day,” she said.

She told us to look for X-perimental, a small batch IPA made with an experimental hop that head brewer Brian Anderson recently snagged. For the St. Patrick’s Day period, she said Morgantown will release a new Irish Stout.

Another fan favorite will return, likely this spring.

“We just got the  ingredients and will be bringing back the Jesco’s White IPA this year,” Stemple said. “And expect the Brookside Farmhouse Saison to return soon too because it uses the same yeast (as Jesco’s).

And a final brewpub note: Following some shortages experienced over the past few months, Alpha Blonde is back on tap in the pub.

Cheat Canyon Brewing Company

Cheat Canyon Brewing
Artist’s rendition of proposed Cheat Canyon Brewing new brewery building

Brewery developer Bob Milvet has released architectural drawings of his proposed Cheat Canyon Brewing Company building, and it is a thing of beauty. Milvet says he hope to begin construction this spring.

Encompassing a 30-barrel brewhouse and multiple large fermentation tanks, the brewery would immediately have one of the largest capacities of any WV brewery. Planned for the building is a large taproom, restaurant, and outside dining area.

The project will be developed in the new Westridge Commerce Park near the Health Net helipad overlooking I-79 (in the vicinity of Morgantown Mall). Milvet says their primary focus is on water quality, clean brewery operations, and using the freshest ingredients to ensure a high quality product.

Morgantown area breweries will welcome this new member to their folds, hopefully by the end of the year. Brilliant Stream will provide updates on Cheat Canyon Brewing as this exciting project unfolds.

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