The festival sported a super good variety of West Virginia brewed beer and many breweries sent their representatives to help promote the beer. Here are some comments I picked up from WV brewery folks attending the festival.
Berkeley Springs Brewing
Karl Wagenbrenner of Berkeley Springs Brewing said he would have liked to have come to Foam last year, but the brewery just wasn’t quite ready to expand this way. This year he was here and excited.
“It’s a great festival,” he said. “Basically, we’re just out here trying to spread the word and start a little bit of a buzz about Berkeley Springs Brewing Company.
“This year we’re doing well, We’re starting to grow and hoping to expand a lot in the coming years.”
Wagenbrenner brought most of his flagships including Mountain Man Marzen, Cacapon Kolsch, Stonewall IPA, Lover’s Leap IPA, and Berkeley Brown, and an American Amber.
Screech Owl Brewing
Roger Johnson of Screech Owl Brewing in Bruceton Mills was back for the second time at Foam. He had introduced his brewery to southern West Virginia here last year. Johnson says the brewery has been doing great over the past year.
“We’re expanding,” he explained. “I’ve got more tanks coming in next week. We’ve got a building project going on. We’re going to double our capacity. We’ve brewed 12 times more beer this year and looking to brew a lot more.”
Folks at the festival enjoyed Johnson’s Bold Blonde, Threshing Floor Wheat, and Hoo’s Your Daddy IPA.
Morgantown Brewing Company’s heritage goes back over two decades in Morgantown, and Charleston they have been selling beer in Charleston for a while. Keith Monroe, a brewer at Morgantown, says Charleston’s size alone means it is important to the brewery.
“As a brewer, it’s always fun to make the beer and then get to meet the people who enjoy it,” he said. “We owe all our success to the West Virginia market. And we enjoy coming down here to Charleston.”
Monroe brought their Coal City Stout, which he said is his personal favorite, Eighty Shilling Scotch Ale, and the popular Alpha Blonde. He says Alpha Blonde accounts for over half of their sales volume. “It’s our most popular beer.”
Greenbrier Valley Brewing
Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company of Lewisburg is well-known in the Charleston market and sells very well here. GVBC’s David Kucera says the Charleston-Huntington region is responsible for selling about half their total beer and he loves this festival..
“Foam at the Dome is a phenomenal event, with all these beer, it’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of good food here too.”
GVBC brought their flagships including Wild Trail Pale Ale, Mothman Black IPA, and the highly respected Devil Anse IPA. He said he really enjoys the festival VIP Tent, which, by the way, featured their Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Kucera says to be on the lookout for their new Wit Beer “Zona’s Revenge”, which will be released this week.
Parkersburg Brewing Company is another of the fine crop of WV breweries to join the ranks since last year’s festival.
“We are just really excited to be here,” said Parkersburg’s Amber Cain, who serves the brewery as taproom manager. “We’re looking forward to connecting with more people. We brought our Bushwa Berliner Weisse, which is getting great reviews from everybody.”
The brewery brought its brand new American IPA “Fibonacci Dossier,” which was also creating quite a bit of interest. Also pouring were flagships From Ash & Ember, Hip Hefe, and Palooka Pale Ale, among others. The brewery had a Braggot in the VIP tent.
Dobra Zupas poured two brews in the VIP Tent. Paco and Brandi Aceves handled pouring for the brewery. The Wyco Wheat Ale and a Red Ale were both well received.
Big Timber Brewing
Brewery partner Sam Mauzy says the festival season combined with building their new brewery is taking about all his time and energy these days, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m hoping that toward the end of July we’ll have the new brewery up and running,” he said. “Our new tanks are supposed to be finished toward the end of May. Our centrifuge is sitting in the brewery now, The chiller is there. The cold room is about finished. We’re to the point that we’re ready to start plumbing and wiring.”
Mauzy says one reason the Charleston market is important to them is that Charleston hotels attract so many people from outside the state and region and they provide an avenue to introduce people from other areas to good West Virginia beers.
At the brewery, the Big Timber brewers keep working on new twists.
“We’ve been doing some nitro stuff,” he explained, and added that one of their new 15-barrel bright tanks is set up to pressurize beers with nitrogen so they can have it available to distributors on a semi-regular basis.
Some of the new Big Timber brews at the festival included a Porter on Nitro, a new Session IPA, which is their summer seasonal release. The brewery also poured its Logger Lager, Blonde, Pale Ale, IPA, and Sluice Dry Stout, among others.
Mountain State Brewing
Charleston now receives all Mountain State beers brewed on their brewery’s new brewing system and canning line that were completed last fall.
Brewery employee Heather Carr says the new system is brewing very well.
“We moved from a 7-barrel system to a 30-barrel system with 120-barrel tanks,” she said. “We can 35 cans per minute, for all four of our flagship brews.”
She confirmed that the brewery is now back to brewing a series of seasonal beers, but they are currently available only in their own brewpubs.
At the festival, Mountain State poured its Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout, Cold Trail IPA, and Almost Heaven Amber.
Chestnut Brew Works
Even though Chestnut Brew Works does not distribute to the Charleston market, they always want to be considered in the circle of West Virginia breweries. CBW assistant brewer Austin Weser thinks Foam is one of those festival we you must attend to keep up your visibility.
“If you’re going to be well represented in the state of West Virginia, despite where you are located,” he says, “you have to be at the festival.”
Weser says the brewery’s mega-popular Halleck Pale Ale can be a double-edge sword for the small brewery. The demand from Morgantown bars and restaurants for Halleck is so large that, to meet the demand, the brewery would have to only brew that one beer. But they don’t.
“If we were to brew only one beer, that wouldn’t allow us to really show off our brewing skills,” said Weser, explaining that isn’t the kind of brewery they want to be. He thinks their brewer/owner Bill Rittenour is so very talented and can brew just about anything he wants extremely well.
Weser was particularly proud of the Smoke Hole Lager he brought to Foam. He said it was lighter in it’s smokey character than the traditional German Rauchbiers, making it a more accessible to the American palate.
Chestnut also poured Halleck, Mo-Bel Prize Belgian-style, and South Park Porter.
Blackwater Brewing, in Davis, has seem some changes made over the past year that has allowed owner/brewer Lincoln Wilkins to concentrate more on being a full-time brewer. It’s making a difference in the variety of beers he is able to offer.
“I’m very excited about the future for Blackwater Brewing,” says Wilkins.
Last fall, Wilkins contracted out his restaurant operation to the Barrels BrewHouse and focused his attention on the beer. He’s been able to make a few brewery improvements and has more planned.
At Foam, his Indigenous IPA received quite a positive response. Wilkins also brought his Canaan Valley Kolsch, 3200 Altbier, Piebald Llama Wit, Highlander Helles Bock, and Wood Hick Porter.
Pubstomper Brewing Company
Cody Cheesebrough and Chris DeFazio, owners of Pubstomper Brewing Company, made their first big promotional foray to Charleston at Foam at the Dome.
“Even though it’s a two and a half hour drive to get down here, people still consider us a local beer, ” said Cheesebrough.
He explained that they are maintaining their emphasis on Pubstomper Pale Ale as their flagship in cans, but will be kegging a series of small batch brews.
DeFazio said they were pouring a new ElDorado hopped, single malt IPA at Foam. It’s one of the small batch series.
“So far the response has been good, but we only have 40 kegs of it.,” he said. “It’s gone after that. Based on the response here, we might have to do more of it.”
The guys hope to get a new Pubstomper small batch beer out in the market every month or so. It’s a good strategy to build interest and sales.
Another one of our “Class of 2016” new breweries is Brewstel, located in Elkins. Owner Tim Powell says he came to Foam to both learn more about the market and get feedback on his beers.
“A lot of people have heard about us and have been waiting to try our beer,” Powell said. “This is the first summer we’re able to hit it, and we’re trying to hit it as large as we can.”
Powell says he’s still “rocking the one-barrel system” turning out 38 gallons at a time. The small production makes Brewstel beers quite rare outside its own brewpub. That may change if Powell is able to set up some contract brews with another local brewery that has some extra capacity.
“We’d like to get our recipes and our style out across the state,” he said.
Since starting up last fall, he has brewed about 15 different beers. He feels his challenge is getting the right balance between his flagships and new one-offs and specialties.
“It’s a blessing and a curse every day,” Powell says. “Because you always want more. You always want better products, and you want more styles.”
Powell tried out a lot of beers on the Charleston crowd, including Ashcat Amber, House Golden, Cum Laude Sour, 1st Semester Honor Roll IPA, Big Peter’s Porter, and others.
Bridge Brew Works
Fayetteville’s Bridge Brew Works is one of the senior statesmen of the state’s brewing industry, even though they’re less than 10 years old. The brewing team at BBW also has more brewing experience than most around here. Collectively, the brewers bring 25 years of brewing to the task.
Charleston has been a strong market for them.
“We feel like we need to be here,” said Adam Herrold, BBW partner and brewer. “I love coming down here. I love supporting West Virginia craft beer.”
He feels that being one of the state’s more mature and successful breweries doesn’t mean they can rest on past accomplishments.
“I love what I do, and I’ll continue to get better,” he says.
He sees the West Virginia market growing. He sees folks opening up to new beer styles: his Gose, for one.
“I enjoy brewing a style that there’s very little familiarity with and then having the feedback.”
At Foam, he liked talking with beer fans about his Iapetus Gose. He said many people who live here don’t know that Iapetus was an ancient ocean that covered this region. He said to be on the lookout for the Tequila-barrel aged Gose that is being released soon.
In addition to the Gose, Herrold poured Mountain Momma Pale Ale, Long Point Lager, Black Diamond Schwarzbier, and had their Bourbon Barrel Dubbel in the VIP tent.
Weathered Ground Brewery
Even breweries that cannot yet sell beer enjoyed Foam at the Dome. Sam and Aryn Fonda attended to promote their upcoming Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge. They say their new farmhouse brewery should be open by mid July.
Breweries love foam and food too
Beer was not all you found at Foam. A half dozen food vendors made sure the brewers and beer fans did not go hungry.