UPDATE: Due to unexpected delays getting through state beer registrations, there will be no beer from Stone or Dark Horse breweries. Also, The Peddler’s brewery decided not to debut its beer at the festival.
Tickets are still available to the largest-ever congregation of West Virginia breweries, which will be found at the Rails & Ales craft beer festival on August 12 in Huntington.
Nineteen West Virginia breweries will send their beer to Huntington, and most will also send brewery ambassadors to tell you all about their products. What’s more, a super line-up of national and international brands will be there too.
Nowhere else in this universe will you find so many WV beers in one place. Talk about Almost Heaven. This incredible assemblage is drawing interest from near and far, as advance ticket sales show beer fans coming from Louisville, Lexington, Columbus, Pennsylvania, and the Mid- and Upper-Ohio Valley areas in addition to the usual core from Charleston and the Tri-State region.
Jessica Pressman, one of the festival organizers, said their goal is to become a regional beer tourist destination. They want to help showcase what all Huntington has to offer. She hopes folks will get good look around the city that recently won first place in the America’s Best Communities competition.
“We want this to be an economic boon for Huntington,” she said, “and bring lot of visitors to the city. This is a great city. There’s a lot of good stuff to do here.”
So many brewery premieres
Brilliant Stream gets excited to see so many new breweries on the festival list. The three newest WV breweries are headed to the festival, though one has only to travel a couple of blocks. Festival beer honcho Jeff McKay expects the long-awaited Huntington brewery at The Peddler to have its beer at Rails & Ales. The Peddler plans to bring four beers, likely including its Happy Hunty Blonde Ale. They’re so new, we couldn’t even get names for all of them.
Rails & Ales will be the best chance for area beer fans to get their first samples of two WV breweries that are probably the most highly anticipated breweries to open in the state in some time. Abolitionist Ale Works, of Charles Town, and Weathered Ground Brewery, of Cool Ridge in Raleigh County, have beer fans excited to a level we’re not used to seeing around here. Both brewers plan to specialize in farmhouse-style ales, although Weathered Ground is so new they haven’t had time to get most of their farmhouse ales matured. Even so, expect both of them to bring some different tastes than we’re used to in our local beer.
The crew from Stumptown Ales will make their first festival appearance in southern WV when they set up shop at Rails & Ales. This IPA specialist brews contemporary American IPA styles that compete in quality with top-tier IPA makers across the country.
Other WV breweries hitting Rails & Ales for the first time are Berkeley Springs Brewing, Brewstel, Bad Shepherd Brewing, Parkersburg Brewing, Pubstomper, and Wheeling Brewing.
Retuning regulars include Blackwater Brewing, Big Timber Brewing, Bridge Brew Works, Chestnut Brew Works, Dobra Zupas, Greenbrier Valley Brewing, Morgantown Brewing, Mountain State Brewing, and North End Tavern Brewery.
If you want to find out what West Virginia beer tastes like today, you must attend this festival.
New out-of-state breweries too
While WV breweries may be the stars of the day, out-of-state and international breweries will bring some real treats too. Three new-to-WV breweries to look for are Brouwerij Boon, from Lembeek, Belgium, Stone Brewing, from California/Virginia, and Dark Horse Brewing, from Michigan.
Boon is a noted Lambic brewer and Gueuze blender, whose beers should not be missed. Stone, of course, makes a line of mega-popular West Coast IPAs, and more, that will definitely be a great addition to the state’s beer taps and shelves. Dark Horse gained a big following in the Midwest by brewing a long list of highly rated beer.
Just which Stone beers you will find at the festival is still a bit murky, but you’ve got to believe it would include Stone IPA, Ruination, Go To IPA, and Drink By 09-04-17. We’ll see.
Dark Horse will bring its Crooked Tree IPA, Amber Ale, a Black Ale. From Boon expect an unblended lambic from an individual foeder and Boon Oud Kriek.
Other breweries new to the festival this year include lager brewer Praga from Czech Republic, Champion Brewing from Charlottesville, VA, Heavy Seas Beer from Baltimore, and Thirsty Dog Brewing from Akron.
A special treat this year will be having long-time distributor sales rep Josh Holland in his new job as the WV sales guy for Country Boy Brewing. We look forward to seeing Josh in his new role.
Two WV cideries, Hawk Knob and Swilled Dog, make their first appearances at the festival. Aspall English dry ciders, AceCider from California, and Bold Rock ciders from Virginia will also debut.
Night or day?
Whether you choose the afternoon or the evening festival session, you are assured plenty of beer. Rails & Ales beer honcho Jeff McKay is adamant that the evening session does not just get the afternoon leftovers.
“It’s two totally separate beer orders,” he explained.
During the down time between sessions, beer distributors will replenish all the beer taps. Except for the V.I.P. beers, everything that is on tap during the afternoon will also be on tap in the evening. McKay says the beer will not run out.
The primary benefits of the evening session will be the cooler temperatures and the beefed up music line-up, featuring three bands, compared to one plus a deejay in the afternoon.
Afternoon and evening session tickets are $40 each (VIP is sold out) Festival organizers say the two sessions are selling about equally well.
Use this festival ticket link to get yours. Tickets are sold on-line only and will be on sale right up to festival day, if they have not sold out beforehand.
Jessica Pressman says the festival will use 300 volunteers this year, about double the number they had last year. The festival will donate $20,000 to the volunteers’ charitable organizations. In addition to the Tri-State region, volunteers groups are coming from Logan and Hurricane.
New food vendors this year are Bahnhof Wvrsthaus, The Peddler, Gil’s Pit Beef (from Glenville), and Asian Fusion (from So. Charleston). Several others return.
Sixteen artisan/vendor booths will offer a mix of high quality handcrafts and manufactured items. Pottery, art, T-shirts, dog treats and more. A line of Rails & Ales festival-branded merchandise is sold at the Brand Yourself store in Huntington. T-shirts, can coozies, and stickers are available.
The placement of the bandstand is more in the middle of the festival grounds this year, making the music more accessible to attendees. Bands include the popular Ona, along with The Dividends and The M.F.B. Deejay Charlie Brown Superstar spins records in the afternoon.
Up to 4,000 tickets are available for each session, but the actual attendance will likely be less.
Festival organizer Better Beer Coalition will have an eight-person team on-site managing the festival.
Take a few minutes pre or post festival to stop in Jeff McKay’s new location of Summit Beer Station at 321 Ninth St.