It’s no fiction: Short Story Brewing Company is now open for business. Trust me, this is one short story that you will want to read over and over again.
The brewery sits along U.S. Hwy 19 in suburban Rivesville, West Virginia, halfway between Morgantown and Fairmont. It’s smack dab in the middle of the state’s most torrid region of craft beer fervor. Owned and operated by three literary & beer enthusiasts, Short Story Brewing delivers beer long on style and flavor.
The Rivesville trio of Aaron Rote, his sister Abby Kopischke, and her husband Mike Kopischke are equal co-owners in this exciting new project. Their brewery began distributing its beer on June 8 and opened its taproom to the public July 1.
“It felt great,” Aaron said of the brewery’s first sale, made to The Rambling Root in Fairmont. In the few weeks since, they have added a score of accounts across north central WV.
The beer narrative
Short Story’s first four flagship beers, while all pretty straight-forward and familiar, are impressively solid efforts for the first beers brewed on their new 10-barrel system. It’s a big step up for head brewer Mike Kopischke, who prepared for the venture with a decade of homebrewing experience and some courses at Siebel Institute in Chicago.
Mike says a couple of things drew him to brewing.
“I like drinking beer for one. And number two, I just love the process of it.”
Those are definitely two qualities you want in a brewer. That he is also a bit of a perfectionist shows through in his beer.
“He has extremely high quality standards,” Abby says of her husband.
Table of contents
Their Forward IPA is a Midwest-style IPA that is competitive with other better West Virginia labels and will satisfy anyone looking for a modern American IPA with nice floral hop aroma and moderate malt flavor, but without a lot of bitterness. (6.6% ABV)
My Friends Call Me Red Amber Ale is drier than many American ambers, but with good toasted malt flavors. (5.3% ABV)
Broad Shoulders Dry Stout is a well-made standard Irish-style dry stout with notes of chocolate and dark roasted malt. (5.5% ABV)
Ready, Steady, Go! Pale Ale is dry-hopped with Citra hops, giving it a more intense citrusy fruit flavor and aroma. It’s a bit cloudy and lightly bitter. (6.2% ABV)
Working Title is a Imperial IPA with plenty of richness and hop flavor. (7.1% ABV)
“The goal is to always have eight beers on tap here,” Mike says, adding that he has a lot more brewing to do to get those taps filled. His most recent line-up addition was the Imperial IPA “Working Title.”
Coming before long will be some small batches for taproom-only release. He hopes to add some different things, like maybe a Belgian-style or a coffee-flavored pale ale.
“We’re building on a good foundation,” Aaron adds. We agree.
The story begins in a family conversation
Brother-sister duo Aaron and Abby grew up in Rivesville, before heading off to college. Abby met Mike, a New Jersey native, at college, and they later married and lived in New Jersey. The stage was set for a new project when, a few years ago, Mike and Abby decided to relocate to Rivesville to start a family. Aaron, who earned a Masters in creative writing at WVU, also returned to Rivesville following a stint working in Louisville.
The trio spent a lot of time together hanging out at bars talking about beer. Mike was getting more serious about homebrewing and studying books on brewing techniques. Aaron was working on his career as a writer. Their conversations often revolved around beer and literature.
Then, about a year and a half ago, the idea for a commercial brewery began to crystalize. During one of those family conversations, Mike suggested the name Short Story Brewing. It stuck.
Career-wise all three were ready for a change. Mike and Aaron committed to work full-time on their brewery project. Though she stayed employed in IT at a local industry, Abby would pitch in on the project as her second job.
Abby says something just seemed so right about starting a brewery.
“I was really all for it,” she said. “If I could say I’d have my family, my husband, and my kids in the town where I grew up, in the community I care about, and build something amazing a mile from my house — it’s really, truly a dream come true.”
We built it ourselves
In June 2016, they began looking for locations around the Morgantown-Fairmont region. They made an offer on their building, which formerly housed an antique store, and the offer was accepted. They closed on the building August 16 and immediately began renovations.
“The day we closed on this place we started tearing down in the back to build our cold room. We’ve been here every day since,” Aaron said.
The renovations and build out at the brewery proceeded very fast. In less than a year, they finished the work.
“We haven’t had to hire much help,” Abby explained, “because Mike and Aaron worked on the project full-time.”
They also received help from Aaron’s and Abby’s father, who works in construction. Several of their friends in the community, who have construction trade skills, also pitched in to help.
With the owners, family, and friends doing pretty much all the renovations and installation work themselves, the owners were able to self-finance the brewery — a most impressive feat.
By keeping their costs down, they are not so tied to having to extract a big profit quickly. It allows them to be a little more laid back than many other start-up breweries.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Attesting to the camaraderie found in our local brewing community, the Short Story folks received a ton of good advice and help from other established breweries in their region.
“The first thing we did was go to the guys at Big Timber,” Aaron said. “We also went to Chestnut Brew Works and talked to them. They both opened their doors, were very forthcoming, answered every question we had, told us what pitfalls to avoid.
“We’re kind of standing on the shoulders of giants. Everything they’ve learned from the mistakes they made, they’ve turned around and helped us. It’s expedited the process.”
The brewing system
They spent a lot of time researching brewery equipment and talking with other breweries about their brewing systems.
From all the options, they selected a 10-barrel brewing system from Alpha Brewing Operations out of Nebraska.
Mike describes their brewing equipment: “It’s a 10-barrel system, mash tun and boil kettle, with a 20-barrel hot liquor tank. We have three 10-barrel glycol-jacketed fermenters and a 10-barrel brite tank.”
Initially, they will keg all their beer for sales in the taproom and distribution. They will package in one-sixth barrel and half-barrel kegs. With the current equipment, the brewery’s annual capacity is between 600 and 700 barrels of production. They are set up for future expansion with space and plumbing in-place to easily add more 10-barrel fermenters or 20-barrel fermenters.
A strong sense of place runs deep in the Short Story owners. They love their hometown location that is convenient to Morgantown and Fairmont. They love being the first brewery in Marion County. They love living just a few minutes from their business place.
“It’s so close to Morgantown, so we can self-distribute there,” said Aaron. “And we can self-distribute down in Harrison County to Clarksburg and Bridgeport. For distribution I think it’s an ideal location.
“Our goal with this taproom is to bring as many people through the door as we can to make this a destination where people will want to come. More and more, people who like craft beer don’t mind going on a little journey to check out this new brewery or to grab a growler.”
The taproom will hold about 75 people and their parking lot has room for 35 cars. The full taproom will be open Thursdays though Saturdays. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they will open from 3 – 6 P.M. for growlers fills only. Food service is limited to light snacks.
Short Story Brewing Company
5904 Fairmont Rd.