One of the benefits of attending local beer festivals is that you pick up lots of news on brewery activity in West Virginia. Following is a summary of the WV brewery news that Brilliant Stream gathered at Oktoberfest Pipestem last Saturday.
Pubstomper Brewing Company
Hoodie Weather – Pubstomper’s new fall seasonal is a big one in more than one way. Called Hoodie Weather, it is an Imperial IPA that logs it at 8.8% ABV and is loaded with juicy hops.
“It’s the hoppiest beer we’ve ever done,” said Chris DeFazio, co-founder of Pubstomper Brewing Company in Morgantown. “It’s not super bitter because there is no bittering hop in it. It’s got 25 pounds of hops in a 10 barrel batch. ”
Featuring Citra and El Dorado hops, some of the hops went into the whirlpool but the bulk were used for double dry hopping that provides the breezy tropical fruit flavors and aroma. The beer’s grain bill is almost 20% oats, so it’s got a creamy mouthfeel and a cloudy appearance.
“I’d say it’s our best beer yet,” DeFazio said.
Mexican Stout – Pubstomper is getting ready for the Hops & Heat chili beer competition (in Charleston on Oct. 21) with what sounds like a very attractive beer.
“We’re doing a Mexican hot chocolate stout” said DeFazio. “So it’s going to be an imperial stout that’s conditioned on cinnamon, vanilla, and a little bit of habanero pepper puree. I think it’s going to turn out nice.”
No cans for now – Pubstomper’s beer production strategy has undergone a shift. Originally, they made only one flagship beer and sold it in cans. Over the spring and summer, the brewery completely transitioned away from having a flagship and, instead, began producing a series of one-off seasonal releases. While still operating as a gyspy brewer, DeFazio says Pubstomper has made a little shift in its brewing location.
“We’re still working with Morgantown Brewing Company, but we were brewing in their Westover facility. We’ve mostly moved to their downtown brewpub location now.”
That means Pubstomper beer will only be available in draught right now. No more cans for a while. “We’ll probably can again eventually,” DeFazio said.
Greenbrier Valley Brewing
Oktoberfest at the Taproom – Greenbrier Valley Brewing will have six new small-batch beers released at their Oktoberfest celebration this weekend. They will all be lagers of various stripes. Among the are a Bohemian Lager, a Dunkel Bock Lager, a Roggenbier and a few Märzen beers.
Brewery co-owner David Kucera said all the beers were brewed by their brew pad staff on the brewery’s pilot system.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Kucera. “The people that have never brewed before are brewing great beer. It surprises me.”
The brewery festival runs from 2:00 PM until 9:00 PM on Saturday, Oct. 14. Brats, sauerkraut and pretzels will be featured too.
Production & investors – Kucera said the addition of a 60 barrel brite tank has increased the efficiency of brewery output, especially for the canning line. He said production and sales are up a good bit and he expects the brewery will end 2017 with around 2,000 barrels produced. He confirmed that the brewery has been actively seeking new investors and was positive on some things coming together soon. However, he would not really comment on the possible changes to the brewery ownership group that have been in the rumor mill recently.
Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company
Released first seasonal – Matt Barnett, founder/owner/brewer at Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company says his brewery has been on the move. It’s a move that is taking it into the fast lane. A good example of this move was the release at the festival of their first small-batch seasonal. Their Backwoods Bourbon Stout aged for four months in a bourbon cask and showed its richness through and through.
He had four other beers on tap at the festival including all his flagships: Racer 8 American Stout, 1863 Pale Ale, Ryebellion Brown Ale, and Tail Chaser Blonde Ale.
Taproom coming – The big move from Sophisticated Hound is the development of its new brewery and taproom.
“We’ve got a pice of property on Mercer Street in Princeton,” said Barnett. “We’re renovating the building right now. We’re hoping to be done with it at the end of October, but by the time licensing gets completed, we’re looking at the first of the year to get open.”
It’s a 2,500 sq. ft. building which will house the brewery, taproom, kitchen, and a performance stage for live music. The front 1,500 sq. ft. of the building will house the taproom. and the brewery will fill the rear 1,000 sq. ft.
“The taproom will give us the opportunity to experiment more,” Barnett said. “We’ll have our flagships, and then we’ll just keep adding to it.”
Barnette has been brewing on a 3.5-barrel system, but will move up to a 10-barrel brewhouse at the new facility. They will start out with four 10-barrel fermentation tanks. His current system will be repurposed as the brewery’s pilot system and used for making on-offs for the taproom.
Sophisticated Hound Brewing donates a portion of its profits to charities that help retired racing greyhounds.
Stone Brewing Company
Local guy gets the job – First off, let’s say how pleased we are that Stone Brewing placed a sales rep in West Virginia, and better yet, actually hired a WV guy to staff that position.
Morgantown resident Jason Coleman is the field sales representative for Stone Brewing Company in WV. He said he has had a busy and productive month following the release of Stone beer on September 18.
“It’s been really, really good,” he said. “We did probably 20 to 25 different tap takeovers over the course of three days. They had the entire Mid-Atlantic division come out here to help with the launch. We were really happy with the results.”
Coleman says that by adding West Virginia to its distribution footprint, Stone attained one of its most important corporate goals—that of becoming a true national brewery. West Virginia was the 50th state to get Stone beer.
The launch went so well that out-of-stock conditions quickly appeared for some labels. Coleman says those situations are being corrected as more product hits the distributors.
As for his business goals, Coleman hopes to spread the Stone gospel.
“We want to introduce our aggressive attitude towards beer and towards hops, and towards being an independent brewery,”
Is more Stone coming – When asked who determines which Stone beers West Virginia will get, Coleman responded, “That’s where I come in.”
“I’m from West Virginia and I’m going to be the biggest advocate to try to get as many labels rolling into West Virginia as I possibly can.”
He hopes that many more of the special Stone brews will be coming into WV this winter. Label approvals have been or will be submitted to the WVABCA, he says. One label approval requested is for Stone’s imperial fall seasonal release, Xocoveza, which is an imperial stout inspired by Mexican hot chocolate.
Coleman says six Stone flagships are here year-round. Those include:
- Stone IPA,
- Ripper Pale Ale,
- Delicious IPA,
- Arrogant Bastard Ale,
- Tangerine Express, and
- Go To Session IPA.
Stone calls Ruination Double IPA a year-round release also, but we have not seen it here yet, although we are told to expect it by late this year. Coleman says the state should get all the standard Stone seasonals, such as the Mocha IPA and the Ghost Hammer IPA, both summer seasonals, that came in for the launch. To my knowledge, though, we haven’t seen the fall seasonal Vengeful Spirit IPA, which came out in September.
Coleman was less exact when asked about the arrival of the Enjoy By series or specialty stuff like Dr. Frankenstone’s IPA. I don’t think he is stonewalling; I’m guessing, he just doesn’t know yet. For some reason, West Virginia did not get Enjoy By 10.31.17 even though the launch occurred well before that date. Hopefully, we will see Enjoy By 12.24.17, which will be released nationally in November.
Weathered Ground Brewery
Focus on beer – Anthony Meadow of Weathered Ground Brewery said the brewery is still in the position of just trying to get its name out around the region. They’ve also been busy brewing lots of beer.
Meador says owner/head brewer Sam Fonda wanted his Haggard IPA to be more in the New England IPA style, so he changed up yeast strains and modified the hopping a bit. The result is a juicy, milky beer with loads of orange juice character and tropical fruit burst. With most of the hopping being the dry-hopped kind, the beer is very low on bitterness and very big on fruit.
At the festival they premiered their Burley Barleywine, a light-colored, but quite malty, hoppy and smooth American-style barleywine. It weighs in at 9.5% ABV.
“It’s an amazingly smooth drinking barleywine,” Meador said. “We’re very happy with it.”
Focus on distribution – “We just this week got some distribution in the Princeton-Bluefield area,” Meador said. “We’re just tying to reach out a little farther.”
He said they have a tap takeover upcoming at Texas Roadhouse in Princeton.
The brewery recently hired Bobby Bowling as sales manager. He handles all the outside sales to bars and retailers. Bowling said so far he’s found the going pretty easy. He has had success in selling Weathered Ground to accounts in the area that aren’t what you’d normally call craft accounts. They give his beer a try because it’s locally made. They keep it on tap because it’s selling well.
“Kimono’s is a good example. It’s a Japanese steak house in Beckley that carries a couple of craft labels, but not the kind of place you’d think of going to for craft beer.”
He said Weathered Ground products move “pretty quickly” there.
Changes at the DZ – The crew from Dobra Zupas explained a lot of changes that have taken place at their brewery over the past several months following the departure of their former brewer, Steve Redden. John Lester, the restaurant’s chef, is now also heading the brewing operations.
Lester has led a transition as he and the brewing team developed many new recipes. They have pretty much completely changed their beer lineup. 304 Amber and Lunar Eclipse Stout are new flagships that will be offered all year-round. Other new beers like the Total Eclipse IPA and Rammer Jammer Session IPA have been popular at their bar. Lester plans to keep four or five taps devoted to Dobra Zupas beer and use the rest of his 11 taps for guest brews. He said to expect many rotating seasonals and specialty beers to be mixed in with the flagships.
Upcoming seasonals – “Coming up in the next two weeks we’ve got a Smoked Dunkelweizen,” Lester said. “I think the Dunkelweizen will be a good fall beer. Nice, rich, dark wheat, with a little bit of oak smoke to it.”
Lester said this winter to look for a Belgian Quadruple Ale that they are developing. “We’re going to try to make a beer for the wine lovers, and see how close to that palate we can match the Malbec, since Malbecs and Quads kind of have a similar profile.”
Mountain State Beverage
The Power of WV beer – Dakota Farmer, craft beer ambassador for Mountain State Beverage who works out of the Beckley office, caught our attention with his observation on the power of West Virginia brewed craft beer in his market.
“It’s huge,” he said. “West Virginia beer dominates almost 4 to 1 the on-premise craft beer market in the southern part of the state.
“In southern West Virginia, where craft beer is not so big, you have people who are a lot more willing to try something that’s local.”
So, we see how selling WV-made craft has become a way to break into accounts and eventually sell more of your book. That’s very important to a distributor such as Mountain State that doesn’t represent big beer and depends on selling craft in tough craft markets.
Greenbrier Valley Brewing