Short Story Brewing and Weathered Ground Brewery will release their first collaboration beer this week. This Road Traveled Saison will make its debut at Short Story’s taproom in Rivesville on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 3:00 P.M., followed by its tapping at Weathered Ground at 4:00 P.M.
They call it the first collaboration beer between two commercial breweries in West Virginia. As far as anyone knows, it is the first collaboration here where two breweries joined to brew the same beer on separate brew days, one at each brewery. First, Weathered Ground’s Sam Fonda and Anthony Meador traveled to Short Story to participate in brewing the initial batch. Then, Short Story’s Aaron Rote and Mike Kopischke traveled to Weathered Ground to help brew the beer there.
Similar folks with similar goals
Back in early autumn, the owners of the two breweries got to know each other during a tap takeover at the Rambling Root in Fairmont. They pretty quickly recognized their similarities. Both are family-owned and include some owners who moved back to West Virginia from other states to raise their families here. They both had their official grand opening events on the same day last summer. Both make excellent beer. Suffice it to say, they hit it off.
“We’d been following Weathered Ground’s progress for a while and finally got to meet them at their tap takeover at the Rambling Root,” said Rote. “We became pretty fast friends, and it seemed clear that Mike and Sam shared a lot of the same values when it came to brewing.”
Through some back and forth text messages, they started exploring a collaboration brew. They discussed what kind of ingredients they had on hand and what kind of beer style made the most sense to brew. The result of the discussions led to the decision to brew a dry-hopped saison.
Rote says the idea of brewing a saison was a good one for a couple of reasons. Short Story is more known for its hop driven beer, such as Forward IPA and Ready, Steady, Go! Pale Ale. They had never brewed a saison.
“We were ready to add a beer with a Belgian influence to our tap list, and Sam had some experience with the syle already. A dry-hopped Saison just seemed like a good showcase of both breweries, and I think it was a good learning experience for everyone involved by seeing another brewer’s process and getting out of our respective comfort zones.”
Fonda agreed, and added a reason of his own.
“It’s my favorite kind of beer,” he said. “I always want to have more saisons on tap.”
Collaborations take extra effort
Getting together at two locations for a collaboration is a challenge for breweries to pull off because they not only have to have the time and the ingredients, but they must also have tank space available.
“It’s kind of difficult to brew a collaboration when you are a smaller brewery, like both of us are, because tank space is precious,” Fonda said. “You have to time it so you have an empty fermenter.”
In early October, the two breweries got their respective brew days scheduled and held them later in the month.
Things went very well during the brew day at Short Story and Fonda found the Short Story folks super hospitable.
“They have an awesome brewery and taproom,” he said.
Of his experience brewing with Kopischke, Fonda said, “He’s very knowledgable, doing everything right. Short Story is a really good brewery, definitely making good beer.”
Kopischke says he sees the collaboration as an ideal environment for learning new tricks or how to accomplish a particular task more efficiently. While basic brewing principles apply to all brewers, each brewer does things a little bit differently to accomplish the same goal.
“Brewing with Sam and Anthony from Weathered Ground was a great experience,” Kopischke said. “I felt like we were on the same page the entire time, from recipe formulation to the naming of the beer.”
When the Short Story folks came down to brew at Weathered Ground, they had a little more time for fun.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Fonda. “They actually stayed with us overnight in our camper. We drank lots of beer and played late night Uno.”
Kopische described it this way:
“The most enjoyable part of a collaboration is after the brew day is done. When it’s time to break bread, swap stories, and share a few pints.”
Who says brew days are all work.
A true collaboration
For both batches, Short Story provided all the hops and Weathered Ground provided all the yeast. The hops included Citra and Huell Melon. The yeast was Weathered Ground’s house saison yeast. The value of the traded ingredients came out about even.
“It’s as true to a collaboration as you can have in brewing,” Fonda remarked.
Rote noted that when he tastes This Road Traveled, he can taste “the things that I love about our beer and the things that I love about Weathered Grounds’ beer, so I’d say it was a successful collaboration. This felt like a great way to celebrate both breweries’ progress in a short amount of time and to maybe inspire more collaborations between breweries new and old.”
Fonda said he feels that when you do a collaboration, it’s not only because you’re friends with someone or you have a good beer idea, a lot of times you can learn from each other. During this collaboration, the guys say lots of questions were asked from both direction, and a lot of information was shared.
“Being open about it and not keeping too many secrets is good for everybody,” Fonda said.
That is possibly the most significant thing about the collaboration process: It helps both breweries get better at what they do.
What’s in a name
Short Story took the lead in coming up the beer’s name. With both breweries being located along U.S. Rt. 19 and the two breweries traveling back and forth to brew, the inspiration for the name This Road Traveled becomes clear.
This Road Traveled is a dry-hopped saison. For the grist, in addition to base malt, it contains a fair amount of flaked oats and specialty rye malt. The saison was lightly dry-hopped with Huell Melon and a touch of Citra. It comes in at 6% A.B.V.
Short Story Brewing
5904 Fairmont Road, (U.S. Route 19)
Rivesville, West Virginia
Beer release: Thursday, Nov. 30 from 3 to 9 P.M.
Weathered Ground Brewery
2027 Flat Top Road (U.S. Route 19)
Cool Ridge, West Virginia
Beer release: Thursday, Nov. 30 from 4 P.M. to closing