They put a major investment in a hilltop field in Cool Ridge and pretty much instantly became the brewing capital of southern West Virginia. Weathered Ground Brewery’s beautiful new building and grounds sparked a type of excitement rarely seen in our state. Beer fans and local residents flocked to their taproom as soon as doors opened last August. They haven’t stopped.
Soon, the demand for Weathered Ground brew was also strong at beer retailers. Within about three months of opening, the brewery hired an outside beer sales representative to sell and deliver beer across southern WV, including Charleston and Huntington. Also about three months after opening, as demand for their beer was beginning to outpace their ability to produce it, they ordered additional fermentation tanks that will triple their capacity.
You may wonder how they got so popular so fast. The answer is simple: They make excellent beer.
And it’s not just one or two beer styles at which they excel. It’s their more traditional beers such as a pale lager, a dry Irish stout, and a rye pale ale. It’s their more extreme brews such as a big juicy double IPA, a farmhouse ale flavored with local ingredients, a sour beer aged in wine barrels, a breakfast stout, and a bourbon barrel aged barleywine. Each of these is a beer that could easily compete for top honors within its style category among West Virginia breweries. That’s not to say there is no room for improvement, but it is saying Weathered Ground’s hits are much greater than its misses.
When you make good beer, people notice
Already considered among the best breweries in the region by local beer fans, Weathered Ground’s strong 3.86 out of 5 overall rating on Untappd seems to bear that out. Only two other West Virginia breweries (Chestnut Brew Works and Stumptown) reach or exceed that score.
Jeff McKay, proprietor of Huntington’s premier beer outlet Summit Beer Station, counts himself as among those impressed with Weathered Ground.
“I’m excited to see somebody in-state that, right out of the gate, understands the game, who understands where craft beer is headed and what it takes to survive in 2017 going into 2018.”
McKay was happy to see beers like a full-on New England-style IPA and a bourbon-barrel-aged barleywine coming out of Weathered Ground’s stable.
“The more major out-of-state breweries we get in this state, the more we need a West Virginia brewery to just get it. You can’t get it done by doing just a safe line-up of beer anymore. You do need to pay attention to some of these trends in beer.”
Weathered Ground’s family
You couldn’t find a nicer, more capable couple than Sam and Aryn Fonda, Weathered Ground’s owner-managers. Sam leads the brewing operations and Aryn oversees the taproom and takes care of overall business management. While raising their young daughter Willa and with one more child on the way (due next month), it isn’t easy balancing parenting responsibilities with opening and operating a busy brewery and taproom business. They have needed help, and they found it locally, for example in the hiring of taproom manager Matt Word and in assistant brewer Anthony Meador. Brewery employment is now up to 5 full-time and 4 part-time employees. That is a significant economic boost to rural southern Raleigh County. And it will only grow.
An accessible location helps
Weathered Ground’s location near the Ghent exit of I-77 makes it very accessible for north-south travelers to drop by. Count among those visitors the brewing crew from Triple C Brewing Company in Charlotte, which is Sam’s former employer. Together they brewed a unique two-state collaboration beer called Citrus Paradise. This Grapefruit IPA was just tapped last week at the brewery. Made with all North Carolina sourced malt, the hazy beer features Simcoe and Citra hops with grapefruit-infused brewer’s candi syrup and grapefruit peel added. This beer is a perfect example of the creativity that elevates Weathered Ground among its peers.
West Virginia’s New Brewery of the Year
For these reasons and more, Weathered Ground Brewery is named Brilliant Stream’s Best New Brewery 2017.
Before closing, we must give a shout out to our two other finalists for the title: Abolitionist Ale Works in Charles Town and Short Story Brewing in Rivesville. Both of these new breweries excel in so many ways and are certainly ones you want to visit and support. West Virginia’s breweries are advancing by leaps and bounds, and it’s great to see these new ones up among the leaders.