Back in the summer of 2015, I wrote the headline “Stumptown Ales hopkicks West Virginia beer scene” for an article about the start-up of Stumptown Ales in Davis. I quoted owner-brewer Jonathan Robeson saying, “We’re hop-centric.” Little did I know then just how wonderful would be the hoppy experience that lie ahead.
Jon and Cindy Robeson’s hop-centric beers were an immediate hit. They dared to be different and folks just couldn’t get enough. The only problem was their popularity caused constant beer shortages.
No brewery I can remember in West Virginia has created the consistent buzz that Stumptown has. Craft-centric bars want their beer. Growler shops want their beer. Beer geeks and hop-heads want their beer. A steady stream of folks converge on their taproom. Today, Stumptown is usually the first WV brewery folks mention when talking IPAs. More than any other brewery, they helped put WV on the map for America’s most popular beer style.
From homebrew to über-brew
While many of Stumptown Ale’s flagship beer recipes were developed by Jon Robeson on his homebrew set-up prior to opening the brewery, he has probably changed each of them several times since. With the help of able assistant brewer Jeff Melnick, they have continuously tweaked their recipes, making incremental improvements to their beer line-up. And it pays off in great flavors.
Robeson’s frequent consultations with John Lawson, of Lawson’s Finest Liquids, have helped Stumptown produce brews that capture the most beautiful hop aromas and flavors without excessive bitterness. Their IPAs have good balance and drinkability. They excel in the use of Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic hops. No other West Virginia brewery has done as much with these hops.
Stumptown’s Holy Citra! Double IPA has become the flag bearer for WV in the craft beer olympics. Big Boy Pants Imperial IPA is another charmer, delivering drinkability in an 11% wrapper. With its introduction, 6 Legged Frog upped the ante on the uber-dry-hopped New England style IPAs in the state.
No one trick pony
But trust me, Stumptown is no one trick pony. In fact, about their highest rated beer on Untappd is the Over the Tip Top Breakfast Stout, brewed with cocoa nibs from Ghana, baker’s chocolate, and coffee from Tip Top Coffee Shop in nearby Thomas. Many think this is WV’s best stout to date.
Start small, grow large
They started small on a tiny, half-barrel brewing system. Within six months of opening they were installing a 2.5-barrel system and adding 5-barrel fermenters. Then, less than a year later, they moved up again, purchasing a sweet 10-barrel brewhouse and several 10-barrel fermentation tanks. The place began to look like a real brewery.
Starting this year, with the new 10-barrel system pumping out 20 barrels a week of hoppy IPAs and succulent stouts, Stumptown could now afford to add a serious self-distribution operation. They loaded up on new beer kegs, bought a delivery van and put a sales rep on the road. Soon, their beers became more available across north central West Virginia and even to Charleston and other regions. Not letting the grass grow under their feet, they added two more 10-barrel fermenters this October.
Today, their beer is regularly available in more than 10 accounts in the Morgantown area, 8 or so more in the Charleston market, plus 8 others in Tucker County. With each expansion in brewing capacity, business at the in-house taproom also grew by leaps and bound. They would love to be in more accounts, but they cannot make enough beer to supply them at present.
Strike while the iron is hot
Today, Stumptown is on the cusp of another major move up — one that will elevate the craft beer scene in Davis to heights unimaginable only a few years ago. The Robesons just announced initial plans for a new brewery project — one that will give them a bigger brewing space and some outdoor seating overlooking the beautiful Blackwater River. To have achieved this kind of momentum in less than two and a half years of operation is no small feat.
Stumptown taproom always hopping
Visiting Stumptown’s cozy taproom is always a pleasant experience. To accompany the IPAs, you never know what limited edition nugget you might find — like maybe a chaga stout or a tart/sour brew. For those not so keen on hops, there is always a good Blonde Ale on tap.
Cindy Robeson keeps things hopping there, and business has grown dramatically. The taproom, which was originally open only 3 or 4 days a week, has now expanded its operation to being open 6 or 7 days a week. It’s always busy. You’ll find a small but tasty food menu and, often, a food truck on weekends. Folks line up for pints and growler fills, and Cindy says they soon plan to add a Crowler machine too.
Sure, the place can get crowded, but patrons don’t seem to mind. John Yevuta, WV columnist for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, made the following observation on visiting Stumptown’s taproom: “Anytime I’m in a place that has the pleasant hum of voices, I know I’m in the right place. Add an outstanding beer selection—I brought 3 growlers home— and it’s as close to heaven as I’m likely to get.”
Stumptown Ales is WV Brewery of the Year
So let’s get to the point; 2017 is the year Stumptown Ales truly grew into its big boy pants and firmly planted its stake at the pinnacle of West Virginia beer. That’s why Stumptown Ales is Brilliant Stream’s West Virginia Brewery of the Year.
Congratulations to Jon and Cindy Robeson for their vision, hard work, strong character, and good taste that have taken this little brewery to the top in 2017.
And with the new brewery project ahead, it sounds like 2018 will be bigger still. We also hope 2018 sees Stumptown get more active on social media and toot its own horn a little more. Hopefully, that will include a current tap list for beers available in their friendly taproom and more participation in festivals and beer events in other parts of the state.
More good things
List of Stumptown beers rated 4.0 or higher on Untappd
- Holy Moses Double IPA
- Over the Tip Top Breakfast Stout
- Mrs. Hippie Session IPA
- Big Boy Pants Imperial IPA
- Holy Citra! Double IPA
- 6 Legged Frog IPA
- Over the Tip Top Chaga Stout
- Cranky Conifer Pale Ale
And there are at least six more Stumptown brews rated a solid 3.8 or higher. Stumptown’s overall 3.91 brewery score on Untappd is currently the highest among West Virginia breweries.
Adding to our love for Stumptown Ales is its strong brewing-community spirit. The Robesons are active in the West Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, with Cindy currently serving as vice-president. A good example of their spirit is evidenced in this August 17 post on their Facebook page:
“Also, for those that are visiting our beautiful area of Davis/Thomas/Canaan, remember there are also two other great breweries just down the street from us, Mountain State Brewing Co. and Blackwater Brewing Company….be sure to give them a try! 3 breweries within 2 miles. Enough said.”
390 William Avenue