Last Saturday’s Cabin Fever Craft Beer Fest in Morgantown was not a festival dominated by large national or regional craft beer breweries. In fact, they were non-existent. How impressive it was that over 1,500 people came out to support an event solely focused on West Virginia’s local breweries. That’s a testament to the maturing West Virginia beer scene.
- Recruited more WV breweries to participate (including two of the best new breweries) with more beer than last year;
- Added two WV cideries;
- Added more food vendors, which was much-needed and much appreciated;
- Offered a much larger local vendor aisle with great crafts & packaged foods;
- Added a People’s Choice brewery award;
- Added a Brewer’s Evening event on Friday night;
- Added tables for the promotion of other WV beer festivals;
- Added an after-event Festival Volunteer party;
- Added more local non-profit organization information tables; and
- Secured hotel room discounts for festival goers.
West Virginia beer draws large crowd
The north central West Virginia beer public responded to all these festival enhancements by turning out in larger numbers than last year. Pre-festival ticket sales ran about double the previous year. It was an enthusiastic, well-behaved bunch of beer drinkers and a bevy of happy West Virginia brewers.
Sampling around the room, you couldn’t help but be impressed with the overall quality of these beers. Some of them are excellent. West Virginia brewers are honing their craft and it shows in the product.
Lots of moving parts to a festival
You might think Year 2 of Cabin Fever Fest would have been easier to organize than the first year, but Szczyrbak says that wasn’t the case.
“This year was actually harder,” she said. “It was harder than the first year because things grew so much.”
The larger-sized event with more moving parts required her to bring in more help, including a volunteer director. To add all the new parts, she completely reorganized the floor layout of the community center to gain more floor space and filled it in with nearly twice as many vendors.
For a festival of its size, there is not one that works harder to include broader parts of its community than does Cabin Fever Fest. A nice touch was including more non-beer small business tables. Each business was vetted to make sure that it was compatible with the vibe that the festival director desired to create. This year’s fest financially supported several local non-profits who supplied festival volunteers and set up information tables.
One non-profit, the West Virginia Land Trust, was a lead sponsor of the festival and provided the festival’s bottled water. The Land Trust was actively promoting its clean water initiative, an initiative that is so important to brewers, since water makes up over 90% of the ingredients in beer.
“We were really excited because the Land Trust partnered with Screech Owl Brewing to do their Muddy Creek Ale, which they launched at the festival today,” Szczyrbak said.
In part, due to the popularity of Muddy Creek Ale and the Land Trust partnership, festival attendees voted Screech Owl Brewery the People’s Choice Award. Screech Owl Brewing proprietor Roger Johnson thanked all the “craft beer lovers, servers, and everyone that patiently stood in our long lines to sample our beers and to vote for us.”
Boosted by the big turnout and happy faces, Szczyrbak says you can expect another Cabin Fever Fest next year. This year’s only drawbacks were some pretty long beer lines during mid-afternoon when attendance peaked and that the festival folks kept referring to cideries as “breweries.” It may be a pet peeve, but cideries are not breweries. Cideries are wineries. It’s great to have them included, but get it right.
Beer highlights of Cabin Fever Craft Beer Fest
Here are some of the people, beers, and ciders we found at the festival and enjoyed.
Tim Powell says try his Ashcat Amber. “It’s a beautiful amber. It’s mildly sweet. Finishes dry with an easy hop finish. People are into it. It scores really well. It’s a beer I plan to keep on producing and put out through the state.”
Brew Keepers, Wheeling
Kevin Ayres say try his Honey Creme Hefe Blonde. “It’s four beers all combined into one. It goes into the mixed style category. It’s kind of a hefeweizen, cream ale, blonde ale, and a pale ale hybrid. It drinks really great.” And drink great it does. This beer took First Place Award in the Lagers, Ales & Pils category at the festival beer competition.
Big Timber Brewing, Elkins
Sam Mauzy says try his Jalapeño Pale Ale. “It’s our regular pale ale with fresh jalapeños in it. It turns out really nice, with nice balance. It’s got a little bit of heat to it but not enough to burn your tongue out.”
Morgan Stemple says try her Country Roads Session IPA. “It’s a new beer and it’s the first time we’ve brought it to a festival. It’s 5.4% ABV, easy-drinking and features Lemon Drop, Azacca, and Simcoe hops. It’s available at the brewpub. We’re seeing if it catches on, ,and we’ll decide if we’ll make more of it.”
Short Story Brewing, Rivesville
Aaron Rote say try his Lamplight Czech-style Pilsner. “It’s nice and light and also kind of spicy. Because it’s dry hopped, so you still get a little bit of that hop to it. We really like it. We’re going to make more. It has floral notes with a crisp, slightly bitter finish.”
Weathered Ground Brewery
Anthony Meador says try his Crow’s Caw Double Black IPA. “It started as a pilot batch I made and was so well received we decided to do it on the production system. It’s a mildly roasty, smooth-as-can-be black double IPA. It’s got a little bit of Centennial hop at boil for bittering. It’s got Equinox, Amarillo, Wakatu, and Jarrylo hops for late additions and dry hopping.”
Pubstomper Brewing, Morgantown
Cody Cheesebrough and Chris DeFazio say try their Beam Sword Double IPA. “It’s another big IPA with a lot of tropical hops, similar to what we did with Hoody Weather, which means loads of dry hops but no bittering hops.”
Bridge Brew Works, Fayetteville
Ken Linch says try his Mountain Mamma Pale Ale. “Our pale ale really sits in-between a pale ale and a session IPA. It’s been really popular recently. It’s clear to slightly hazy from hops, light gold, with a white head. The aroma is citrus and flowery notes. The flavor is citrus and spicy hops with mild malt.” 5.8% AVB.
Greenbrier Valley Brewing, Maxwelton
Dave Barron says try his Devil Anse IPA. “It’s one of our hot sellers. Even newer craft beer drinkers are trying it, and it’s growing on them. It’s got Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Galaxy hops. The Citra comes out more in the dry hopping.” 6.9% ABV
Stumptown Ales, Davis
Jeff Melnick says try his Multiple Hopgasm Imperial IPA. Our new beer is a New England style, hazy beer hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe. We use the 1318 London Ale yeast and about 20 pounds of hops in a 300 gallon batch; ten late addition in the boil and ten in the dry hop. It’s double dry-hopped, once while it’s still fermenting and again during conditioning.”
Chestnut Brew Works, Morgantown
The brewery says try our Sleep of Reason Stout. It’s a beautiful seasonal strong stout brewed with organic cacao nibs, rye, oats, and a touch of smoked malt. 7.6% ABV.
Chestnut Brew Works took home two first places in the festival beer competition. Pretty impressive.
Sophisticated Hound Brewing, Princeton
Matt Barnett says try his Tail Chaser Golden Ale. “It’s an American style Golden Ale, an everyday beer. It’s 4.3% alcohol with a little fruit aroma. You can drink a lot of it. We use our pilsner malt and hops to get a smooth taste.”
Parkersburg Brewing Company
Dan Curtis says try his Cell Block 304 Brown Ale. “We tweaked this beer recently based on the feedback we received from the Great American Beer Festival competition last fall. It’s a unique American Brown Ale that overtly breaks the laws for the style. American malts are combined with British malts, British bittering hops and orange blossom honey to produce this dark malty 5.6% ABV beer.”
Screech Owl Brewing, Cuzzart
Roger Johnson says try his Muddy Creek Ale. “It’s made with four different hops. It’s dry hopped, but it’s not really an IPA and it’s not a Blonde nor a Pale Ale. It’s in-between. Hybrid style, 6.2 ABV. Light orange in color. If you put a lime in it, you’ve got a redneck Corona.”
Berkeley Springs Brewing
The brewery says try our Stonewall IPA. It’s the perfect blend of Centennial, Cascade and lots of Lemon Drop hops with a nice malt backbone.
Berkeley Springs Brewing is moving to a new location at the Coolfont Resort. Watch for their grand re-opening.
Hawk Knob Cidery, Lewisburg
Will Lewis says try his Wild Fermented Traditional Cider. “The unique thing about tis cider is that it is very similar to how they were making cider in the 1700 and 1800s. It goes directly into a bourbon barrel and it ferments completely with wild yeast. It ages on that wild yeast for eight months, undergoes some malolactic fermentation, and really develops a creamy structured, well-developed cider.”
Swilled Dog Cidery, Franklin
Mike Gallaher says try his Caramel Apple Cider. “It’s our semi-sweet cider and our biggest seller. We use a little bit of caramel flavoring and a little brown sugar to give it that caramel apple taste.” 6.0% ABV.
Swilled Dog recently released its Caramel Apple and Walk the Dog ciders in 12 oz. cans.
Festival Beer Competition Winners
Cabin Fever conducted its own beer competition and named winners in six categories, plus an overall Best of Show beer. The beers were judged by a panel that included experienced beer judges. Additionally, festival attendees voted a People’s Choice brewery.
The winners were:
Pale Ales & IPAs: 1st Place – Halleck Pale Ale, Chestnut Brew Works. Runner Up – Devil Anse IPA, Greenbrier Valley Brewing
Stouts: 1st Place – Sleep of Reason Stout, Chestnut Brew Works
Porters, Browns & Ambers: 1st Place – Peregrin Porter, Bridge Brew Works
European-style Beers: 1st Place – Zona’s Revenge Wit Beer, Greenbrier Valley
Lagers, Ales, & Pils: 1st Place – Honey Creme Hefe Blonde, Brew Keepers
Specialty Beers: 1st Place – Bourbon Barrel Burley Barleywine, Weathered Ground
Best of Show: Ready, Steady, Go! Pale Ale, Short Story Brewing
People’s Choice Award: Screech Owl Brewing
it was great to see other beer festivals there promoting their upcoming events.
Mountaineer Brew Fest gets ready for its 5th year on the downtown Wheeling waterfront. Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 18, 2018. Festival organizer Jeff Hayes says it will again feature West Virginia breweries with a big beer garden and live entertainment all day. Look for lots of food vendors and fun on the banks of the Ohio.
Hops on the Mon. Festival organizer Grace Hutchens says, following up on their successful first year, a second festival is planned for October 2018 in Morgantown. The location is not yet set, but she promises it will be a centrally located, downtown venue. She says expect an even more robust beer selection. She plans to offer “the best of the best,” from over 60 breweries and over 100 beers. The festival will again have a food theme (last year was Grilled Cheese). Expect the exact date and location be announced within the next few months.
Cabin Fever Craft Beer Fest Website Link
Click on photo to enlarge it.