Brilliant Stream picked up a bunch of West Virginia brewery news at last Saturday’s Rails & Ales Festival. Here are some of the highlights.
Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company
Dave Kucera, cofounder of Greenbrier valley Brewing Company, liked the double festival sessions and loved seeing all the new West Virginia breweries at the festival this year. “It’s a great community and it keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
His Zona’s Revenge Wit has done a great job for the brewery since it was added as a flagship brand this spring, Zona is basically a less-bitter version of their former seasonal Lilly Dipper Wit (12 IBUs vs. 20 IBUs). It’s their first flagship that reaches into the non-hoppy-beer zone.
Down the road, their next flagship release will likely be a dry stout, but that will have to wait until two 90 barrel fermenters are added to their tank farm. That addition will double their production capacity. Kucera thinks they will have the financing in place soon to get those tanks ordered.
With all their flagships selling well in WV and in the Roanoke area of Old Virginia, Greenbrier Valley is experiencing a production crunch. For some time the brewery has known it needs to add more fermentation and brite tanks to alleviate the bottleneck. “We’re really having trouble keeping the market filled with beer,” Kucera said.
Bridge Brew Works
Adam Herrold returned to the festival for his second year and noticed even more excitement for the beer.
“We’ve had a really good response,” said Bridge Brew’s newest brewer. “Everybody seems to enjoy our beer and all the efforts we do to make great beer.”
At the Bridge Brew tent, people were drinking a lot of Crux Kolsch-style Ale and Long Point Lager, but the Barrel-aged Dun Glen Dubbel was drawing the most interest from beer geeks.
“We have a lot of really exciting things coming out in our barrel aging program,” Herrold said.
Coming up in the next months is the Bourbon-Barrel Peregrine Porter aged in Smooth Ambler barrels, a Gose aged in a Tequila barrel, and a new Belgian Pale Ale,
Berkeley Springs Brewing Company
Berkeley Springs Brewing Company co-owner/brewer Karl Wagenbrenner made his first trip to Rails & Ales and liked what he saw in the Huntington market. He is considering adding southern WV distribution for his line.
To Rails & Ales he brought some of the brewery favorites like Cacapon Kolsch, Old Oak Stout, and Stonewall IPA.
Among upcoming releases to watch for, “The Apple Butter Ale is coming back,” Wagenbrenner said. This year he will make about 9 barrels of the limited-release beer. It’s an amber ale with spices and pure Morgan County apple juice from Glasscoock Orchard added. It’s taste is reminiscent of old-fashioned homemade apple butter. Drink it at cool room temperature to get the best flavor.
Wagenbrenner had previously reported to Brilliant Stream on his plans to develop a new larger brewery and taproom location in Berkeley Springs. He is still working actively on that.
Pubstomper Brewing Company
Chris DeFazio, Pubstomper co-founder, spent his first time at Rails & Ales introducing his beers to folks in the Huntington region. He said things at the Morgantown-based brewery are progressing.
“We’ve moved to a new model of doing only one-off beers,” he said. “We’ll brew beers one time, and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.”
At Rails & Ales the brewery was sampling its final batch of El Dorado IPA and introducing the first one-off Spray OnTan, a spiced white IPA with Centennial hops, coriander, and sweet Valencia orange peel. “It’s sort of like a Blue Moon meets Bell’s Two Hearted,” DeFazio said with a chuckle.
Coming up next, DeFazio said to look for Honey Weather, which is a double IPA brewed with oatmeal and wheat grains and Citra and El Dorado hops. It should be out in September.
Wheeling Brewing Company
Jimmy Schulte, co-founder of Wheeling Brewing, said he loved the festival atmosphere and the city of Huntington itself.
“We just started distribution in this area earlier this summer,” he said. “We’re with distributor Mountain State Beverage down here.”
The brewery has added some new fermentation space giving them the capacity to expand their distribution.
Rails & Ales attendees lined up for Wheeling’s McCulloch’s Wheat, Nail City Porter, and Old Reymann’s Amber.
“We are brewing non-stop,” Schulte said. ‘We’ll have an Oktoberfest Lager, a couple of new Brown Ales, and we’re going to do a couple of specialty dark beers — a Porter and a Milk Stout coming up for the fall.
Schulte and Brian Main handle the brewing at Wheeling.
Mountain State Brewing Company
As marketing director for the brewery, Stephen Dilettosso is entering a period of greatly increased activity. After going through several years where the brewery only had the capacity to brew its four flagship beers, things are now changing following last year’s big expansion,
Mountain State is introducing two brand new beers named for natural areas in the state, areas near where Dilettosso and brewery co-founder Brian Arnett grew up and used to hike.
“We have a new lager called Otter Creek Lager,” he said. “It’s only 4.2% ABV, so it’s meant to be a nice, easy drinking summer beer.”
He is also introducing Devil’s Gulch Pale Ale, which he called a traditional pale ale. It’s made with an experimental hop, Idaho #9, which Dilettosso and Arnett discovered at the Craft Brewer’s Conference two years ago.
He said be on the lookout for the return of a couple of seasonals they have made in the past. Those include Rumsey Rock Porter and Dolly Suds Cranberry Wheat. It’s great to see Mountain State Brewing in the position to expand their offerings.
Big Timber Brewing Company
Attending their fourth Rails & Ales, Sam Mauzy, Big Timber Brewing’s co-founder, brought 11 beers and a water tap.
“We’ve had this trailer for three years now and we try to fill it up,” he said.
Those taps were very busy all day and night pouring things like Double Bit IPA, Logger Lager, and a luscious Nitro Porter. While they brought a lot of year-round brands to the festival, Mauzy said the brewery always has something new coming out.
“Forest Fest just came out,” he said. “It’s our fall seasonal, kind of our Oktoberfest.”
He also said that West Virginia Wet Hop Ale was just brewed last week and should be out very soon. Wet Hop is brewed with 200 pounds of fresh Cascade hop cones from Spring Water Farms in Fairview, WV. That’s in Marion County. Big Timber is making about 2,000 gallons of Wet Hop this year. That should definitely last well into the fall, but this is a beer that you want to seek out when it is very fresh to get the best flavor.
Mauzy said construction of their new brewery is progressing, though a bit slower than originally projected. Still, we should see the new facility in Elkins opened before the end of the year. The completion of the new brewery will allow Big Timber to immediately increase their production and give them room to grow over the coming years.
Mauzy, who is also president of the WV Craft Brewers Guild, said the guild is meeting September 22 in Morgantown prior to the Hops on the Mon festival. Over a dozen of the state’s 26 breweries have already joined the guild and about 10 more have committed to join. Brilliant Stream readers know how important this trade association is to the future of craft brewing in WV. At its last meeting, the guild agreed to offer enthusiast and associate memberships. Hopefully, at the September meeting, details of these new membership categories will be announced.
North End Tavern & Brewery
Chip Roedersheimer has attended Rails & Ales for four years in a row and observed that this year’s crowd might have been the most enthusiastic. He credits the festival for helping create an interest in his brewery’s beer in the Huntington market. Now everybody there knows Roedy’s Red, but Chip wants to get exposure for their other brews.
“We switched it this year up and brought the Blackberry Wheat, the West Virginia Wheat and the one-off 1-Way Pale Ale,” he said.
Roedersheimer said their fall releases will include a lot of barrel-aged stuff, including some sours. Roedersheimer and head brewer Chris Hopkins attended the Great American Beer Festival last year and were impressed by the range of tart and sour beers. He said they seemed to be taking over from the IPAs that have ruled the craft beer world for the past decade.
“We’ve got a Scotch Ale Sour that I just tapped on Friday,” he said. “Sours are where it’s at.”
Another of those barrel-aged specialties coming up is a Chocolate Stout that has been sitting in a barrel since last year. That beer will be released around Christmastime.
While Tim Powell wasn’t entertaining the crowd blowing soap bubbles, he was talking beer. He says he had a solid festival and was seeing lots of people eager to learn about Brewstel and its brews. Some folks came back more than once.
“We’ve had many repeat offenders today, as it were,” Powell said.
Maybe it was the Cum Laude Wild Ale or the Mum’s Blonde Ale that kept them coming back. Both were nice and light for a hot afternoon.
A VIP selection at the festival, Powell says the Double Secret Probation Imperial IPA is being released at the brewery taproom this week. It’s an almost 9% ABV brew with 120 IBUs that Powell kept very citrusy and melon-flavored.
At the brewery in Elkins, you can always find their Ashcat Amber, which they try to keep on tap at all times. Powell says the Amber made up 48% of his total production in his first year.
Parkersburg Brewing Company
Amber Cain, sales manager for Parkersburg Brewing Company, said the brewery is coming up on its one year anniversary in a few weeks, and they have had a good first year. Beer sales have been strong as they opened up the major markets across West Virginia with their core brands.
The line for samples showed their Bushwa Berliner Weisse and Hip Hef Wheat Beer were popular ways to beat the heat Saturday afternoon.
Beyond their flagships, Cain said they regularly brew specialties and one-offs.
“We have a Study in Scarlet, a cherry wood smoked vanilla porter served from a cask in the brewery,” she said. “We also do some small batches for the taproom-only. Right now we have a Cucumber Wheat. It’s light and refreshing with a 3.8 ABV.
Cain said they are going to be working on an Oktoberfest Bier shortly. Another reason to get over to their taproom: They have been featuring a jazz band the last Friday of every month that packs the house. She expects that to continue through the fall.
Stumptown Ales brewer Jeff Melnick said it was his and the brewery’s first time at the festival and he was blown away by how many people are here. And most of them seemed impressed with Stumptown beer.
“People love it, he gushed. “We had our Big Boy Pants Triple IPA on for the VIP session and people were really loving that stuff.”
During the evening session, he put the Porter? I Barely Knew Her on tap and said it was flying out too.
At its Davis, WV, taproom and for the distribution market, the brewery seems to be selling things out just about as fast as they make them.
New batches of Six-Legged Frog New England-style IPA and Sassy Mojo Double IPA should hit the taproom and distribution over the next two next weeks. These are big-hopped beers that are best consumed at their freshest.
“There’s nothing at the brewery that’s really over five weeks old,” he said. “I mean that’s not very old in beer life. With our powerful, hop-forward IPAs, the fresher the better.”
Beyond hoppy beer, the brewery does produce a few other styles. Melnick said another batch of their Who Tarted Berliner Weisse will be ready next week.
Morgantown Brewing Company
Morgan Stemple, marketing manager for Morgantown Brewing Company, brought a brand new batch of their Two Weeks Lager, which made its first festival appearance.
“It’s pretty light,”she said. “It’s easy drinking. I love it for this time of year.”
At the festival, it seems folks are always curious about the Jesco’s White IPA. The Brookside Farmhouse Ale was also drinking nicely.
Their Oktoberfest is in the fermenter right now and almost done. Speaking of Oktoberfest, Morgantown Brewing is known for its super Oktoberfest celebration at the brewery. It’s coming up this year on September 30-31.
Other beers to look this fall for are the Kettle Bottom Brown and the Pumpkin Brown Ale.
Bad Shepherd Beer Company
Ross Williams, Bad Shepherd’s head brewer, thinks Huntington is a hop town.
“This is definitely a beer lovers town,” he said. “If you’re a fan of beer, I’m a fan of you.”
For those hop lovers he brought his Chemtrailing Juicy IPA and The Loud IPA. For farmhouse ale lovers, he brought the nicely brewed Petite Rye Saison.
Bad Shepherd has released over 50 different beers since the brewery started up last December, but Williams says it’s really not that many. As is popular today, many of the releases are the same beer presented different ways. Maybe a base beer with a different fruit or a different hop.
“I enjoy seeing what a beer can be through these different lenses,” he said.
Coming up, things to look for are two new versions of The Loud IPA. He’s doing an El Dorado single-hop version and a lactose-added version that will have higher IBUs.
Blackwater Brewing Company
It was also owner/brewer Lincoln Wilkins’s first trip to Rails & Ales. And while he doesn’t sell a lot of beer in the Huntington market he was happy to be among the large gatheringd of beer lovers.
“My goal today is just to represent West Virginia craft brewing,” he said.
He brought his best sellers to the festival including his excellent 3200 Altbier and the popular Angus Macker Hardy County Sweet Oatmeal Stout, which he calls a nice big barrel-chested oatmeal stout.
Upcoming, Wilkins says he has “a peach version of my Indigenous IPA coming out real soon.”
He says he’s been bringing in some new equipment and making a few modification to the brewery. He’s using this time to also make “a few modifications to some of my beers as well.”
Abolitionist Ale Works
While it was brewer Mike Vance’s first time here representing Abolitionist Ale Works, it wasn’t his first Rails & Ales Festival.
“I’ve always loved this Huntington festival and all they do for craft beer,” he said. “For me, this the one festival I want to come to every year.”
There had been a lot of anticipation about Abolitionist’s appearance at the festival, and Abolitionist didn’t disappoint.
The range of farmhouse ales and barrel-aged tart beers they brought stood out. Of all the in-state and out-of-state breweries there, Abolitionist ales were the hardest to define or categorize into standard style slots. Mike Vance’s best beers are most often small-batch, rustic amalgams of styles, uniquely culinary, and marching to a different drum.
Even his signature Abolitionist Ale is an uncommon deep mix of flavors, driven by dark amber malt and a saison yeast fermentation, then aged for three months in a red wine barrel with Brettanomyces yeast. The barrel aging gives it a funky, light acidity with notes of dark cherry. Complex, yet easy drinking.
At the festival, other good examples of Vance’s diverse interests were the Shenandoah Saison with Strawberry & Lavender, Old Man Brown (a bourbon-barrel aged old ale conditioned on buckwheat honey) and Pale the Funky (a wine-barrel aged brett saison). Coming up soon at the brewery taproom are his Abolitionist Ale aged on Tart Cherries (fruit from Orr’s Orchard in Berkeley County) and his recently bottled Gin and Juice (a farmhouse ale aged in a gin barrel from a Maryland distillery). Another upcoming brew that immediately catches your ear is the Gin & Juice – West Virginia Remix, which is a base saison with added Brett C yeast rested on fresh peaches and honey inside the gin barrel that the original Gin & Juice came out of. Vance will also be soon releasing a few barrels of his West Funkin’ Virginia stuff.
Weathered Ground Brewery
Sam Fonda just opened his showcase farmhouse brewery exactly one week before Rails & Ales, making this an especially busy time for him and his crew. While around 1,,200 folks turned out for the brewery grand opening in Cool Ridge, Huntington folks were just getting their first taste of Weathered Ground beer at Rails & Ales.
People were eager to try the three beers he brought, which included the Barn Kritter Saison, Haggard IPA, and R.K. Double IPA.
Getting enough beer brewed and matured is still the main challenge for the new brewery, but it sounds like some very interesting beers are upcoming.
Released at the taproom this week is the very citrusy Tallahatchie IPA and coming soon to the taproom and to distribution is a light, Berliner-Weisse-styled sour with Brettanomyces yeast added.
For something truly unique, Fonda says he has a farmhouse ale in the fermenter that was brewed with added fresh-cut hay off their property and radishes from their garden.
“I don’t know of anybody else that uses radishes in their beer, so I’m pretty proud of this,” he said.
We don’t know of others in the state who are brewing with hay either. Keep up the creativity Sam.
Chestnut Brew Works
Brewer Josh Taylor took time away from the busy Morgantown brewery to bring his beer down to Huntington and enjoy the camaraderie with his fellow West Virginia brewers.
He made sure the Huntington crowd got to enjoy the tasty Halleck Pale Ale and Class II Wheatwater Ale.
While Chestnut Brew Works’ production schedule is pretty much tied up just brewing its popular line of flagships, it still finds time to brew some fun stuff like the Big E’s Small SMaSh. That is a single malt (Golden Promise), single hop (Amarillo) IPA with great drinkability.
Taylor said this fall look for a malty ale brewed a big dose of added apple juice. That could be fun.
Other Brewery and Beverage News
COUNTRY BOY BREWING – Formerly one of the state’s best distributor reps for craft beer, Josh Holland now covers the entire state of WV for Country Boy Brewing. His immediate goal is to better establish their brands in areas outside Huntington, such as Charleston, Beckley, Fayetteville, Morgantown, and Lewisburg.
He wants to get the new can packages they recently introduced well-represented in the market. Those are Cliff Jumper IPA and Halfway Home Pale Ale. Beyond those popular flagships, Holland says a bunch more canned packages are coming.
“We just got a shipment of seasonal cans,” he said. “We’re going to be doing Nacho Bait, Nate’s Coffee Stout, Key Lime Cougar Bait, and more, in cans.”
As a hint of upcoming releases, Holland is working on getting WV label approvals for Jalapeño Smoked Porter and six sours.
With the new Georgetown, Kentucky brewery on-line, Country Boy has quadruple the capacity to make beer. They are looking to West Virginia for a big part of their growth.
He also reported that the brewery is considering introducing its cider line to West Virginia — a move made easier since their distributor for much of the state, Mountain State Beverage, has both beer and wine divisions.
HARD CIDER – Two West Virginia cideries attended the festival for the first time. They both had lines all day showing the strong interest these businesses are creating.
Hawk Knob Hard Ciders
Moving into its fourth season now, Hawk Knob has branched out into the Washington D.C. market and will soon add several \North Carolina markets including Asheville. They are also also looking at South Carolina distribution.
Cidery cofounder Josh Bennett says, “We’ve got big plans and big goals for the future.” They pressed 60 tons of apples from last year’s harvest and expect that will increase this fall. The guys source the bulk of their apples from Morgan Orchard in Monroe County.
They continue to expand their Headwaters series, which focuses on small-batch special releases. Hitting the market this week is a Tart Cherry Hard Cider, which was barrel-aged for three months. Coming very soon is Ambrosia, which is their base cider aged in Smooth Ambler gin barrels with Palo Santo wood chips added in the barrel. The combination gives it a tropical, piña colada-esque flavor. It should retail around $15.00.
“You better get it while you can,” says Bennett. “It won’t be around long.”
Swilled Dog Hard Cider
Jill Gallaher is a co-owner and ciderist or this eastern WV cidery, which just launched in February.
“This festival is amazing,” she said. “We’re very privileged to be here.” She said it was amazing just to see all the craft beers and ciders that West Virginia has to offer.
Swilled Dog Hard Cider brought their three flagships, but the one causing the buzz on Saturday was their summer seasonal Island Vibes.
“It’s a pineapple cider,” Gallaher says. “We take our fresh pressed apple juice and mix it with our pineapple puree. It’s really refreshing especially in the summertime.”
People seemed to love the combination of pineapple and apple cider in Island Vibes, with its flavor tilted a bit toward the pineapple side. Overall it was not nearly so sweet as the pineapple cider from Ace.
Gallaher describes her style of cider making as more on the dry traditional cider side. She says their apples are West Virginia-sourced, primarily from Shanholtz and Spring Valley orchards near Romney.
“We’re not overly sweet,” she explained. “We like to take our time with our fermentation process. We like to choose a nice mix between a good cider apple and a good sweet-tart applesauce as a Granny Smith.”
Mountain State Beverage handles distribution for the cidery across West Virginia.
STONE BREWING COMPANY – Todd Moore of Mountain State Beverage gave a update on Stone Brewing Company, a brewery that was supposed to be at the festival but couldn’t get their state license issued in time.
“We’re hoping that Stone gets in soon,” he said. “It keeps getting pushed back and pushed back, whatever the reason may be. But it should here in the near future.”
STONE’s WV REPRESENTATIVE – Moore talked about Stone Brewing having already hired a new state rep for WV as sign that it’s very serious about selling beer in the state. Stone hired Morgantown resident Jason Coleman as its West Virginia sales representative. Coleman was, until recently, a part of Morgantown’s super craft beer retailer The Apothecary Ale House, along with his wife Grace Hutchens. Hutchens will now have to run the business without him since a beer supplier rep cannot be part of a beer retailer due the state’s three-tier law.
HOW ABOUT MORE WV HIRES – Brilliant Stream applauds Stone for its commitment to hiring a West Virginia marketing representative who is based here in the state. As far as we know, many larger craft breweries, including Sierra Nevada, Bell’s, Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Oskar Blues, and others, have assigned the WV territory to reps who live in other states and major metro markets. We rarely see them here in WV doing promotions. How about hiring more West Virginians or at least placing your rep in West Virginia like New Belgium Brewing did.
BEER DISTRIBUTORS THANKED – Area beer distributors definitely go all out for Rails & Ales. In addition to Mountain State Beverage, it was great to see the folks from Atomic Distributing, Capitol Beverage Company, North Central Distributors, and Spriggs Distributing Company all bringing their brands, supplying equipment, and helping with set up and tear down. They perform so much of the work behind the scenes that goes unnoticed, Their support for local craft beer festivals is truly appreciated.
MORGANTOWN BEER FESTS – Speaking of Grace Hutchens, I thought it was interesting that she was in Huntington taking in the festival and so was Kristina Szczyrbak. They both head beer festivals in Morgantown. Szczyrbak does the Cabin Fever Craft Beer Fest in February and Hutchens is organizing the inaugural Hops on the Mon festival this September 23.