Festivals, Special Events Highlight First-Ever West Virginia Craft Beer Week
Craft beer lovers in West Virginia have had plenty to get excited about as of late. From new breweries to new legislation, a lot has been happening for the industry in the state.
West Virginia also just wrapped up its first ever craft beer week. Highlighted by festivals, tastings, tap takeovers and other special events, the 8-day celebration comes just months after a new law went into effect that helps propel the industry forward.
Governor Tomblin noted that craft beer was "one of the fastest-growing niche markets in the state" when he declared August 15 - 22 West Virginia Craft Beer Week.
Such an impact was certainly evident last Saturday, as thousands of beer lovers found their way to Wheeling’s Mountaineer Brewfest and Huntington’s Rails & Ales Festival. Offering more than 150 beers from across the country, the Rails & Ales Festival spotlighted larger breweries from across the country but also gave West Virginia beer makers a chance to shine.
With Dorba Zupas of Beckley serving as newcomer on the scene, brewmaster Steve Redden said the Rails & Ales Festival was a bit of a coming out party for the brewery.
“We’re just debuting our beer out here. This is the first time anyone’s been able to drink it, even myself. We just kegged it this week. What came out of this tap that you’re looking at is exactly the first time I’ve tried it, too," said Redden standing behind his taps at the festival.
"I’ve brewed it before—home brew—but this is the first time we’ve been able to large scale brew it because we just had our ABCA license pushed through a few weeks ago.”
Not Just for the Brewers: Other Businesses Spotlight Local Beers
Although West Virginia Craft Beer Week was certainly a boon for brewers and brewpubs at the festivals held around the state, restaurants and bars also took part in the celebration. Highlighting West Virginia brewers by hosting tap takeovers and tastings, locally-owned spots had their own chance to cash in on the burgeoning industry.
More Breweries, More Expansion
West Virginia’s craft brewery count has nearly tripled in recent years, up from six in 2010 to 14 today. Just this year, Dobra Zupas, Berkeley Springs Brewing and Stumptown Ales from Davis have come on line.
But it’s not just the number of breweries that are growing. Existing companies are being forced to expand operations to keep up with an increase in demand.
Mountain State Brewing Company started off with a seven barrel brew house ten years ago and eventually had to increase operations. Owner Brian Arnett said things have gotten so busy the company is expanding once again, with construction underway that will triple the size of their facility in Thomas in Tucker County.
“Now we have 30 barrel fermenters which we double up and then fill 60-barrel bright tanks. We brew around the clock. Current production, since we stated canning, has doubled since May. This is August and we’re holding the trend. We have orders for twice as many cans as we can produce," explained Arnett.
A West Virginia-Focused Finish
With so much excitement in the air over the boom of the industry, Mountain State hosted the Brew Skies Festival this weekend at Timberline Four Seasons Resort, in essence capping off the state’s first ever celebration of craft beer.
Chestnut Brew Works owner and brewmaster Bill Rittenour said the festival’s West Virginia focus is the driving force behind its success.
“I think most people that come up to the stand have had Chestnut, but some haven’t. So, you get to promote the brand a little bit. But, I think what it’s more about is promoting the state in general—whether it’s beer or music or whatever. I just think it’s great,” said Rittenour.
The state Division of Tourism has increasingly pushed to highlight West Virginia Craft beer, hoping to position West Virginia in a similar fashion as other craft beer hotspots like Colorado and North Carolina.