Craft Beers in the Southern Mountains

The craft beer industry has taken the nation by storm and it’s no different in southern West Virginia, where breweries have increased over the last five years. With two new breweries opening their doors since Bridge Brew Works opened in 2010, there are now more local choices than ever— just in time for those vacation adventures.

Bridge Brew Works

A mainstay in the craft beer circles of southern West Virginia, Bridge Brew Works is going strong churning out delicious brews for craft beer fans to enjoy.

Since the beginning of 2010 (and now proudly serving beers in their 8th year of production), Bridge Brew Works is all about fine tuning and tapping the best brews they possibly can. Some, like their Belgian style Dubbel and Tripel brews, have received national recognition from the Brewer’s Advocate national magazine which led to their work being sampled at the magazine’s beer festival in Boston.

It’s been a gentle rise to the top of the southern West Virginia brewery scene for Bridge Brew Works, with humble beginnings during a nationwide recession and hops shortage.

“When we started up in January 2010, there was one other brewery and four brewpubs in the state,” said Ken Linch, co-owner of Bridge Brew Works.

Staying open despite such obstacles makes Bridge Brew’s success that much more relevant. And not only are they still open and operating, they are growing.

“Over the years, we have increased our fermentation capacity by 300 percent and our building space has nearly doubled,” Linch said. “Just over a year ago, we brought on a third person to help with the non-stop work. Adam, co-owner Nathan Herrold’s brother, came over from the Cincinnati, Ohio area where he brewed for 5-6 years.”

He has watched as much smaller breweries across the nation blast off to selling nationally and internationally. While that’s an admirable accomplishment for a small brewery, Linch feels like not having that kind of immediate stardom makes their brews more special.

Now, with the growth of the outdoor tourism industry in southern West Virginia, Bridge Brew Works feels like they are perfectly placed for more success.

“We are fortunate to be in a great area of the state and hope to be a continuing part of the regrowth and stabilization of West Virginia as a whole and southern West Virginia in particular,” Linch said.

Bridge Brews’ owners foresee the brewery becoming a destination place for outdoor adventurers from all over.

“In addition to all the whitewater rafting, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and surfing, fishing, rock face climbing, zip lining and hiking, the New River Gorge area is on the verge of being the best place to mountain bike on the east coast. So we will work towards that,” Linch said.

As for the Summer, Bridge Brew Works is set to release their Kolsch style brew named Crux, and more barrels of their famed brews, Mountain Momma Pale Ale and Long Point Lager.

And if you’re not in Fayetteville, you can catch some of their brews at festivals around the state, like the Rails and Ales in Huntington in August and Bridge Jam in Fayetteville the weekend of Bridge Day in October. West Virginia Applebee’s restaurants will also feature Bridge Brew’s Mountain Momma from July 10 through September 1.

Dobra Zupas

The “craft beer, craft food” restaurant that doubles as a brewery was one of the first in the Beckley, West Virginia area.

“We had an interest in craft beer and wanted to make our own,” said Jon Lester, Dobra Zupas’ executive chef and brewer. “So we began working in the old carriage house out back from the restaurant.”

What began as a small sandwich shop eventually evolved into the operation it is today, a restaurant operating out of house built in the 1900s with an adjoining brewery.

Lester says Dobra Zupas is doing great dealing with the challenges of being a small brewery.

“We self-distribute locally to places like Charleston and all over West Virginia,” he said.

Currently, Dobra Zupas is not bottling any of their creations. But you can find their brews at local venues across southern West Virginia and Mountain State brew festivals.

“There’s always more for us to play with when it comes to brewing,” Lester said. “We’re only supplying in kegs at the moment, and customers can come by and fill their growlers, too. We have a limited space to work with.”

Brewing aside, the restaurant side of the business continues to go smoothly with new creations coming out of the kitchen.

“We use 90 percent fresh ingredients,” Lester said. “We cook from scratch, which people from the area appreciate.”

One of the restaurant’s bestsellers is the black-and bleu-filet with a port wine reduction, Lester said. He also suggested pairing that with Dobra’s flagship brew, the Hopped Up IPA. A plate of fiery hot wings also goes well with the flavorful ale.

“Heavier foods pair better with hoppier brews,” Lester stated. “A heavier brew, like a stout, pairs better with a dessert.”

He added that any customer who decides on Dobras as a eating destination should not leave without trying the beertini dessert: an ice-cream float with vanilla bean stout brew. A divine treat to be sure!

Greenbrier Valley Brewing

Combining good storytelling with even better brews led two passionate beer connoisseurs to create a business venture. The result: another successful craft brewery in southern West Virginia.

“We were the seventh brewery to open in the state,” said Lisa Stansell, Greenbrier Valley Brewing marketing director.

Owners Wil Laska and David Kucera have made Greenbrier Valley Brewing the topic of conversations with their “Legend” brews: Wild Trail Pale Ale, featuring Bigfoot; Devil Anse IPA, after Devil Anse Hatfield of the legendary Hatfields and McCoys feud; and the infamous Mothman Black IPA, starring, well, you-know-who. And don’t forget their newest brew, Zona’s Revenge, a delicious witbier ale. Zona’s Revenge references The Greenbrier Ghost, Zona Heaster Shue. It’s the only time a ghost’s testimony has been used in a jury trial.

Greenbrier Valley Brewing was among the first in the state to can beer in 44 years, when they put their Devil Anse in a can in January 2015. Stansell has attributed some of their success to the canning of some of their flagship brews.

“Cans are great for the hiker or outdoor enthusiast because they are lightweight and easy to transport outdoors,” Stansell said.

That’s not to mention that by making beer transportable, the brewery fulfills its very mission: “Get out, explore, bring beer.”

Expansion for Greenbrier Valley Brewing is on the horizon, thanks to its popular can art and delicious brews.

“We plan to expand our brewing capacity [with] more fermenters and centrifuges, brite tanks,” Stansell said. “We’re going to be making beer 24/7.”

While the brewery looks to grow and make their delectable brews more accessible, they are also working on helping others. To date, Greenbrier Valley has set up fundraisers for the Greenbrier Humane Society and the Mountain Music Trail.

“Supporting the community is very important for this brewery,” Stansell said. “We are very hyper local, supporting issues like clean water initiatives and other issues that directly impact our community and the brewery.”

The brewery has numerous events lined up for the summer months, including American Craft Beer week and West Virginia Day celebrations. Check out their Facebook page for events far and wide from the brewery’s doors.

More craft brews

While three southern West Virginia staples grow and anchor the industry in the region, other existing and new businesses are helping encourage the craft brew industry.

Weathered Ground Brewery Just opened up shop in Cool Ridge, WV on August 5, 2017. The new brewery is located on 30 acres on a beautiful setting in southern West Virginia.

The brewery is operated by co-owners Sam and Aryn Fonda, plus Aryn’s father, Tony Kelly. Aryn, a native West Virginian and her husband, from New Brunswick, Canada, decided to take steps to realize one of their dreams: operating and owning their own craft brewery.

“While trying to come up with a name for the brewery, we started to think about our journey,” Aryn said.

From the places they lived, to dear friends, the ups and downs of life, these experiences all played a factor in naming the brewery, Weathered Ground Brewery.

Aryn stated that the brewery will mostly focus on farmhouse-style beers that will incorporate local agriculture, whether it grows from their own garden or local farms. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t find pilsners, IPAs, stouts and other styles in their taps.

From the established breweries to those new in the neighborhood, there’s more than one place to say “cheers” in southern West Virginia!