Cheers! Get into the beer scene

Cheers! Get into the beer scene

Dip your toe into the art of craft brewing.

Pale ales and stouts are a pretty big deal in Southern West Virginia. Find out how this ancient beverage is made and where you can try it for yourself.

A behind-the-scenes look

Like anything that’s readily available, it’s easy to take beer for granted. But by the time that weizenbock pours into your glass, you’re only getting part of the story.

It all starts with grain. Malted barley is the most common, although rye and wheat are popular, too. Regardless, these complex carbohydrates are the essence of every beer. Each one imparts body, flavor, and aroma to the drink.

Brewers then take the dried grain (barley, in this example) and mash it in hot water. Natural sugar develops as enzymes disintegrate, creating a sweet amber liquid called wort. Hops come next. These resiny green flowers give beer that bitter tang, while acting as a preservative. You can also add spices at this stage.

After wort gets filtered, it’s time for fermentation. Before brewers pour everything into the distinctive silvery tanks, though, they add yeast. These microorganisms consume sugar and produce CO2 and alcohol. Without them, beer wouldn’t have lift or pep.

At this point, the brew needs to age. Different yeast strains determine the waiting period. Ale, for example, needs to sit for several weeks at lukewarm temperatures. Lagers require longer and colder fermentation time.

Carbonation is the last step. Yeast does much of this naturally, but beer needs more of a kick before it hits the shelves. To that end, brewers add fizz artificially. You can also try “bottle-conditioned” brews, which don’t have any forced carbonation. It’s an ancient method known for its silky textures and deep flavors.

That’s brewing in a nutshell! If you’d like to learn even more, take a look at these Southern West Virginia activities and breweries:

West Virginia Craft Brew Festival

Get ready to enjoy this brand-new beer extravaganza! On April 29, the state’s foremost brewers will showcase their creations at the West Virginia Brew Festival. What’s more, you can get pro tips during workshops. Learn all about home brewing, food pairings, and more, then listen to bluegrass music from the likes of Larry Keel and Tyler Childers.

Talk to the pros

Southern West Virginia’s breweries put a whole new spin on beer. Check ‘em out and get inspired! Who knows, maybe you’ll be the region’s next brewer.

Dobra Zupas

This Beckley restaurant may be casual, but its entrees are classy and vibrant. Sriracha-rubbed rib eye steak, chicken cacciatore, homemade hummus, and artisan sandwiches are just some of the specialties.

Of course, there’s also craft beer. The Dobra Zupas brewery is new, but it has surprising scope and depth. Try its potent “Java Jive” oatmeal stout, hoppy pale ales, and malty wheat beers, among others. The restaurant also serves local and imported cider, porter, and pilsners.

Bridge Brew Works

This 3-person operation is a cherished Fayetteville institution. The owners do everything from brewing and capping to welcoming customers and making restaurant shipments.

Hang out in their new tasting room, which  is open from Tuesday to Thursday, 1-5 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 1-6 p.m. It’s your opportunity to get growler fills and tastings!

Speaking of which, Bridge Brew Works has IPAs, lagers, and porters. Most are inspired by the New River Gorge’s dynamic rapids and climbing spots. Expect bold flavors!

Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co.

This former factory makes beer named after West Virginia characters. Using European grains, Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co. produces quality pale ales, stouts, porters, and more.

Another highlight is the taproom; it’s the only place you can try Greenbrier Valley’s small-batch brews. The doors open on Fridays from 4-9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-9 p.m. The first Saturday of the month is a treat, too. Music starts at 6 p.m. and there are snacks and games for the whole family.

You can also take craft brew tours for $8 a pop. Get an insider’s look into the industry and get samples, too! Before heading out, though, call and make an appointment.

Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company

There’s plenty to like about Princeton’s newest brewery. First, it’s got a great logo: a posh greyhound, clad in a bowler hat and wearing a monocle.

Second, owner Matthew Barnett knows his craft. Sophisticated Hound may be young, but it  was the first to empty its kegs at Pipestem Spa and Event Center’s 2016 Oktoberfest.

What made folks racing back for more? There’s 1863 Pale Ale, citrusy and crisp, and Racer 8— a tribute to Barnett’s retired greyhound, Denouncer. The latter is an American barley stout with a rich, caramelly finish.

Sophisticated Hound is a  small “nano brewery” operation, so it doesn’t have a taproom. Instead, contact the brewery on Facebook to arrange growler fills.

What’s your favorite Southern West Virginia brew?