When it comes to beverages and West Virginia, your mind might turn more toward moonshine than wine or beer, but the north central part of the Mountain State has its share of wineries and craft breweries.
As a college town, you would expect Morgantown to be into the beer scene and you’d be right. Three local brewers satisfy the thirst for suds.
Chestnut Brew Works started as a small beer brewery in the woods of southern Monongalia County, about 10 miles south of Morgantown, in 2013. When demand exceeded supply, the company expanded operations and added a taproom in the historic South Park area of Morgantown.
Founder Bill Rittenour studied and loved the forests around Morgantown and named the company after the chestnut. In much the same way that small-town local beer breweries were severely crippled by Prohibition, the American chestnut was severely crippled by a fungal disease in the last century. Both the American chestnut and craft beer are experiencing resurgences, however, thanks to the dedication of creative scientists and creative brewers such as Rittenour.
Chestnut Brew Works practices green policies, donating its spent grain to local farms for feed and handcrafting its tap handles out of salvaged wood. The tap room is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Morgantown Brewing Company is a brewpub that offers a dining and micro-brewery experience by commemorating the days of old in recognition of the pioneering settlers, coal miners, steel workers, and others who shaped the city of Morgantown. The brewpub showcases that special history. The pub is open daily.
Mountain State Brewing Company is one of the oldest West Virginia brewers. In addition to the Morgantown pub location, there is a brew house in Thomas, W.Va., that offers brewery tours, and another pub location at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.
There’s wine, too
Forks of Cheat Winery produces a wide variety of prize winning wines from French hybrid and American varietal grapes that grow on 16 acres of fertile mountain hillsides overlooking the white waters of the Cheat River. For more than 20 years, the winery has grown to produce more than 20,000 gallons of fine wines annually. Red, white, fruit, and some specialty wines are available.
The whole thing started when Jerry Deal was caught stealing a neighbor’s grapes to eat. A chastised Deal planted his own grapes, produced more than he could eat, and turned to winemaking.
Lewis County, to the south, is best known for history as the birthplace of Stonewall Jackson and home of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (now a tourist attraction), the West Virginia Museum of American Glass, and Appalachian Glass, which still produces handmade glass products. But Weston, in Lewis County, also is home to Lambert’s Winery, established in 1992.
The winery was built with hand-cut stones gathered from various parts of West Virginia, some weighing as much as 3,000 pounds. A comfortably furnished tasting room includes a 3-inch-thick bar top, cut in the 1950s in Canada. A fireplace is surrounded by three rocking chairs, creating an ideal place to enjoy a glass on a cold winter day. You can buy the West Virginia pottery that is displayed.
Lambert’s offers a selection of red, white, and blush wines.
Lewis Co. Tourism: stonewallcountry.com
Morgantown Tourism: tourmorgantown.com