Beer vats in a brewery

West Virginia has hit its craft beer stride. As this issue goes to press, four new breweries are recently open or preparing to open across the state. We asked the owners to share some inside observations about what it takes to get the fermentation going.

Originally published in West Virginia Focus magazine

1. Realism

Everyone will tell you: If you’re interested in starting a microbrewery, you’ll need to approach it very systematically—by doing as much research and talking to as many people with brewery experience possible, building a solid business plan with milestones, building a core group of supporters who will laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry, having 50 percent more money than you think you’ll need, and developing a list of reasons why you shouldn’t start a brewery. If you’re still interested after all this, then you can move on. — Wil Laska, Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company

2. Paperwork

I’ve had to do lots of paperwork and learn my way around the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and West Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control Administration. — Chad Hill, Wheeling Brewing Company

3. More paperwork

There’s a LOT of it. — Bill Rittenour, Chestnut Brew Works

4. Passion for brewing

It’s a good thing I have a passion for what I do, because if I spent this much time working on something I didn’t care for, I’d be a miserable person. — Rittenour, CBW

5. Money

Our biggest problem was getting financing, so if that is something you need, then plan on spending a long time gathering that first and adjust your expectations accordingly. — Matt Kwasniewski, Big Timber Brewing Company

6. People love beer

I’m not really sure if it’s a small business thing, or if people would really like to see a new small local brewery, but I can’t tell you how many offers I’ve had to help move stuff, paint, remodel, etc., from both individuals and other small business owners in Morgantown. It has been really refreshing. — Rittenour, CBW

7. Patience

Brewing has a lot of red tape, and your business will be at the mercy of others. Have patience and treat others with respect. At the end of the day be able to relax and enjoy a beer, and think about something other than what you had to do to make it. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure your head will explode. — Kwasniewski, BTB

8. Camaraderie

The craft brewing world is extremely non-competitive, at least in West Virginia and at least on the surface. I’ve made friends with pretty much every single other brewer in the state, and we all enjoy drinking each others’ beers. They’ve been very open and helpful when I’ve had questions about opening the new brewery. The guys at Big Timber even invited me down to show me how they did things and answered all of my questions. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues as more craft breweries open in the state. — Rittenour, CBW

9. More patience

It’s taken us almost two years of hard planning, work, and just plain sweat to get to where we are today: a production brewery with real customers. — Laska, GVB

10. Reward

Running a business and building relationships with other small businesses is rewarding work. — Hill, WBC


Tap These


BTB: Big Timber Brewing Company

Matt Kwasniewski, co-owner, head brewer

  • On tap across the state
  • Tap room open Wednesday through Sunday at 1210 South Davis Avenue in Elkins
  • Blonde, Pale Ale, ForestFest Oktoberfest, IPA, Porter, Wild Wonderful West Virginia Wet Hop Ale, Bourbon Barrel Porter; Winter Ale
  • Plans to begin canning in 2015

CBW: Chestnut Brew Works

Bill Rittenour, founder, head brewer

  • Brewery and taproom coming soon at 444 Brockway Avenue in Morgantown
  • On tap across the state: Halleck Pale Ale, Wits Virginia, South Park Porter, specialty styles

GVB: Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company

Wil Laska, co-owner

  • Production brewery in Maxwelton
  • On tap across the state: Mothman Black IPA, Wild Trail Pale Ale
  • Plans to begin canning in November 2014, possible taproom 2015

WBC: Wheeling Brewing Company

Chad Hill, CEO

  • Brewpub opening in November at 2247 Market Street, Wheeling
  • McColloch’s Wheat, Moon Dog IPA, Nail City Porter, Old Reymann Amber Ale, Panhandle Pale Ale
  • Plans for a brick oven menu

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