The Allegheny Mountains and river country of north central West Virginia is arguably the state’s best local beer region. What better way for a beer lover to spend a spring or summer weekend than visiting it. Throughout Monongalia, Preston and Marion counties you’ll also find plenty of outdoor recreation and other activity options to pair with your brewery visits. So start planning your tour.
Six small artisan breweries and one brewery taproom are conveniently grouped together within a one-and-a-half to two-hour drive from Wheeling. Emerging from the COVID malaise, these breweries are now open for business in a manner that allows both indoor and outdoor seating options. And they all sell their packaged beer for takeout too. Those with continuing indoor dining restrictions expect to resume more normal operations by May, if not sooner.
Start in the University City
Begin your visit in Morgantown, which may actually be the state’s best venue to experience local beer. Two excellent small breweries, and a taproom room for another West Virgina brewery, make the town a WV beer mecca. Add to that one of the state’s premier craft beer bars (Apothecary Ale House) and a highly-rated, beer-focused restaurant (Iron Horse Tavern), and you’ll discover it’s a great place to base your weekend forays into WV beer country.
With a heritage dating back to 1992, Morgantown Brewing is the state’s oldest brewery location currently in production. Its owners, Cody Cheesebrough and Chris DeFazio, have pretty much totally revamped the beer menu in the three years they have owned it. The place now features the most contemporary and often exotic set of brews that you will find anywhere in the state. It’s not your father’s Morgantown Brewing anymore. Their edgy new beer styles are all aimed at expanding the beer market and palate, attracting new and younger adult customers to the venerable establishment. Fans of traditional beer styles need not fret, though. The brewery also features a solid line of familiar brews such as Kölsch, Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, and more.
Their full-service restaurant provides plenty of dining options led by burgers, tacos, and salads. Their spacious back porch/deck seating area on the riverside gives you lots of fresh-air space for drinking and dining.
Chestnut Brew Works founder Bill Rittenour brings a PhD in fungal biology to the brewhouse, so you can expect real fermentation science to rule the brewing here. Located in the South Park neighborhood about four blocks out of downtown, the brewery’s cozy taproom may fill quickly on weekends, but also offers to-go beer options, including 16-oz. cans and 32-oz. crowlers of whatever is on tap. Their Halleck Pale Ale has been the leading craft beer in Morgantown bars and restaurants for nearly a decade. Rittenour also scores very well with his IPAs, Wheat Ales, Sours, and Porter. For now, the taproom is open for carryout orders only, but they plan to reopen for inside drinking by mid-to-late April.
This brewery taproom and restaurant is part of the network bearing the Mountain State Brewing name. It features beers from the Thomas, WV-based brewery. As a well-established WV brewery, Mountain State’s beer names should be familiar to many craft beer fans. These brews are always a super-good pairing with the specialty pizza baked in the taproom’s wood-fired oven, which is the centerpiece of this restaurant. If you are not dining, you can always sit in their friendly bar area and get a flight or pint of Mountain State brews. Canned six packs are available for takeout.
Food Service: wood-fired pizza and gourmet flatbreads
Seating: Indoor and Outdoor
Beers To Try:
Almost Heaven Amber Ale
Miner’s Daughter Stout
Cold Trail Blonde Ale
Climb Up to Preston County
Due west of Morgantown on I-68, the high Allegheny Mountains rise up and provide a beautiful backdrop for daytime travel. You are heading for two Preston County breweries, each with a different, distinct style and charm. Both are located near the Maryland border.
On a rural mountainside at Cuzzart, WV, you’ll find one of the most unique beer-related experiences West Virginia has to offer. What Roger Johnson and his family have developed at Screech Owl Brewing is a pure delight for area visitors and beer lovers alike. The family-friendly location specializes in familiar beer styles such as Blonde Ale, American IPA, Wheat Beer, and Brown Ale, and all are solid examples of their styles. Pretty much everything should also be available in cans, so you can take some home with you too. Their Spent Grain Cafe is something you do not want to miss when it reopens from its COVID pause. The cafe features its own barbecued meats, hamburgers, and other comfort food that all go great with the handcrafted brews. A large outdoor seating and play area is next to the building. But wait, there’s more. This is the only restaurant in the state where you can get breads made from the spent grain left over from the brewing process — and they are delicious. Don’t leave without a takeout order of their tasty Pepperoni Rolls.
The newest location on this six-stop tour, High Ground Brewing is a family-owned brewery with beers that are rapidly catching on across the state. Beyond distributing his beer to other areas, brewery founder and head brewer Dallas Wolfe has put together a real tourist anchor in the tiny mountain town of Terra Alta. Their outdoor beer garden is one of the best at any West Virginia brewery.
While food service is limited and often augmented by food trucks, the beer service is what you come here for. Things like variants of Valley Furnace Imperial Stout and their Tartshake and Milkshake IPAs ring up high ratings among craft beer fans. The brewers also show their expertise in more common beer styles, such as Kölsch, English Ale, American and Hazy IPAs, and Baltic Porter.
Food Service: light snacks, food trucks
Seating: Indoor and Outdoor
Beers To Try:
Druid Fluid New England IPA
Coal Train Baltic Porter
Weird Handshakes Milkshake IPA
Hit the Fairmont Area
As a former heavy industrial area that is transitioning to high-tech industries, the Fairmont region now has two craft breweries supporting its advancement. You don’t want to miss either of them.
Located just outside Fairmont in Rivesville, Short Story Brewing has quickly jumped up to the top echelon of WV breweries in beer ratings. Operated by the team of Aaron Rote and Mike and Abby Kopischke, it has developed a superior reputation for making modern IPAs, especially the low-bitterness, hazy kind. It’s also arguably the best lager brewery in the state. Their kitchen prepares small plates and entrees that are full of flavor. Ask your bartender to suggest a flight for you so you’ll get a good feel for their brewing expertise.
In the downtown area of Fairmont sits The Rambling Root brewpub. Proprietor D.J. Cassell has a very popular bar and eatery going here. Of most interest to craft beer fans will be the house-made, small batch specialty beers that regularly occur on the beer menu. You’ll also find carefully selected beers from other top WV breweries. The food menu features popular bar fare led by sandwiches, soups, salads, and a kid’s menu too. There’s usually a daily special. Rambling Root has two levels for indoor seating and offers outdoor seating too.
Food Service: full menu
Seating: Indoor and Outdoor
Beers To Try:
Specialty and seasonal. Since all beer is made in tiny batches the menu changes often!
Since some of the brewery locations are a bit remote, always check their social media or website to confirm days/hours of operation before driving out to their location.
Buying a flight of four or five beers is a smart way to get a quick feel for the range of flavors a brewery puts into its lineup. Each glass in a flight is typically a 4-oz. Serving.
Be aware that masks and social distancing will likely be required indoors at all breweries. Touring a brewery’s production side is a fun addition to a visit, but brewery tour opportunities may be limited or unavailable due to continuing COVID-related restrictions. Call ahead to check.
When visiting local breweries by vehicle, remember to do so responsibly. Consider having a designated driver so the rest of your party can enjoy a few brews.