Story and photos by Alaina Hower
Something delicious is brewing in an unassuming tan warehouse right outside the town of Lewisburg, West Virginia. Beer! Collectively, people really like beer. I adore beer and drink it on a regular basis, responsibly of course. One of my new favorite beers is the Mothman Black IPA, made by Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company.
This new addition to our community and state is seemingly brand new, with sales beginning just over a year ago. I’ve visited the brewery on many occasions for all kinds of reasons ranging from wanting a fresh beer and a less crowded dartboard to most recently a great harvest feast was held inside its walls. This was the first time I’ve been toured around and looked at all the working parts. This time I had the opportunity to shadow its maker, Brewmaster Brian Reymiller, whose creative genius and 18 + years of experience brought us award winning favorites such as the Devil Anse IPA, Mothman Black IPA and Wild Trail Pale Ale. Devil Anse and Mothman both took home medals at the recent Bramwell Oktoberfest, with Devil Anse IPA also winning Best in Show.
I followed Brian around the brewery while he emptied out giant sacks of barley, buckets full of hops and monitored the ever fluctuating temperatures and contents of hundreds of gallons of developing beer. I asked a million questions and took about a billion photographs while he explained to me the basics of brewing. A lot of science is involved and I am much better at say, geography, so I’ll do my best to describe to you the essentials.
I began my morning with Brian by climbing up a steep ladder to a sort of barley hopper that holds hundreds of pounds of barley malt. The hopper feeds the malt into the hammer mill, where it gets completely crushed to a near dust like consistency. The hammer mill is very important as it makes the malt the perfect texture for the mash filter.
Brian explained to me the kinds of barley that come in all different colors and aromas. A black barley had gone through a kiln and was almost roasted. A beautiful golden barley was what I always expected barley to look like ~ a wheat-like seed. When we got our feet back on the ground I peered into the tops of the giant tanks where water and heat make starch turn into sugar and voila you’re left with the mash. The mash goes into this amazing machine called the mash filter which compresses it and squeezes all the sugar water out. The squeezed mash byproduct is actually used by local farmers as a supplement to feed.
I got to smell handfuls of hops, with their citrusy perfume that is added after the sugar water, or wort, is siphoned back into a tank from the mash filter. Hops come next in the mix and later a bit of yeast. After a couple of weeks everything has fermented harmoniously and it all gets packed up and shipped out for us to purchase throughout West Virginia at the Brewing Company itself or places like The Irish Pub in Lewisburg, or Pies and Pints in Charleston, or Kroger in Princeton. Check their website on their “Beer Finder” for locations.
Brewery tours are held every Saturday afternoon but if you’re going to be in the area on a different day, call ahead and they will do their best to accommodate you.
The Taproom opened this past April and is a comfortable place to enjoy a fresh local beer, get your growler filled or play darts and giant Jenga. The brewery hosts many events on a weekly and monthly basis with the 1st Saturday Concert Series bringing a diverse selection of musical acts and local food vendors and the new addition of yoga classes every other Thursday. Throughout the coming year you can expect to see many more events taking place at the brewery, and next April 23rd will be the one year anniversary of The Taproom.
I learned a lot from Brian and many of my questions about the process involved in making beer have been answered. I am a fan of most all the beer the Brewing Company has produced and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next. If you have questions of your own, are interested in taking a brewery tour, or are planning to be in the area, give them a call at 304-520-4669. The folks at Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company are helpful and informative and are always brewing up something new. For more information visit Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co.
Getting there ~ From I-64. Take exit 169 for Lewisburg, WV. Travel north on RT 219 for 4 miles. Make right turn into airport complex. Make left turn onto Industrial Park Road. Travel approx. 1 mile. Greenbrier Valley Brewing is on your right.