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Their plan? Just brew it

September 18, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Mountaineer Brewing Co. an offshoot of a Frederick, Md., microbrewery, is scheduled to begin producing barrels of craft beer just south of Martinsburg next month, Operations Manager Gary Brooks said last week.

"Our capacity is blown over there," Brooks said of production based at Barley and Hops Grill & Microbrewery across from Francis Scott Key Mall.

The brewery in Berkeley County is being set up in a 10,000-square-foot metal fabricated building off U.S. 11 at 219 B Lawn St. Brooks' goal is to produce 10,000 barrels annually. A barrel equals 31 gallons or two kegs.

First distributed in West Virginia with the Mountaineer label in December 2005, Brooks said demand for the company's "mainstay" brews of pale ale, red ale, nut brown, stout and blonde lager and seasonal offerings can't be met in the state's larger cities, including Charleston and Huntington. Products are being shipped to Morgantown, Elkins and Beckley, Brooks said.

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"We'll probably eclipse 2,000 barrels this year," he said.

Martin Distributing Co. Inc. President Craig Martin said his company delivers Mountaineer Brewing Co. products for 25 accounts in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, with 49 taps serving varieties of the craft beer.

"Demand has been pretty good," Martin said. "It's going to be a lot better when he rolls his first barrel out in West Virginia," Martin said. "Sales have been pretty good."

"Our motto is 'West Virginia does deserve better beer,'" said Brooks, who acknowledged that some of the recipes have been modified for The Mountain State.

Though now only available from a tap, the first bottles of Mountaineer Brewing Co.-labeled beer are expected to begin appearing on store shelves in November, Brooks said.

"The bottling system is being designed right now," Brooks said.

The labels have to be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, he said.

"All of the laws are based out of the Prohibition era," Brooks said.

Barley and Hops Grill & Microbrewery opened Oct. 4, 1999, and is owned and operated by the Cluster Spires Brewing Group.

Brooks said his first attempt at brewing yielded a horrible "liquid" that he doesn't even call beer. He hired a brewmeister "out of the box" to start the brewing in earnest and said he has visited about 200 brew pubs.

Aside from receiving requests for products in West Virginia, Brooks said his motivation for opening a second brewery in the state stems from cost savings he has seized upon.

"Even me and my wife are looking to move to West Virginia," he said. "The people over here just have been wonderful."

Brooks said he also was "very, very pleased" with the water from Big Springs, the City of Martinsburg's water supply.

Since making a decision to expand, Brooks, 50, said he has fielded several requests from people to be the official taster. That job is taken.

"If I drink a couple pints a week, that's a lot for me," Brooks said.

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