COOL RIDGE, WV (WVNS) — Holding a glass filled with ice cold Enniskillen, his Weathered Ground Brewery’s signature dry Irish stout, Sam Fonda pondered for a moment.
“Who knew people would travel to Cool Ridge to have a beer?”
Long before the brewery existed, Fonda, along with his wife and fellow co-owner, Aryn, had that clear vision in mind: a place where everyone could gather.
“It’s surprising… I feel like we’re enjoying it along the way,” Fonda said. “But it’s hard work, and it’s keeping up with demand.”
The demand has never dropped since massive crowds came to their grand opening four years ago.
“That was completely unexpected. That blew us away,” Fonda said. “That’s when we were kind of like, ‘Wow, this might be a thing.’”
After the first year, the Fondas started to expand their staff, their chambers, their menu, and of course, their beer selections. They ventured into bolder stouts, hazier IPAs and fruitier sours.
“It’s stressful, but it’s good,” Fonda said. “I don’t want to be twiddling my thumbs, wishing we could have more beer out there. We want everybody to be drinking Weathered Ground Beer.”
Being the craft beer connoisseur he is, 59News Anchor David Horak wanted to help meet that demand — and fulfill a personal dream of his — by learning what it takes to become a brewer.
Before beginning to brew a batch of Enniskillen, sanitation and cleanliness came first to remove any microbes in the chambers. Then, after filling hot water into one of the tanks, it was time to pour in the grain that combines the two into the base of the beer, called mash. David helped dump grain into the brewery’s auger, which carries the grain up to the mash tank.
David drew parallels to some different work he’s done before.
“If you ever unloaded mulch in your yard or someone else’s, it is the same concept,” David said. “But this is way more delicate, and it actually smells pretty good!”
But the grain did not smell as good as the roasted barley and chocolate wheat that are also thrown into the mix.
“We just add a little bit of this to it as well to give it some nice chocolate notes,” Fonda said. “The whole room will smell like this whenever we add it to the mash.”
David noticed the sweet scent of the chocolate wheat had a unique affiliation with it.
“It kind of smells like a coffeehouse more than a brewery,” David said.
With nothing else to be added for the time being, staff temporarily move on to other matters, from canning and distribution to cleaning the taproom for patrons.
When asked if he is living the dream, David said with a big laugh, “I sure am!”
Fonda added there is more to these concoctions than just the creativity behind the brew.
“Craft beer is something else altogether,” Fonda said. “It’s all about flavor, but it’s about community. It’s about friendships. That’s what we have in West Virginia.”
After only one year in existence, the Fondas had to double the number of chambers. They said they are now looking to further expand their brewhouse to keep up with the demand and explore new markets.