They are cooking up a storm at the famed Stonewall Resort in Lewis County.
And they are brewing up a storm, too. We spent time at the resort during its Signature Craft beer and Dinner, co-sponsored by Parkersburg Brewing Company. It’s not a classic food and wine pairing. It’s food and craft beer.
“You know the first course is duck. A lot of fat. So, a light beer in the beginning, it’s sour so it cuts the fat. You know just the same way we would look at it or approach it with wines. Same thing,” said Stonewall Executive Chef Nevil Barr.
One of the beers is infused with rasberry, another with blood orange, and another with sage. So, is this art or science?
“It’s a little bit of both. You know I’m a chemical engineer by training. There’s a lot of chemistry, a lot of biology. A lot of really interesting science in brewing,” said Dan Curtis with Parkersburg Brewing Company.
Craft beer is also becoming big business in West Virginia, with home state brands popping up all over the place. Parkersburg has been in business just shy of three years but has doubled its annual production to more than 600 barrels.
“We’re definitely growing, trying to reach maximum capacity. Our vision is a lot more than just a seven-barrel brew pub in Parkersburg. We really want to expand into a large, multi-state regional brewery and hope to be there within the next five years,” Curtis said.
Nationwide, there are now 7,000 craft breweries, accounting for more than 12 percent of all domestic beer consumption. Stonewall Resort will serve the four unique beers from Parkersburg. The dinner pairings are helping fuel a phenomenon known as “foody tourism” where people will drive at least an hour for a gourmet meal. The Stonewall parking lot is studded with license plates from all over the nation.
“The in-state guests participate wholly also. But that out of state guest is really like a bonus, that you’re attracting people to come here and show off what we have, as a state, as a culture,” said Joe Corocoglioniti, Stonewall’s Food and Beverage Manager.
It’s also growing other businesses and jobs. Most of the food ingredients are locally sourced.
“Local farmers, I mean West Virginia, tons of farmers. A lot of the stuff we’re using on the menu, the new menus are local farmers, West Virginia made products. I’m just really excited about it,” Barr said.
It’s not just Stonewall, and Parkersburg. It’s all over the state, like the popular Gonzoburger in Charleston’s rebounding Elk City neighborhood.
“There’s just an incredible expansion all across the nation for craft beers. It’s what beer drinkers want now,” said Gonzoburger General Manager David Hayden.
As of now there are more than two dozen craft breweries in West Virginia and the numbers is growing. And people say this is a fun and tasty way to help diversify the Mountain State economy. Overall, the goal of the growing craft beer and food scene is to bring in the tourists who love it.
“They do. And they’ll travel long ways for a good beer, and a good plate of food,” Curtis said.
“West Virginia needs that. We need that kind of stuff,” said Barr.