Chestnut Brew Works, LLC started as a small beer brewery nestled in the woods of southern Monongalia county, about 10 miles south of Morgantown, WV in April of 2013. The demand quickly outpaced the supply, however, so we recently expanded our operations and added a taproom in the historic South Park area of Morgantown.
Chestnut Brew Works is managed by Bill Rittenour, who is also the head brewer. Bill spent most of his time in academics studying trees and fungi. The American chestnut, in particular, holds a special place in Bill’s heart. Bill earned his Master’s Degree at WVU studying this wonderful tree and how it might be saved. Once a staple to the people of Appalachia for food and lumber, a majority of the chestnut trees across the eastern United States were killed by an invasive fungus during the early-mid 1900’s. In much the same way that small-town local beer breweries were severely crippled by Prohibition, American chestnut was severely crippled by a fungal disease. Both the American chestnut and craft beer are experiencing a resurgence, however, thanks to the dedication of creative scientists and creative brewers.
After graduating from WVU, Bill moved to Nebraska so that his wife could pursue her passion. Without forests to study, Bill channeled his passions to the scientific and creative processes behind brewing beer. While earning his Ph.D. in Fungal Biology, he adapted his graduate education classes in Biochemistry, Fungal Genetics, Fungal Physiology, and Mycology (the study of fungi) to gain an in-depth understanding of the brewing processes (malting of barley, mashing of barley, boiling of wort etc). Perhaps his strongest asset is his understanding of the fermentation process carried out by the brewing yeast (fungus) Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Brewing texts often note that brewers don’t make the beer, they just put all the ingredients together….yeast makes the beer. Brewer’s yeast requires several different physiological conditions in order to produce the proper flavors in beer (e.g. temperature, dissolved oxygen, etc), so a thorough understanding of these factors contributes to the high quality of our beers. Bill also unlocked the key equation behind the “Theory of Beertivity” (see below), for which he awarded himself with a bottle of “The Mo-Bel Prize” (a dark, Belgian-style ale that will be offered as part of our Steinhoist series).
(Malted Barley + Hops + Yeast + Water)(Science + Art) = Beer Quality
Chestnut Brew Works believed in being green before being green was cool! We donate our spent grain to local farms for feed. We also hand-craft our tap handles out of salvaged wood. Finally, we recycle the water we use to chill our wort (unfermented beer) so it doesn’t merely go down the drain.