At this Charles Town brewery, change is the name of the game.

After two years in the brewing business, Josh Vance and his brother, Michael, needed a new name for their company. “Front Porch” wasn’t cutting it. So, in 2017, they rebranded and called themselves “Abolitionist Ale Works.”

The name reflects the history of Jefferson County, site of abolitionist John Brown’s bloody raid, which sparked the Civil War. But it also reflects the brothers’ desire to abolish the status quos of beer culture. “We specialize in making flavorful, creative craft beers with natural ingredients,” Vance says. “We like to come out with different creative varieties of beer every week.”

Abolitionist Ale Works beer cannot be found on shelves at the grocery store or on tap at your local watering hole. The brews are only available at the company’s brewpub, nestled in historic Charles Town.

Michael started making beer about 15 years ago as a homebrewer while he was in college. “It got to the point where the beer was just too good to keep to ourselves, so I started looking for a location where we could open a brewery,” Vance says. To date, his brother has created more than 90 beers. A new flavor is released each week.

“Basically, Mike tried to take the approach just like a chef would in a kitchen, to make beer as they would, coming up with creative varieties and combinations of flavors and spices.”

The business shops local when possible, getting its ingredients from local farms and orchards. “We think it helps make a better beer,” Vance says.

While most of the flavors rotate, a few favorites are kept on tap. Alpha Mayle IPA, the brewery’s top seller, is made with Citra and Simcoe hops. Shenandoah Saison is aged in a wine barrel with locally grown plums. Blue & Gold n’ Delicious & Tart is fermented with blueberries and apples.

The brewpub also serves up artisan pizzas like Funky Fig, made with olive oil, fig, goat cheese, and brie. The Ron Swanson, named for a character from the NBC comedy Parks and Rec, is made with olive oil, red sauce, pepperoni, bacon, pulled pork, and mozzarella cheese.

For now, Abolitionist Ale Works is not planning to grow beyond its historic home. The brothers want to keep the business small and enjoyable. They host weekly events like stand-up comedy and live music.

“We wanted to make a place where people felt like it was a second home to them and a place they could feel proud to be at,” Vance says. “As someone that’s from the community, we wanted to put West Virginia and Jefferson County on the map when it comes to beer and try to provide a fun, unique experience for everybody when they come through.”

129 West Washington Street, 681.252.1548, .

Jennifer Gardner
Written by Jennifer Gardner
Shortly after flunking out of nursing school, Jennifer Gardner realized her love for storytelling. She is a recent graduate of West Virginia University and current features writer at the Charleston Gazette-Mail. She thinks of herself as an adopted West Virginian and will soon celebrate a decade in the Mountain State.