A century after the Temperance Movement put it out of business, Parkersburg Brewing is back.
Parkersburg Brewing Company was started by two German immigrants in 1864. At one time, the company employed 30 men to produce 60,000 barrels of beer every year, making it a significant producer of alcohol in the state and an important part of the city’s downtown area. But by 1875, the national Temperance Movement was getting organized in West Virginia. In 1912, two years before Prohibition became state law, Parkersburg Brewing went out of business.
Then, a century later, Dan Curtis came along.
Curtis was a homebrewer with a background in chemical engineering. After experimenting with beer for several years, he built his own automated electric brewery in the basement of his home. With this equipment, he was able to apply his knowledge of chemical interactions to a personal craft that he was increasingly passionate about. “There’s a lot of chemistry that goes on in the brewing process, whether it’s the conversion of the starches to sugars or the conversion of the sugars to alcohol,” Curtis says. “If you want to make a professionally brewed beer, you really have to control what’s going on in that process. And I enjoyed that.”
While Curtis found that he loved brewing and drinking beer, his machine made 20 gallons at a time, which was far too much to consume on his own. He started giving beer to friends and family, and the feedback was increasingly positive.
In 2012, Curtis and his brother-in-law finally decided to pursue brewing seriously. The pair wanted to honor the history of their city’s brewing past, and 100 years after the original Parkersburg Brewing closed down, its second incarnation was incorporated. They chose the mythical phoenix for their logo, representing the company’s rise from the ashes of forgotten history.
“Our vision is to be a multi-state, regional brewery within the next five years,” Curtis says. “When we get to that point, I won’t have to worry about a day job.” Curtis and Parkersburg Brewing are well on their way to making this vision a reality. In mid–2018, their Cell Block 304 brew won a gold medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup, often referred to as “the Olympics of beer.”
“A gold medal win at an international competition was a serious validation for us,” Curtis says. “I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it took us from being hillbilly homebrewers that wanted to try to make it for real to being a legitimate contender in the craft beer market.”
The win has already shown market results and will be integral in expanding the brewery’s footprint outside the state of West Virginia. Already, their beers are available on tap in Charleston, Morgantown, Fairmont and of course, Parkersburg. Check their website for regular seasonal brews and for exact locations in the city closest to you.
707 Market Street, Parkersburg, 304.916.1502, parkersburgbrewing.com