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breweryBank

Constructed as a bank building in 1923, the brewery has an impressive facade at its Main Street location.

Serial entrepreneurs Nikki and Matt Holbert are adding another project to their portfolio that should please the local craft beer community.

They are now in the middle of big renovations to an old bank building that will lead to the opening of Clendenin Brewing in downtown Clendenin next year.

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Matt and Nikki Holbert take a break from the renovation work at Clendenin Brewing on Main Street in the Elk River area town.

Located just about a half-hour from downtown Charleston, the brewery should proves to be another jewel in the Elk River recreation crown.

The Holberts, who are best known in the Charleston area for their Bricks & Barrels and Axes & Ales food and beverage businesses, are enthusiastically taking on the brewery project. It promises to greatly enhance the attractiveness of Clendenin as a destination for local visitors and regional tourists alike.

Combined with their already open-for-business Take Me Home bed & breakfast inn, which is upstairs over the brewery space, the addition of the brewery will produce the region’s first “Bed & Brew” experience. (A beer for breakfast in Clendenin could start a whole new thing. How about a wheat beer with a some weisswurst, please?)

The street-level brewery and taproom will take up the entire first floor of the former bank building, which is being totally redeveloped. A new, 4-inch-thick, concrete slab floor has been poured in the brewery production area that includes floor drains and a special waterproof sealant.

New commercial electric wiring and hook-ups have been put in, and the production area is ready for the installation of the brewing equipment. So far, that equipment includes two, 50-gallon electric combo mash tuns and brew kettles; two, five-barrel fermentors and one, five-barrel bright tank. They are still seeking three additional fermentors.

Using the combo mash tun and kettle brewing system saves space and is efficient for brewing multiple small batch beers, which will likely be the signature of the brewery.

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Two, five-barrel fermentors and a bright tank awaiting installation at Clendenin Brewing.

Matt says the 50-gallon electric combo brewing system will allow them to brew four one-barrel batches in a day. That means they can fill one fermentor in a brew day. With the projected five fermentors feeding a kegging operation, Matt expects that the brewery can keep 10 different beers available.

The cold room for keg storage is now complete and located next to the production area. Draft lines will go through the cold room wall directly to the taproom bar, which should give them an effective short draw draft system. Grain and supplies storage and a lab area are in a large space adjacent to the cold room.

Matt is not ready to announce who will be brought in to brew the beers and manage the brewery, but says he is working on that. With a little luck, he says the brewery could be open for business next spring, but he certainly wants to be open for the summer season.

Let the daylight in

A large, window-pane garage door highlights the front side of the production area. It lets in plenty of natural light and will be opened up in good weather, revealing a little street-side seating area, which will be roped off from the fermentors and other equipment behind it.

You can expect Clendenin Brewing to produce all the current popular craft beer styles, including a couple of lighter-styled beers that are compatible with outdoor recreation and accessible to folks who have a preference for macrobrews. Because the brewery is small batch in size, it will also be compatible with some experimentation and unusual brews.

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High-top tables will line this wall of windows overlooking the Elk River.

“We want to sell as much of our beer here on site as we possibly can,” says Matt.

While the biggest variety of Clendenin Brewing beers will be sold at the taproom, some will also be available other places. The Holberts will offer their beers at both Bricks & Barrels and Axes & Ales. As supply allows, they plan to self-distribute kegs to other accounts in the Charleston and Elk River area.

“We’re not going to do food, at least in the beginning,” Matt says. “We’re going to focus on producing high-quality beer.”

The brewery will have arrangements with close-by Clendenin restaurants to provide food service for its patrons.

Taproom amenities

Lots of work remains to complete the taproom, but the plan sounds wonderful.

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Straight ahead from the developing Clendenin Brewing taproom is the old vault from the bank built in the town nearly a century ago.

Upon entering through the front door, you’ll find the bar and beer taps against the left wall. On the right side of the room will be high top tables along a row of windows that overlook Elk River. Straight ahead will be the lt room inside the old bank lt, and at right rear are the toilets. The middle of the room will also have tables and chairs. Capacity will be approximately 50 to 70 people.

Helping the project along earlier this year, the Holberts received a $50,000 low-interest loan from Advantage Valley’s FASTER WV program. The Advantage Valley organization prioritizes food and beverage production businesses among its targets for development assistance.

Recreation and tourism bubbling upward

The brewery should fit in perfectly with the booming interest in kayaking and canoeing on the Elk River and in exploring nature along the Elk River rail trail.

Each year since the devastating flood in 2016, Nikki and Matt say they’ve seen a marked increase in business activity and people coming to Clendenin for the river and trail recreation opportunities. The soon-to-open rail trail extension through downtown Clendenin and downstream toward Falling Rock should help.

“We think that’s going to have a big impact on the town as well,” Matt adds.

The Elk River Trail Foundation has done a tremendous job helping lead the development of the Elk River Trail, which begins in Braxton County and follows the old railroad right-of-way through Clay County and into Kanawha County. The trail has seen rapid growth in hiking, biking and horseback riding activity.

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Downtown Clendenin’s Chili’N on the Elk Beer Festival brought out a crowd in early September, including beer general Yogi Dean.

The popularity of the Elk River for flatwater paddling and fishing has grown to the point that it now supports outfitters and rental businesses in the Clendenin area. Elk River Get Away and Yak House Rentals, are good examples.

The Holberts say that Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers has done a tremendous job leading the revitalization of the city by bringing businesses into town and supporting all the recreational activities. The town hosts two, large annual festivals: Homecoming in June and Chili’N on the Elk in September.

The town has also been forward thinking in offering permits for side-by-side ATVs to drive on the city streets. “You could ride your side-by-side up in the hills behind the town and then come here and enjoy a beer,” says Matt, while thinking ahead to next summer. Owners of a nearly 10,000-acre tract on the mountain behind the town are reportedly interested in developing greater recreational uses for the property, including cabins and possibly an ATV trail.

The town recently received a grant from Kanawha County to build a riverfront stage where concerts and other entertainment will take place. The stage site happens to be across the street from the brewery.

Future plans for the town also include a trail head visitors’ center.

Take Me Home B&B proves popular

The second floor of the brewery building is home to the Take Me Home bed and breakfast inn and currently has four rooms for rent. Four additional rooms are in the plans, possibly by next summer.

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The Cardinal Room at the Take Me Home B&B in Clendenin.

Each room has its own theme and color scheme, and they are furnished and decorated with many salvaged and repurposed items. Rooms are rented through the popular Airbnb app/website. A separate, spacious common area and lounge houses the breakfast area, game and relaxation space.

During this past summer, rooms at the inn were running a solid 70% occupancy rate, so the Holberts are very encouraged about the future of the B&B. Just open for about one year, they have already had guests from 40 different states and three other countries. This runaway success undoubtedly demonstrates the strong visitor and tourism opportunity that has been waiting for someone to offer the right infrastructure.

Clendenin Brewing is located at 2 Main St. in Clendenin.

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A lounge and commons area at the Take Me Home B&B.

Charleston writer/publisher Charles Bockway writes extensively about craft beer and other beverages from a West Virginia perspective at brilliantstream.com. He also hosts the “West Virginia Beer Roads” podcast with Erin McCoy, and contributes “WV Brew News” columns for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Brilliant Stream will continue to report on the progress of the project as Clendenin Brewing approaches completion. This article and accompanying photos are reprinted from the website.

Charles Bockway is a craft beer blogger and podcaster who writes, blogs and talks about West Virginia’s craft beer industry. Send questions and suggestions to him at TappedOut@brilliantstream.com.

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