FAYETTEVILLE — Before artist Jamie Lester, along with friends Jeff and Sarah Edwards, first opened the doors to the building that would become The Freefolk Brewery in Fayetteville, they knew it needed some work.
An old bar, The Cinderella, had sat quiet for years. The elements had taken their toll on the outside and the inside.
“You couldn’t walk across the floor,” Lester said. “The wood was completely decimated. Your foot would go right through it.”
Just about every part of the building needed help, which was time-consuming and expensive, but they liked the location and they weren’t in a big hurry.
“We wanted to do something special,” he said.
The Freefolk Brewery opened in late winter.
Lester and Jeff became friends over 15 years ago in Morgantown. Lester, from Wyoming County, was a sculptor and metalworker while Jeff was an industrial engineer from Raleigh County.
The two formed Vandalia Bronze, a company that designs and sculpts monuments and statues, among other services.
The company has created several pieces inside of the state of West Virginia, including the Don Knotts and Hot Rod Hundley statues in Morgantown, the Rex Tillerson statue at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Mount Hope and the larger-than-life bronze German Shepherd statue at the Oak Hill K-9 Memorial in Oak Hill.
They’ve also had many pieces outside of West Virginia. The company has done well and while in Morgantown, Jeff began dabbling with home brewing in his backyard.
“He got really good at it,” Lester said.
And just as interest in craft beer began to rise in the state, he decided to take brewing classes at WVU.
“And we were always looking for something new and interesting to do,” Lester said.
Fans of outdoor adventure, the pair gravitated toward Fayetteville, which has white water rafting and rock climbing, which was where they found the old building.
They saw potential and an opportunity to pour some of their passions into a business. Lester designed and built the fiddling maiden outside Freefolk Brewery and did the iron work, while Jeff experimented with ales and beers and Sarah managed some of the business aspects and tackled the menu.
“Sarah named the statue out front,” Lester said. “She calls it Amber.”
They have a beer named after the statue, or maybe the statue is named after the beer.
Music is important at the brewery. Freefolk Brewery was almost named the Banjo Brewery, which relates to their love of folksy, free-flowing music.
“But we got a cease and desist from The Bangin’ Banjo in Florida,” Lester said, shrugging.
It’s okay, he said. They like the name Freefolk just fine.
“It celebrates the spirit of West Virginia,” he said. “Mountaineers are always free.”
The beer is the thing.
The Freefolk Brewery always keeps a wide variety of house beers on tap, ranging from 3.2 percent (Bro Hugs Brown Ale) to 7.8 percent (Trucker Speed IPA) in alcohol by volume.
Jeff, Lester said, is always working on something new, something different, but the focus was always on quality beer.
While the beer menu is substantial, the food menu stays simple.
“Less chance to screw things up,” Lester laughed.
Freefolk Brewery offers tacos, nachos and fries — hand food that pairs well with a cold beer. Occasionally, they do special burger nights, using locally sourced beef, but the food is really just a small element in the intended experience.
They were friends and wanted to make a place where friends could be free to just be friends.
“We want to be a place that’s welcoming, where you can come with a bunch of your friends and just hang out and have a great time,” Lester said.
Info: The Freefolk Brewery, 1690 Court St., Fayetteville. Call 304-216-4231.
Hours are Wednesday 4 to 9 p.m., Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 to 11 p.m., Sunday 1 to 9 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday for brewing.