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US. Mountaineer Brewing Company to be Sold

West Virginia's most widely known craft brewery is up for sale. The Mountaineer Brewing Company closed its doors a few weeks ago; now the owner is looking to sell the business.

Gary Brooks, owner of the Martinsburg-based brewery, listed the business last week on the website Probrewer.com. The brewing company announced its closure to fans last Wednesday on its Facebook page.

Craft beers have been on the rise in recent years as consumers have switched from more popular brands now owned by foreign companies, to more locally-brewed flavors that cater more to regional tastes.

The industry began to grow in West Virginia especially in 2009, after the state Legislature doubled the maximum alcohol content limit—opening the doors to more unique brewing styles.

The Mountaineer Brewing Company was founded in 2007. Their products included six-packs of Lager, Pale Ale, Nut Brown, Stout and their Vandalia brew.

After lawmakers raised the alcohol limit, the company expanded into more boutique flavors.

Unlike the handful of other craft brewers in the state—which focus more on selling beer in kegs or on tap in restaurants, with only limited bottle sales -- the Mountaineer Brewing Company began distributing their products statewide in six-packs of bottles.

"It caught on pretty quick," said brewmaster Daniel Maerzluft. "Within that first year we bought four more tanks for fermenting and then four more the next. It just kept blowing up pretty quickly."

Maerzluft began crafting the company's beers when the brewery first started. He's now the only staff member left on site.

"I was here from install all the way," he said. "Now I'm actually doing the decommissioning, kind of the last guy standing."

Merzluft said he's still not quite sure what drove Brooks, who also owns a separate brewpub in Fredrick, Md., to shutter the brewery.

"Sales were fine and demand kept increasing," Maerzluft said. "It's kind of mind-boggling in my opinion."

Brooks did not return multiple requests for comment for the story.

Maerzluft said about a third of the company's sales were in the Eastern Panhandle, but he said markets like Charleston were beginning to grow.

He credited the increasing popularity of other craft breweries, like Fayetteville's Bridge Brew Works, with helping to open up the market.

"One craft brewery fuels another," he said. "The more the merrier, in my opinion."

Brooks has the brewery listed with an asking price of $500,000. A potential buyer could decide to reopen the brewery or have the equipment shipped elsewhere.

Maerzluft said he's working on a business plan with some acquaintances in hopes of opening his own craft brew shop in case a buyer decides to move elsewhere.

But he said he's still hopeful someone can step in and get the Mountaineer Brewing Company going again.

"We have so few breweries as it is, I'd just hate to see this thing go away," he said. "It'd be nice to have another brewery rocking it again."

4 May. 2011

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