Getting Crafty in a College Town: Is the Drinking Culture Changing in Morgantown?

By: Sierra Singleton

So everytime I say that I am a student at WVU, people think that I am a party girl because I’m attending the number 1 party school in the country. The truth is WVU is number 4 in party school rankings for 2015 with Syracuse University being number 1. I don’t know if being number 4 is any better but the stigma that comes with being on that list is pretty strong. One may not think about it but that list has come to shape the opinions of many about West Virginia residents, businesses, WVU students, and the drinking culture. Morgantown gets a really bad rap for being just a college town. The truth is that yes it is a college town but Morgantown is on the upswing with a booming business industry, an increase of residents, and lucrative real estate opportunities in many up and coming areas.

Downtown Morgantown
Downtown Morgantown

A change that might be happening right now is to the drinking culture of Morgantown. When you think of a college town’s drinking habits, you think of cheap beer and lots of it because college students usually don’t have the money to drink expensive beverages. So this raises the question, what’s a craft beer establishment doing in Morgantown, the ultimate college party drinking scene to some and can these establishments change anything about the drinking culture and reputation here?

motown 4
Chestnut Brew Works

Many may not know but Morgantown is the home to 3 craft beer establishments and Chestnut Brew Works is the newest to be welcomed into the small craft beer family. Chestnut Brew works opened in early 2015 and has become the favorite for many of Morgantown’s craft beer drinkers. Bill Rittenour, the owner and head brewer of Chestnut Brew Works, keeps 5 flagship beers on tap at all times along with 2 seasonal selections. He finds inspiration for the names of his beers from his wife and children. Rocky Rothrock, a Morgantown resident for more than 20 years and a Chestnut Brew Works regular, says “I just come here because they have great beer and the atmosphere is the cherry on top. I try to make it here about twice a week.”

Chestnut Brew Works
Chestnut Brew Works

It’s widely known that craft beer on average is $5 a glass which can put more of a dent in a student’s wallet than a $2 can of Natural Light or Bud Light. So what’s the appeal of craft beer in Morgantown? Rothrock states, “I think that having places to drink craft beer adds a variety to Morgantown, one that I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m glad that there were people here that recognized the non-college, mature college student, and older drinking population and decided to open a place like this. We may be a small group but we’re here.” As far as Chestnut Brew Works changing anything about Morgantown’s drinking culture reputation Rothrock says, “Nope. I don’t think it’s changing anything right now because Morgantown still has so many college drinking places and High St seems to be the center of all of it. Chestnut is just adding variety but it’s a welcomed variety, a welcomed change.” Dave (declined to give last name), another Chestnut Brew Works regular and Morgantown native states, “I see college students in here all of the time with their growlers. I think that craft beer is something you get into when you’re older and the need to get drunk evertime you drink passes. You have to have an appriecation for the taste of what you’re drinking and know that you’re going to pay extra for that and the wide selection of people in here know and respect that. That’s what I like about being here.”

Downtown Morgantown
Downtown Morgantown

So is there hope for changing the reputation of the drinking culture of Morgantown? According to Rothrock, “there may be a change but it’s not coming for a long time. I think that the best thing that Morgantown can do is keep adding establishments like this to their roaster to accommodate the residents that don’t participate in the typical drinking habits that Morgantown is famous for. I think that’s the best way for Morgantown to change anything.” Dave agrees by adding, “For so long there was no place for drinkers who didn’t want Bud Light to go and now there is. Morgantown is changing its venues and I think that with time their reputation will change as well.”

3 thoughts on “Getting Crafty in a College Town: Is the Drinking Culture Changing in Morgantown?”

  1. Though I am not a big beer drinker, I never would have guessed that Morgantown is home to a couple of quality beer drinking establishments. I don’t know if I was unaware of this information because I’m not a big beer drinker or maybe just because I feel like the most popular places here in Morgantown are bars such as Joe Mama’s, Fat Daddy’s and more. It’s interesting and also beneficial to Morgantown to try and change the stigma of the “typical drinking town” and “party school” label that Morgantown has. There’s more of a focus on the taste of the beer as opposed to just the cheapest beer that’ll get you drunk quickly. Maybe I’ll grow more of a taste for beer if I visit a place such as Chestnut Brew Works.

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    1. I agree with Kaitlin, I am not a huge beer fan. Every time I do take the chance to try a craft beer I don’t usually like it, but I know a lot of people that do. I think this is great to have in a city like Morgantown because it attracts more to the older demographic so that they don’t have drunk college kids all over them or being loud when someone is just trying to relax. I think next time I am looking for a place to try out this will be on my list and whether I like craft beer or not I will give it a try.

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  2. I am not a big beer drinker, but my brothers and dad have conditioned me to like craft beers over things like Bud Light, and absolutely over Natural Light. When you think of craft beers, you think of trendy places, and it’s really cool to think of Morgantown like that. I think we all know Morgantown is an awesome place, but with the establishment of more and more craft breweries in the area, more people will give Morgantown a chance to come check out these new breweries. I think these establishments can be a great tool to boost Morgantown’s economy.
    I really loved the use of the quotes from Rothrock. He understands the college town stereotypes and very eloquently expressed how great these craft breweries can be for the area.

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