Screech Owl Brewing and Spent Grain Cafe, founded by Roger and Crista Johnson, is located in Cuzart in Preston County, West Virginia. Roger was a truck driver for 21 years before him and his wife opened the brewery on their farm so that he could stay home.
The Johnsons talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about how they got started in the business.
“January 2015 is when we received our brewer’s notice, but we actually started three years before that doing research,” Roger said. “Then, it took us until September 2015 to get our state license.”
“This is what I like to refer to as a beer kit gone wild,” Crista said. “We actually opened the doors brewing twelve and a half gallons of beer.”
How did you get started in this?
“I came home on July 4, 2014,” Roger said.
“And, he never left,” Crista said. “Very simply, he parked the truck and he never got back in it. We started cleaning out the garage, and we literally brewed beer in a 30×30 garage.”
“We had already decided we were going to do it, but there were a lot of factors that pushed us into doing it like the change in trucking laws, the restrictions put on you and the lack of common sense in the trucking laws,” Roger said. “In that moment, I was tired of being away from home.”
“Our beer is made in the old european style meaning no preservatives, pasteurization, artificial fillers or filters. It’s water, grain, yeast and hops. It’s as real as you can get.”
Let’s talk about the beers.
“Our most popular beer is Bold Blonde, but the one I want everyone to know about is a Buckwheat Honey Porter,” Crista said. “I told Roger he should enter it into a contest and when he finally did, it took third in the nation in honey beers.”
The Buckwheat Honey Porter took the bronze prize in the stout and porter category in the National Honey Board’s 2017 Honey Beer Competition.
What types of grain typically go into beer?
“We typically use barley and we add some wheat,” Roger said. “But our beers are 99 percent barley.”
“After the brewing process is done, we take the grain and use it for the bread. Then, we take supply it to two different farmers. One is raising cattle on it and the other raising hogs on it.”
How much production capability do you have?
“We had the capacity up until December to produce 600 to 700 gallons a month, but we were always running out,” Roger said. “Now, we’ve made some purchases to triple what we’re doing with our fermenters.”
“With the new equipment, we will go to 600 or 700 gallons to 3,000 gallons a month.”
The Johnsons were guests on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to their full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS | SCREECH OWL BREWING
- PIECE OF ADVICE: “Follow your dreams,” Roger said.
- ONE THING THAT CONTRIBUTES TO YOUR SUCCESS: “Everyone in the cafe is greeted,” Crista said. “If you come here and you don’t feel welcome, I am not doing my job.”
- RECOMMENDED BOOK: Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two by Jim Koch