Iron Horse Tavern in Morgantown, West Virginia

Barkeep by | Dec 2015 | Issue #107
Photo by Dave Bruffy

For Cade Jacobs, a 51-year-old resident of Morgantown, W.V., who says he lives perhaps just a little too close to Iron Horse Tavern, the neighborhood pub’s opening in June 2014 was a bit of a revelation.

“I didn’t realize how many distributing microbreweries there were in West Virginia, and am thoroughly surprised at how popular they are,” Jacobs says of the place where he can be found three nights a week watching World Cup games, working on his iPad or helping the staff decorate for the holidays. “People come from all around, just to try the different beers.”

Indeed, the pub and its owners are a big part of the better beer movement in the state. Iron Horse is the sister establishment of Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas, W.V., (located about an hour and a half southeast of the pub). While you can always find a couple of the brewery’s beers on draft, the focus is more generally on West Virginia craft. A recent tap list included selections from Charleston (Charleston Brewing Co.’s Citra Ob-Session), Elkins (Big Timber Brewing’s Blonde Ale), Fayetteville (Bridge Brew Works’ Long Point Lager) and Lewisburg (Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co.’s Mothman Black IPA). And as the Mountain State’s young craft scene continues to grow, Iron Horse grows with it.

“The focus in the restaurant world has really shifted toward locally sourced products in the last few years,” says bar and front-of-house manager Sarah Berardinelli. “And it makes sense with food and beer. There are now 11 breweries in the relatively small state of West Virginia, with five more in planning. It’s nice to get such quality, hand-crafted products so close to home.”

With rustic brick walls, wood flooring and minimal décor, Iron Horse feels relaxing and down-to-earth. But the food at the Iron Horse is no typical pub grub. Co-founder Stephen Dilettoso quickly identifies the house-made tater tots with smoked Gouda béchamel and white truffle and bacon aioli as a customer favorite. And the menu also includes fine-dining-esque delectables such as drunken mussels sautéed in white whine, a Korean-style slow-roasted bulgogi pulled pork sandwich, and wild mushroom pierogies. The concept, he says, is “high quality, elevated pub food with a slightly gourmet twist.”

The tavern’s clientele runs the gamut—couples looking for steak and a bottle of wine, friends looking to watch a football game over some beer and wings, newbies looking to find out more about this “craft beer thing.” That might be Berardinelli’s favorite. She worked at Mountain State Brewing before making the transition to Iron Horse, so not only was the concept exciting to her, she wanted to find another job where she could spread a simple but compelling message: drink local beer.

“Half of our drink menu is dedicated to a list of our West Virginia beers,” she says. “Where they’re from, the ABV and description. At least once every couple of months we’ll hold events—tap takeovers, beer dinners, etc.—featuring West Virginia craft, with literature to support it. The response is great.”