When Lawrence Walkup came to Snowshoe Mountain Resort as Food and Beverage Director 15 years ago, he didn’t necessarily intend to open his own brewery, but this spring, he will unveil his new business at Snowshoe – Old Spruce Brewing.
Walkup’s business ventures began with the Old Spruce Cafe and Tavern, a small restaurant in the Village, which was followed by the Old Spruce Draft House.
After opening the draft house and gaining more knowledge about breweries and small batch beers, Walkup decided he wanted to open his own brewery which will mainly supply his two businesses on the mountain.
“We’ll be producing about eight thousand barrels a year,” he said. “It’s really not that big. I don’t really ever plan to get big. My plan is to open up here and distribute here and my two places in the Village.”
The brewery will produce kegs and crowlers, the popular 32 ounce cans for those with a big thirst.
Despite a total of 27 years in the food and beverage field, Walkup is the first to admit he is not a professional brewer – he’s leaving that part of the job up to the professionals.
“I’m not a brewer,” he said. “I’ve brewed a little, but I’m not a brewer. I have a brewer that will be working for me that has been brewing for about fifteen years.”
The brewer will be joined by employees who will all be certified cicerones – think sommelier, but for beer.
“That’s one of my concerns for here, not just getting employees, but getting the right employees,” Walkup said. “Some things I’m strict about. Because it’s a beer-based business – there’s a cicerone certification. I’m making all my employees that will be serving beer get their cicerone. It’s a lot easier to sell it if you know what it is.”
While the brewery and its output will be small, the facility is quite large. Walkup wanted a large, open space which will not only serve as a brewery, but a gathering place for beer enthusiasts.
The two-story building will house a tasting bar, sitting areas, a small kitchen and several old school games.
“This will be more like an entertainment area,” Walkup said of the second floor. I’d like to have duck pin bowling, old games like skeeball. What we’ll probably do is set up two or three cornhole lanes and then have tables – a little hangout spot.”
Sticking with the classic theme, the interior will have a rustic feel, with antique windows and doors, as well as wood paneling to cover as much of the metal facade as possible.
The front of the building has large glass garage doors which not only provide a lot of natural light, but will also be open during the summer to give the place an open air feel. There’s also a replica fire tower to enhance the view.
“There will be a deck all the way round the front,” Walkup said. “There’s going to be a little fire tower on the front, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to go to the top of it, and you’ll be able to see the valley and the sunset.”
Small, privately owned breweries are becoming a large trend and Walkup has prepared himself for the ebb and flow of the trend. He said that while there are a lot of breweries going out of business, the majority are succeeding, and he plans to be in the latter category.
“I think right now, craft breweries are about twelve percent of beer sales and it used to be about five,” he said. “There is a demand. In the state of West Virginia, we have twenty-five breweries. The state of Virginia – they have 250. Right now the breweries that are succeeding are the really little ones and the big ones. The ones that are in between, the market is not enough there to keep them going. My plan is to sell the majority of [my beer] out of here.”
Located behind Snow Creek at the entrance to Silver Creek Resort is ideal for getting visitors into the brewery. It doesn’t hurt that the shuttle bus will go right by the facility during its regular run.
“I will be on the bus trail from Snowshoe to Silver Creek,” Walkup said. “So the shuttles will come down through there and have a stop here, drop people off, go to Silver Creek and back, so it will be a constant loop with a stop at the brewery.”
Construction on the brewery continues, and Walkup is ready for its opening this spring and for it to become a success.
“I feel like I need to give it room to become what it wants to become instead of forcing it to be something,” he said. “It’s going to become what it wants to, like my restaurant in the Village. It’s close to what I started with, but it’s changed quite a bit, as well.
“This is sort of my retirement plan,” he continued. “Get it up, get it running, get a good staff. My goal eventually would be to sell it to the brewer and my staff. I’d love for my staff to take over.”
Walkup doesn’t have an exact date for the grand opening but does post updates on the Old Spruce Brewing Facebook page.
In the meantime, visitors can go to the Village and enjoy the Old Spruce Cafe and Tavern, open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. and the Old Spruce Draft House, Friday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 12 a.m.