BRUCETON MILLS, W.Va. (WBOY) — While it may be a bit off the beaten path, you can still find Screech Owl Brewing’s craft beer across West Virginia, western Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond.
Family-owned and operated, Screech Owl Brewing is located in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia in Preston County, and has been turning out small-batch brews since 2015 and expanded with a restaurant in 2018. One of the highlights of Screech Owl’s restaurant is that they use spent grain from the brewing process to make things like their pizza crust, resulting in a unique but undoubtedly delicious meal.
Screech Owl Founder and Master Brewer Roger Johnson said their top priority is to give customers a consistent beer experience every time they visit, and every brewer at Screech Owl takes great pride in that consistency.
“Budweiser, Miller, Coors, they all build it on a very good, very solid, very consistent beer. And our beer is consistently the same. If you had a Bold Blonde from seven years ago, it’s going to be the same beer you have today,” Johnson said.
Screech Owl specializes in their ale, IPA and porter recipies, and the ones you’ll find have stood the test of time and continue to be popular among the brewery’s regulars.
- Bold Blonde Ale – Their most popular beer, this ale is described as light, full-bodied and well-balanced “for any occasion, or, for no occasion at all!” This beer is the favorite of Screech Owl’s Master Brewer Roger Johnson.
- Wild and Wonderful Strawberry Ale – A fruity beer that’s not a sour, this light beer will greet you with an aroma of strawberries without being overpowering.
- Hoo’s Your Daddy IPA – Screech Owl’s flagship IPA is described as smooth and crisp, this beer is another favorite among regulars.
- Mama’s Mango Ale – This Mango-Strawberry ale is brewed as a “poolside treat,” and is the personal favorite of Head Brewer Kristin Johnson.
- Buckwheat Honey Porter – This distinctly West Virginian beer won the gold medal in the 2021 Honey Beer Competition in Chicago in the Stout/Porter category.
- Dooley’s Irish Red Ale – This beer is named after the grandfather of Screech Owl Brewing’s Owner Crista Johnson. Screech Owl developed this Irish red using traditional beer recipes and ingredients from the British Isles in honor of James F. Dooley.
- Rough Cut Porter – This smooth, dark beer has notes of chocolate and coffee.
- Class III Whitewater IPA – This IPA has notes of grapefruit and pine with a “hoppy bite but an unbelievably smooth finish.”
- Class IV Zinger Hazy – This citrusy beer is named after the Class 4 whitewater rapids on the Youghiogheny River in Maryland. It’s low in bitterness, has a crisp finish, and is the favorite of Screech Owl Brewing Manager Jameson Johnson.
- Muddy Creek Ale – This ale lies between being a blond and a pale, with lemon and lime note, brewed in cooperation with the West Virginia Land Trust.
Roger Johnson actually got into making wine first but became interested in brewing after his wife Crista got him a home brewing kit for Christmas.
“Everybody liked my beer better than my wine. It broke my heart,” Roger said with a smile. “So after that, it just gained a life of its own.”
Crista Johnson, who is also the Owner of Screech Owl Brewing, agreed with Roger and said they never expected the brewery to be the success that it is today.
“We figured it would just be locals, period. And we have literally had people from every continent in the world,” said Crista Johnson.
Today, Roger and Crista’s oldest son Jameson helps run the restaurant alongside his wife Kristin, the Head Brewer, but the four of them are only part of a larger team that keeps everything running smoothly.
Screech Owl Brewing is also currently working to expand its brewing operation with a new building that will give them substantially more space. Currently, anytime they want to can beer, their canning machine must be set up and moved each time. After the expansion, it will have a permanent place. However, due to Screech Owl’s relatively remote location, Jameson said they have had trouble finding contractors they can afford.
“Those things are always going to be struggles because we’re a self-funded brewery,” Jameson said. “We don’t have million-dollar investors or anything like that. We do one project at a time. Mom and dad made a huge amount of sacrifices to start this and it’s our job as a family to make sure that it goes forward with success and continues their vision.”
The entire staff agreed that the vision for Screech Owl Brewing strongly focuses on the sense of family among the employees, as well as the community aspect of the restaurant. The brewery wants to make sure that customers have a sense of familiarity each time they come in.
However, with all the hard work that goes in, Head Brewer Kristin Johnson said it’s important to be sure that you make time for your family outside of work. Keeping a healthy work-life balance is especially important when many Screech Owl employees live so close to where they work. She said she’s woken up countless times in the middle of the night, wondering if she forgot to turn off this or that.
“Lots of hours, but you’ve got to weigh it out,” Kristien said. “You’ve got to learn when to go ‘eh. I’m not going to do anything today. I’m going to go out, I’m going to go fishing, I’m going to go hunting. If you wait until there’s nothing to do, you’re never going to leave, there’s always something to do.”
Kristin said she and her husband Jameson, along with their Assistant Brewer Harley Wilson, try to go out on the river as much as they can.
If you wan to learn more about Screech Owl Brewing, you can visit their website.