Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
The website CraftBeer.com recently asked its readers to nominate their favorite craft beer bars for each of the 50 states. Nearly 8,000 people cast their votes and in the end, Huntington’s own Summit Beer Station was the choice for the Mountain State and was awarded the title of West Virginia’s “Best Beer Bar” for 2018.
Summit Beer Station first opened its doors in the Heritage Station business incubator in October of 2013. It moved to its present spot on Ninth Street in June of 2017. Owner and founder Jeff McKay said the idea for a craft beer bar came about after visiting other nearby cities and experiencing their craft beer cultures.
“Craft beer has been a hobby of mine for years so I’ve always scoped out craft beer bars when traveling,” McKay said. “The idea first crossed my mind after visiting Eulogy in Philadelphia and being overwhelmed by their beer selection.”
McKay solidified the idea after visiting the Thirsty Monk in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Holy Grale in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Both bars focus on European beers, which I tend to gravitate toward,” said McKay. “And that certainly explains the selection we have at Summit. Our draft selection is almost always split evenly between European and American craft beers. Probably 70 percent of the bottles and cans on our list are European (mainly Belgian).”
Summit prides itself on having something on the menu for any discerning beer connoisseur or just the casual beer drinker. “My philosophy for choosing our draft and bottle lists has been to always offer a few options that aren’t quite as safe and will challenge your palate, as well as offering styles that cater to all beer drinkers,” McKay said.
But whatever you do, don’t go to Summit and order a Budweiser. You’ll get nothing but a confused stare from the bartender. And if you’re looking for “light” beer, you also need to head on down the street. At Summit, “light” refers to the color and body of the beer, not the calorie count. While you will find everything from a German pilsner to an American blonde ale listed under “light beers,” you will not find anything with the word “light” in the name.
McKay is passionate about small-batch, independently owned, craft beers, and the menu at Summit is laser-focused on them. Although they don’t explicitly advertise it, Summit does not buy or sell from breweries that have sold out to Anheuser-Busch, InBev, Miller/Coors, or any other large corporation. “Our approach is to stay loyal to both time tested European beers and smaller American breweries that are pushing the boundaries of craft beer,” McKay said.
Because Summit was pretty much an overnight sensation, almost immediately after opening they were looking for a bigger space outside of Heritage Station. Initially, their choice was to be in Pullman Square in the spot that is now occupied by Black Sheep Burritos and Brews, but ultimately that space was deemed to be too big for Summit’s purposes.
However, as the plans to move to Pullman Square were beginning to falter, Classic Construction approached McKay about moving into the building they had just purchased at 321 Ninth Street.
“It was one of those rare moments where the stars and planets aligned and everybody was on the same page,” McKay said. “All of us involved had the same exact vision of how to expand and improve Summit. We now have much more room to work with. Our beer selection has tripled and we’ve started serving bourbon, wine, and cider.”
We all know beer, like most food and drink, is a subjective experience. Some of us favor stouts, while others prefer a wild sour or an IPA or even a barley wine. But one thing we can agree on is that there is no need to travel far to expand your beer-tasting horizons. You can do that right here in Huntington.
The Summit beer menu includes 24 rotating taps and more than 120 bottle and can options. Beer flights are not offered due to the frequency with which the taps are rotated, but half-pour samples are available for all drafts.
Summit Beer Station is located at 321A Ninth Street and is open from 4 p.m.-midnight Monday through Thursday, noon-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. on Sunday.