Big Timber Brewing
Logger Lager Pils
Many West Virginians have a deep history in the state’s logging industry and this includes the folks at Big Timber Brewing Company who can draw connections that go back multiple generations. The logging industry, also commonly called the timber industry, has been one of West Virginia’s most important economic stimuli ever since the state’s inception in 1863.
West Virginia’s logging legacy tells the tale of a balance between production, profits, protection and conservation. It began long before the state gained admission to the Union in the midst of the Civil War, back when most of present-day West Virginia was still covered in virgin forestland. In fact, on the day that the “Mountain State” became the 35th U.S. State, over 10 million of West Virginia’s 16.6 million acres were still untouched, old-growth forests. The most impressive trees were the red spruce, some measuring more than 90 feet in height and over four feet in diameter although some oak trees grew even larger. The largest tree ever known to be cut from a West Virginia forest was a white oak that measured 16 feet in diameter and was probably well over 1,000 years old. It was felled near Lead Mine, WV in 1913.
To the region’s early settlers, the trees were mostly a hindrance as the newcomers were far more interested in creating fields for growing crops and grazing cattle but by the late 1800s the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and demand for lumber was continually increasing. In 1835, 15 steam-powered sawmills were operating in the land now known as West Virginia but by 1882 that number had shot up to 472; however, this was only the beginning. The invention of the bandsaw, which uses a highly efficient flat blade (as opposed to a circular blade) to cut logs, and the introduction of locomotives that could operate deep in the mountainous West Virginia terrain caused the industry to boom. Before the advent of such locomotives, most sawmills were built near rivers and logs had to be floated downstream but these locomotives, in particular the Shay geared locomotives, allowed for penetration deep into the forests. The first sawmill to ever use a bandsaw opened in West Virginia in 1881 and it quickly proved to be the most productive method. These mills could process 17 acres worth of timber in a day and, in doing so, made their owners rich. Between the years of 1879 and 1920, one of the biggest logging booms in American history hit West Virginia resulting in the removal of an astonishing 30 billion board feet of timber, enough to build a 2-inch thick, 13-foot wide wooden walkway all they way to the Moon.
By the end of the boom, the more-than 10 million acres of virgin forests that existed at West Virginia’s conception was reduced to only a few small patches and the environmental devastation that followed had a major impact on both the communities and the natural environment. Many of the settlements that arose during the logging boom quickly deteriorated or disappeared. With no more trees to cut, thousands of people were left without jobs and many of them moved away in search of work. Massive fires that were mostly caused by locomotives and sawmills broke out all across the state and destroyed over one-tenth of the land, in some instances burning all the way down to the bedrock. The lack of trees also led to significant amounts of soil erosion and flooding which only further impacted the already struggling communities.
In 1911, the U.S. Government passed the Weeks Act, partly as a reaction to the devastation left behind in West Virginia but also in response to the massive fires that burned throughout the U.S. in 1910, especially in Idaho. The Weeks Act allowed the government to buy and manage land that would serve as a protection for rivers and watersheds and it ultimately led to the establishment of many National Forests, including the Monongahela National Forest that now protects over 900,000 acres of West Virginia.
Thanks to conservation efforts like the Weeks Act, the woodlands of West Virginia have now recovered and spread across 12 million acres, or about 80% of the state, although only 263 of those acres are original old-growth forest. The logging industry in West Virginia is again bustling with activity and many lessons have been learned. Trees are a renewable resource and, if properly managed, forests can provide unending amounts of lumber. Today, the logging industry is carefully monitored both by government agencies and by the logging companies themselves, for without forests they would have no trees to harvest and West Virginia would lose one of the main reasons it has earned its famous nickname, “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia”.
From the Brewer: Our Logger Lager Pils is brewed as a German Style Pilsener. Straw in color and fermented cold with a lager yeast, gives this a light, clean malt body. Late hop additions add a crisp and clean hop balance in both flavor and aroma. A great, easy going beer that’s very versatile in both food pairings and social situations. Cheers! ABV 5.2%, IBU 35
Matt Kwasniewski - President & Head Brewer, Ashley Kwasniewski - Partner & Taproom Manager, Amber Kwasniewski - Partner & Creative Director, Sam Mauzy - Partner & Sales Manager