The West Virginia Great Barrel Company (WVGBC) designed by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CRA) was featured on the DIY networks television show Barnwood Builders. Highlighted in the episode was a tour of the barrel company production facility and was hosted by Mark Bowe of Barnwood Builders and Tom Crabtree, Co-Founder of CRA and Founder and Manager of the WVGBC.
To view an excerpt of the tour from that show please select the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiL31eCTs8o
The WV Great Barrel Company is a new barrel cooperage operation located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The new 124,335 sf factory complex was completed in late 2019 and began producing world-class barrels from locally sourced materials immediately.
This state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was designed and built specifically as a cooperage and is said to be the most advanced cooperage on the planet. The CRA team incorporated custom designed production equipment and systems that utilize a high level of automation, requiring the team to customize the space for specific equipment and tasks. These tasks include wood drying and staging, stave planing and jointing, head building, barrel building, barrel toasting and charring, inspection, and load out. This cooperage produces the highest quality whiskey barrel on the market, with the highest degree of precision, consistency, and safety possible.
The project was first announced in 2017. At the time West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher said, “This project brings good value-added jobs to the state. West Virginia Great Barrel Company will create 113 new high-quality jobs in their manufacturing plant and another 25 new jobs in a stave mill and log yard. And using West Virginia’s own white oak will support jobs in our state’s timber industry, on which many families and communities rely.”
White oak is essential to making barrels for the growing distilled spirits industry, and West Virginia is in the heart of vast white oak reserves. Nearly all the white oak presently harvested in the state is shipped to other states for manufacturing or placed in containers and shipped overseas. There are no new business enterprises in West Virginia adding value to white oak. WVGBC will dramatically change this. In one year of full, one-shift production, WVGBC will convert $15M in regionally harvested white oak to over $50M in new economic impact, creating high quality jobs in manufacturing, milling and logging.
“We’re really focused on taking wood from West Virginia and using it in a responsible and sustainable manner to make barrels right here,” WVGBC’s General Manager Brett Wolfington said. “We’ve got some exciting developments with some of our customers who are really focused on where their materials come from, including the tight-grained Appalachian white oak wood goes into their barrels.”
Background of the WV Great Barrel Company
On June 23 2016, a thousand-year storm and resultant flooding devastated the small town of White Sulphur Springs, WV and surrounding areas. 13 lives were lost in Greenbrier County, and hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged.
Driving around the town of White Sulphur Springs in the days after the flood, a few civic-minded residents realized that the town would die if they did not do something to get residents back into homes, quickly. They came up with a plan, raised money, convinced the city to trade flooded lots for land on higher ground, engaged volunteer relief groups who were already descending upon the area, and proceeded to build a new neighborhood for individuals who had lost their homes. The flood occurred in June; the first family moved into their new home by Thanksgiving. This was unprecedented.
As families began to settle into their new homes, individuals involved in the recovery realized that they needed to do more. If they really wanted to create meaningful change in this community, they needed to create good jobs.
As founder and flood-recovery advocate Tom Crabtree tells the story, in December of 2016 he was sitting next to one of the founders of Smooth Ambler Spirits at Christmas dinner. Pernod Ricard had partnered with Smooth Ambler and wanted to increase production; but they were on allocation with their barrel suppliers and were having trouble purchasing enough barrels. The wood comes from West Virginia, they ship it out of state to be milled, they ship it somewhere else to be made into barrels, then they sell it back to us, the man was saying. At that moment, it all seemed to come together. A cooperage would create good jobs in the community. And it would add value in West Virginia to a plentiful, sustainable resource. So once again, just as they had done with the flood recovery, Crabtree and friends set out to raise money. And the same people who contributed to the flood recovery efforts invested in The West Virginia Great Barrel Company.