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June 19, 2023

West Virginia continues to outpace the nation in expansion of the state tourist economy. As this trend continues, Pendleton and surrounding counties use creative measures to not only attract tourists to scenic locations, but steer visitors to tourist friendly businesses.

The heart of the On the Rocks Craft Beverage Trail lies in Pendleton County. Swilled Dog operates a state of the art distillery and tasting room at the industrial park in Upper Tract while Dry Run Spirits Distillery follows local agricultural traditions that go back nearly two and a quarter centuries in the region.

Northwest of Upper Tract sits the northern terminus of the trail at Still Hollow in Harman. To the southeast is Big Fish Cider of Monterrey, Virginia. Connecting Pendleton County to neighboring counties that focused on tourism served as one of the main goals of the project.

As Amber Nesselrodt, executive director of the Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau explains, “it started last year as a collective effort between economic development authorities, CVBs, and the distilleries.” She added that “it’s important to keep forging these kinds of relationships.”

Though a 2020 Robert C. Byrd Institute study examined the possibility of a major craft beverage trail effort linking counties in and around Charleston and Huntington, On the Rocks remains the only craft beverage trail established in the Mountain State.

On April 20, Swilled Dog celebrated its fourth year of official business operations. As Kim Kirk, chief experience manager, noted, “it’s an important milestone to celebrate how far we have come in four years.”

Swilled Dog’s crafted beverages date back to initial efforts with cider starting in 2010. Six years later, the family transformed their basement into a cidery. By 2017, the product was ready for sale to the public.

Today, Swilled Dog welcomes locals and tourists alike to its distillery and tasting room. Rich dark wood walls, comfortable leather furniture, and other amenities keep visitors in the mindset of visiting a cozy and intimate space. This space, however, can seat over a hundred people for major events like the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce dinner.

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