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Monday, January 5, 2015

Attention, Homebrewers: Vermont's Best Taprooms Want Your Beer

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 2:11 PM

Local homebrewer Bryce Healy adds hops to his brew in South Burlington. - IMAGE COURTESY OF BRYCE HEALY
  • Image courtesy of Bryce Healy
  • Local homebrewer Bryce Healy adds hops to his brew in South Burlington.
Homebrewing, like any act of creation, involves inspiration and often passion. It's dirty, stinky, pricey and labor intensive, and there are never any guarantees that the beer will be good. But the fruit of a homebrewer's effort — whether good, bad, plain or interesting — is a reflection of that brewer's skill, as well as of their thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams, and the moment when they made and nurtured the brew. 

Most homebrewers work by day and brew on nights and weekends, but many dream of supplanting their nine-to-five gig with a job brewing professionally. 

Now, 14th Star Brewing, Winooski Beverage Warehouse and Farrell Distributing have teamed up with some of Vermont's finest restaurants and tap rooms to launch a statewide brewing competition, called "Make the Cut," which will allow one winning homebrewer to sell his or her beer statewide.

The idea originated with Winooski Beverage owner Jennifer Swiatek, who says she spends hours with local homebrewers every week as they line up at her shop waiting for Heady Topper and other hard-to-find brews. "You see these people in line for hours, saying, 'One day, maybe I'll get to do this for a living.' I wanted to give them that chance," she says. 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: a Banner Year for #VTBeer

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 9:00 AM

So many empty bottles ... and cans. - HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • Hannah Palmer Egan
  • So many empty bottles ... and cans.
In 2014, Vermont’s brewing industry continued on a path of explosive growth. At least 10 new breweries opened for business, and several established ones staged massive expansions. The state’s brewing capacity expanded monthly in 2014, and more brewers are on track to launch next year.

With so many hops happening, year’s end seemed like an ideal time to look back through 12 months' worth of bottles, kegs, cans and growlers.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Prohibition Pig Brewery and Tasting Room Opens

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Nate Johnson mashing in the first brew in Prohibition Pig's new brewery last Friday. - COURTESY CHAD RICH/PROHIBITION PIG
  • Courtesy Chad Rich/Prohibition Pig
  • Nate Johnson mashing in the first brew in Prohibition Pig's new brewery last Friday.

After more than seven months of building, permitting, tweaking and final-touching, Prohibition Pig’s brewery and tasting room will open officially this Friday, December 26, Pro Pig owner Chad Rich told Seven Days via phone on Monday. But if you’re in Waterbury or nearby, there’s a pre-opening wet-run tonight — Monday, December 22 — from 4 to 10 p.m. Call it an early or late Christmas gift, depending on where you sit.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

25 Years of Long Trail: More Hits and Highlights

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Living, walking, breathing brews, 1990s. - COURTESY OF LONG TRAIL BREWING COMPANY
  • Courtesy of Long Trail Brewing Company
  • Living, walking, breathing brews, 1990s.
This weekend, Long Trail Brewing Company will celebrate its 25th anniversary. For this week's feature, Seven Days  caught up with longtime brewery employees Dave Hartmann (brewmaster), Billy Gault (facility manager) and Matt Quinlan (operations manager), as well as members of the marketing team and a few other industry folks. 

They had a lot to remember, far too much for the 1500-word feature that ran in the paper this week

Below, more excerpts from our hours-long interview. 

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carpe Buzz: Fresh Brews to Sip This Season

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 5:49 PM

After winning Seven Days' Vermont Brew Bracket in April - FILE PHOTO: 14TH STAR BREWING
  • File photo: 14th Star Brewing
  • After winning Seven Days' Vermont Brew Bracket in April

Vermonters are observing their rites of spring – warm days blossom with floral dresses and rosy, bare chests, and by evening, sunburns for paler, more foolhardy revelers.

For casual tipplers and craftbrew dilettantes alike, spring also means bright, sunny beers best sipped fresh in the open air, whether the venue is your back porch, on the lake or in the garden, or at your favorite watering hole.

Over the last few weeks, Vermont’s brewmasters have been rolling out the season’s new releases. It's a fruity, citrusy batch that predictably forges new trails into IPA territory, with stops along the way for ciders, sours and saisons. Just in time for Memorial Day and the official (unofficial) start of summer.

Read on for a smattering of noteworthy new brews, listed by release date.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And the Vermont Brew Bracket Winner Is..

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 1:56 PM

food-beerguys_1.jpg
Three weeks, 64 beers, 714 votes. A contest that pitted some of Vermont's most beloved craft beers against each other. And when the smoke cleared last night, a surprising winner. 

For Seven Days' third annual Brew Bracket, we decided to split the contest into four regions, which energized lesser-known brewers to get out the vote. Their campaigns resulted in a few unexpected upsets — such as Lost Nation Brewing's Gose coming out ahead of both Abner and Everett from Hill Farmstead Brewery.

It was the "final pour," though, that brought the biggest rout: The Honey IPA from St. Albans' 14th Star Brewing Co. kicked the two-time winner, the Alchemist's Heady Topper, to the curb. The final tally? 169-113.

14th Star Brewing is barely 2 years old, but it has captured a lot of hearts. The Army vet who founded it, Steve Gagner, is working with his staff to renovate a former bowling alley in St. Albans for a vast expansion of their brewery and taproom.

Gagner seems dismayed by accusations of vote rigging that have cropped up on various websites. "We have worked very hard to get the word out about our beer and the brewery," he wrote in an email. "Our fans, especially our local fans, have shown us tremendous support in spreading the word. We're very proud of the beers that we are producing; they're solid and clean, and I think our scores on various rating websites reflect that."

Seven Days can confirm that the voting wasn't rigged. The Honey IPA clearly has it goin' on. Congrats, 14th Star!

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Two IPAs Locked in Battle During the Vermont Brew Bracket's Final Hours

Posted By on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 10:26 AM

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It's been a rough-and-tumble few weeks in this year's Vermont Brew Bracket. Since the initial 64 craft beers charged into battle on March 19, the Alchemist's Heady Topper (last year's winner) has quashed every single comer.  But it is currently being handed its hat by an underdog, 14th Star Brewing's Honey IPA, which beat Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA to make it to the finals.

Can the "new craft brew for the 802" quash BeerAdvocate's top-rated beer? It's up to the voters. The "final pour" ends tonight at 5 p.m. 

May the best IPA win.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Grazing: Fish-and-Chips at the Knotty Shamrock

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 8:37 PM

The Knotty Shamrock - CORIN HIRSCH
  • Corin Hirsch
  • The Knotty Shamrock
The first time I crossed St. George's Channel from England into Ireland — aboard a ferry — I immediately noticed a shift in people's temperaments. While the English were crisply polite and helpful, the Irish seemed brusque, beleaguered and indirect yet poetic. I had the sense they didn't give a sh*te that I was visiting their country, and looked upon most tourists with bemused resignation. "Irish, are ya?" they'd ask, bored, convinced I was (like every other American) in search of my roots.

Their tartness didn't bother me — possibly because I have Irish blood, possibly because I don't mind being left alone, and possibly I appreciate obliqueness.

My experience with Northfield's Knotty Shamrock Irish Pub and Grill reminded me of all this. Since it opened more than two years ago — and I heard then pub owners John Lyon and Kevin Pecor had plans to brew their own beer — I've made little headway in writing about the place. I called a few times to find out more but never heard back. I waited a few months and called again. Then months flew by, and finally I made it to Northfield to check out the Shamrock in person.

Judging from the late Friday afternoon throng at the bar, the Knotty Shamrock is a beloved locals' hangout. Both without and within it resembles a typical Irish-American pub: lots of dark wood, green accents and a billowing Irish flag next to the front door. Everything seems neat, though — fresher and better kept than some of the Irish watering holes in which I have passed hundreds of Guinness-soaked hours.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 2014 Vermont Brew Bracket Is Open!

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 4:54 PM

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Will Bobcat Brewery's Baltic Porter quash Drop-In Brewing's Heart of Lothian? Will 14th Star Brewing's Honey IPA eliminate ...14th Star Brewing's Valor? And will the Alchemist's Heady Topper cut the nets again this year?

These are some of the miniature dramas that may play out during the third annual Seven Days Vermont Brew Bracket, which went live today. This "road to the final pour" pits 64 Vermont beers against each other, following some of the same complex bracket math used in the NCAA. 

(And with a new brewery opening seemingly every week, we employed these basic rules: To be included, a brewery needs to be six months or older, and each qualifying brew should have been available to the public for at least three months.)

The first round of voting will last until Friday and can be found here. You'll need to sign in to participate. Just be sure to click on (and vote in) all four regions — Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast.

Let the madness begin.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Midweek Swig: Vermont Maple Wheat Ale From Rock Art Brewery

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Vermont Maple Wheat Ale - CORIN HIRSCH
  • Corin Hirsch
  • Vermont Maple Wheat Ale
Cost: $6.49 for a 22-ounce bottle at Price Chopper in South Burlington

Strength: 5.4 percent abv

The pour: Frothy, cloudy, coppery. The ale smells faintly of biscuits and moves languidly in the glass, as if it's going to be a full-bodied swig.

The taste: Given its looks, the beer's brightness is surprising at first — but the mid-palate carries custardy flavors laced with hints of lemon. The sweetness is subtle and seamlessly interwoven; if I was blindfolded, I'm not sure I would call this a maple anything. Vanilla and butterscotch spill over the tongue with nary a hint of hoppiness. 

Drink it with: Totally randomly, I sipped this with some pork chops sautéed with gochojang, and the ale's ample body softened the dish's spicy edges. But I'd also drink it with savory, flaky tarts and pies (such as chicken pot pie) or ... vanilla ice cream.

Backstory: Rock Art's Matt Nadeau first brewed this wheat ale more than a decade ago, according to the label, and this most recent release was bottled in late February. It was brewed with maple syrup from Dodge's Mansion House in Johnson.

Verdict: It's hard to believe that sugaring is upon us, given the buckets of snow falling outside. Yet the Vermont Maple Wheat Ale bridges both kinds of days — the snow-whipped afternoons and the crisp, sunny, 50-degree days when the sap flows. It's like a beer-butterscotch sundae, albeit an elegant one. But don't let it linger in the glass: I drink beer slowly, and this loses its head (and zing) quickly.

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