Grazing: It's Alive! The Sour Ale From Backacre Beermakers | Bite Club

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Grazing: It's Alive! The Sour Ale From Backacre Beermakers

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Erin Donovan started home brewing while she was still in grad school in Colorado, but back then she wasn't sold on sour beer, even after trying some at that state's Great American Beer Festival. "Your mouth was puckering; your eyes were watering," she recalls.

A few more tastes and visits to Belgium later, sour beer's "unique flavors" hooked Donovan, and she and her husband, Matt Baumgart, began brewing it, too. Eventually the pair moved to Belgium for two years, where they tasted scores of gueuzes and lambics and became even more enamored of the style.

Now back in Vermont, Donovan and Baumgart — with the help of Donovan's dad, John Donovan — have taken their crush to a new level. For the past three years, they've been socking away wort — or unfermented beer— in oak barrels inside their Weston barn. There, they added wild yeasts, let the mixture ferment and planned to blend a commercial sour ale once their first batch tasted ready.

This winter, the trio that makes up Backacres Beermakers bottled their first blend of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old beer, then let the entire batch undergo yet another two-month bottle fermentation before sending it out into the world.

Backacre's sour beer is only available in a handful of places; Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier is its northernmost terminus. I picked up a bottle at one of the only three retail spots in the state where it's available, Meditrina in Chester, where the proprietor raved about it.

When I popped it open, my bottle of Backacre foamed and foamed as if the contents were very much alive. In the glass, the cloudy beer frothed wildly before settling into a flattish head with intense aromas of lemon, orange peel, maybe even rye and caramel.

I wasn't surprised to find out later that the beer is fermented in white wine barrels from Napa; Backacre doesn't entirely taste like beer, but like a sort of hybrid of beer, cider and wine. Though tart and drying, it's also rich and round, with apples, apricots and maybe even wet-wool flavors shifting around on the tongue. 

"It's really refreshing and crisp. I wouldn't want to drink five pints of it a night, but it's not that kind of beer," says Donovan. She, her husband and her father plan to bottle more in May, using wort from Vermont brewers whom she'd rather not name.

I'm planning to hit Chester again this weekend to pick up some Backacre before it's all gone. Because it will be gone soon — it's that unique.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

One or more images has been removed from this article. For further information, contact

About The Author

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch was a Seven Days food writer from 2011 through 2016. She is the author of Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England, published by History Press in 2014.

More By This Author


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Bite Club

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation