Beer | Bite Club | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Drop-In's Head Brewer Vilija Bizinkauskas Talks Food Pairings and Beer for Mom

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Head Brewer Vilija Bizinkauskas at Drop-In Brewery - BROOKE WILCOX
  • Brooke Wilcox
  • Head Brewer Vilija Bizinkauskas at Drop-In Brewery
I recently sat down with Drop-In Brewery’s head brewer, Vilija Bizinkauskas, to talk beer nostalgia, Vermont beer culture and the unseen challenges of the brewing lifestyle. Post-talk — and post-pints — I carried an armful of treasure home with me: a growler of Berlinner Weisse (the tart, off-sour pilsner way too flavorful for its 2.9 percent ABV) and a few freshly minted cans of milk stout called Fetchez La Vache.

Though it was noon on a Tuesday, I promptly called a few friends to help share my bounty come happy hour. Luckily, Bizinkauskas has ample knowledge of snacks to pair with Drop-In brews.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pints and Bites at Hired Hand Brewing Co.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Left to right: Barn Red Ale and Tractor Pilsner from Hired Hand Brewing Co. - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • Left to right: Barn Red Ale and Tractor Pilsner from Hired Hand Brewing Co.
The list of ways in which Vermont spoils me is getting lengthy, and at the top of these indulgences is the $6 pint of local draft beer. Then Vermonters take it one step further: How about a six-buck pint of hyperlocal draft beer?

On a recent weekday evening, I walked into Hired Hand Brewing Co. at 35 Green Street in Vergennes. It's chef-owner Ian Huizenga’s recent expansion to the downstairs speakeasy Bar Antidote. I'd heard that Hired Hand had a mean menu of baked-cheese sandwiches, and what else does a three-degree day call for?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016: The Year in Beer

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Vermont beer, circa 2016 - HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • Hannah Palmer Egan
  • Vermont beer, circa 2016
Another year, another beer.

While 2016 felt like a holding-pattern year for brewing in Vermont — no major upsets or unexpected trends, no big surprises or innovations — local brewers produced a generous  profusion of quality, creative beers that continued to blur lines between styles or throw out the rule book completely.  This year, I drank IPAs flavored with hibiscus, lavender-scented saisons and sours tinged with cranberries and sage, à la Thanksgiving stuffing. And so many of them were excellent.

Past years have given us an abundance of new production breweries and expansions at established ones. But 2016 was more about small batches and big flavors, with new breweries looking to their local communities (rather than to statewide markets) for support.

So, a few trends:

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Good Measure Brewing Opens Doors to Northfield Tasting Room

Posted By on Sat, Dec 17, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Tap handles at Good Measure Brewing - GOOD MEASURE BREWING
  • Good Measure Brewing
  • Tap handles at Good Measure Brewing
Good Measure Brewing moved into its Northfield home base in January 2016. By September, the brewers had begun distributing kegs of their distinct, expertly balanced beer to restaurants and suppliers across the state. A tasting room has been in the works ever since, with extensive renovations and restructuring of the 1920s-era building — formerly home to a series of grocery stores — and bringing everything up to code. At last, Good Measure’s tasting room opened its doors on Friday.

“Our idea is that the tasting room is a meeting place,” says co-owner Scott Kerner (who helped open Montpelier’s Three Penny Taproom in 2009, as well). “It’s a place to fill up your growler, have a pint, have a snack. Food will be simple, but well attended — just like our beer.”

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Seven Favorite Vermont Beers of 2016

Posted By on Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 11:00 AM

  • Julia Clancy
I moved to Vermont in September 2015 with an English degree, a background in restaurant cooking and a lime-colored Dutch oven seat-belted in the passenger side of my Volvo. I drove past Drop-In Brewing in Middlebury and thought of a friend from Ireland, where I had spent four months at a cooking program on a hundred-acre farm in County Cork.

He was a New Zealand brewer-cum-chef; I was an aspiring American cook trying to emulate my brother’s homebrew talents. We brewed a stout and a dry-hopped elderflower pale ale in the green Dutch oven and stored the brews in a neighbor's broom closet. We bottled on Halloween after our herb and spice exam, and popped the bottles on Thanksgiving after a 13-hour day in the kitchen. The pale ale was terrible.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Inside the von Trapp Bierhall, Soft-Opening September 15

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 5:42 PM

Ten years ago, the Trapp Family Lodge was a stodgy resort for tourists seeking an Alpine escape. In 2010, the family started brewing lager on the premises; by 2014, that operation had expanded its capacity from 2,000 to 50,000 barrels per year. And two years ago, executive vice president Sam von Trapp told Seven Days that workers had broken ground on a new Austrian-style bierhall, which would welcome mountain revelers for steins and sausages, hopefully by summer, 2015.

As with most construction projects, things didn't go according to plan. But after nearly two years of building and preparation, the bierhall opens tomorrow with an all-star team.

Jack Pickett — whose Phoenix Table and Bar, Frida’s Taqueria and Blue Moon Café fed locals for years — is leading the kitchen. Former Gracie’s Restaurant owner Paul “Archie” Archdeacon will run the front of the house. “It’s been really neat bringing two really popular Stowe restaurateurs together,” Sam von Trapp said,  speaking by phone on Tuesday. 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Drink Up: A Black Currant Saison at Foam Brewers

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 8:10 AM

The Purple One and Mellow Gold at Foam Brewers in Burlington - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • The Purple One and Mellow Gold at Foam Brewers in Burlington
My first taste of Foam Brewers was a mauve-colored pour of the Purple One, a black currant saison that’s lush, dry and extraordinarily bright with fresh berries. Its gentle sourness and effervescence countered the soupy August humidity clinging to foreheads and water glasses outside. I took my draft to a shaded corner of Foam's patio, letting the breeze from the nearby waterfront cut the heat of a 90-degree afternoon. For the first time, I was in love with a fruit beer.

Before Foam, I’ll admit I wasn't into fruit-forward brews. My avoidance was probably sparked from a room-temperature cup of Pêche Mel' Bush sipped sometime during college, when the resident Belgian beer devotee popped a bottle of the strong, syrupy ale sent from a brother living abroad. It was poured in a red plastic cup, and subsequently followed by an equally tepid glug of a framboise lambic that tasted a bit like an opened bottle of Manischewitz. Did I mention it was warm? 

Those dual sips left me believing that fruit beers were too cloyingly sweet for my taste. The sentiment held true until Dani Casey gave me a taste of the Purple One while helming the bar at Foam.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

The Alchemist Opens Brewery and Visitor Center in Stowe

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 6:24 AM

  • Courtesy of the Alchemist
  • Heady Topper
You've heard of Heady Topper? Focal Banger? The coveted cans from that brewery in Waterbury?

Those who brave the hour-long beverage-store queues to get cases and four-packs of the Alchemist's famed ales now have another option. Yesterday at 2 p.m., the Alchemist cut the ribbon on a brand-new brewery and visitors center at 100 Cottage Club Road in Stowe. Here, beer aficionados can enjoy a tasting section, retail shop and educational area with full views of the brewing process.

“John and I look forward to being open to the public again,” said Jen Kimmich, who opened the Alchemist with her husband, John, in 2003. “We missed the daily interaction with our community.”

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Foam Brewers to Open on Burlington Waterfront in Spring

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 1:18 PM

  • Foam Brewing via Facebook
  • Foam Brewing
In a few months, Burlington will become home to yet another brewery when Foam Brewers opens its tasting room at 112 Lake Street, in the space most recently occupied by San Sai, which closed in October. (San Sai co-owner Kazutoshi "Mike" Maeda is in the process of moving to a new location — more on that another time.) The new brewery will offer full pints of eight draft beers and will focus on seasonal brews (saisons, IPAs and wheat beers in summer, darker stuff in cooler months). Foam will also brew kombucha in-house and offer cold-brewed coffee on nitro.

The new brewery will pair its liquid offerings with a modest seasonal menu of local cheeses, artisanal charcuterie (some of it made in-house), fresh bread and house-fermented vegetables. The last plays into one of cofounder Todd Haire's obsessions. "I'm kind of a geek when it comes to fermented things," he says.

During the warmer months, Foam Brewers will add pit-roasted barbecue and house-smoked meats to the menu. 

Haire is a former head brewer at nearby Switchback Brewing, where he met Foam cofounders-to-be Sam Keane and Robert Grim. Haire and Grim spearheaded Switchback's pilot beer program, while Keane worked as a production brewer. Before joining Switchback, Haire spent 13 years at Magic Hat Brewing in South Burlington, where he also rose to head brewer. (He is also working on the micro-batch House of Fermentology with Bill Mares, though the two projects are not formally connected.) 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015: The Year in Beer

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

A smattering of 2015's new beers - HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • Hannah Palmer Egan
  • A smattering of 2015's new beers
Holy beer, Batman! 

If last year was a banner year for Vermont beer, 2015 easily outdid it. In terms of numbers, we didn't see quite as many new breweries open as last year (I'm counting eight 2015 openings — or imminent openings — to 2014's 11), but dozens of existing producers expanded their output in major ways. Which means there was more Vermont beer on the market than ever before — by a long shot.

So we saw more bottles and cans on retail shelves — breweries continued to shift from 22-ounce, "bomber" bottles to smaller bottles and cans — which made going to the gas station a whole lot more fun. And heretofore hard-to-find-in-stores beers, such as ones from Williston's Burlington Beer Company, Brattleboro's Hermit Thrush Brewery (both 2014 debuts), Burlington's Zero Gravity Craft Brewing and Stowe's von Trapp Brewing, became widely available.

Since Vermonters are champion beer drinkers, nothing stayed on shelves long. Emboldened by drinkers' seemingly insatiable thirst for the latest, greatest, most exciting samples, brewers continued to be creative. I'd argue that 2015 brought Vermont's most fascinating array of new beers yet. (More on that below, including my list of "bests.")

Bars and restaurants responded by hosting more beer-focused dinners and events than ever. It seems the public finally began to grasp the idea that beer could be as friendly to food as is wine.

Those meals were particularly rampant during the inaugural Vermont Beer Week in September. And it's noteworthy that Beer Week was organized not by any group of breweries or by the Vermont Brewers Association, but guerrilla-style by a couple of Chittenden County beer freaks. Appalled that the state didn't have a beer week, they decided to take matters into their own hands. 

On to the nitty-gritty...

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