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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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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

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

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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