Last October I selected six Vermont beers for Bryan Roth, a beer writer holding down his fort at the This Is Why I’m Drunk website. Bryan wanted beer writers from around the country to fill a local six-pack, and he cleverly called the endeavor “The Six-Pack Project: Beers from Around the Country.”
Now James Welch has suggested an update of sorts, but with a close-up lens on Vermont. Welch is the creator of the Vermont Beer website, which has quickly become an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the state’s wildly active brewing scene.
As he put it, “I’m doing a community post (asking other VT beer bloggers, businesses) if they want to pick a VT six-pack…. This (hopefully) will have a few different visions of the ‘VT dream team six-pack’ from different perspectives.”
The only rules proposed were that the beers had to be brewed in Vermont, available in bottles or cans, and available off site (no brewery-only releases). I also decided to maintain one of the provisos I used last time—that the beers also had to be generally available to me here in southern Vermont.
Which is to say, the southern Vermont beer gulag, since there’s obviously an imaginary iron beer curtain somewhere north of here, that breweries like Hill Farmstead, the Alchemist, Lawson’s Finest Liquids are chicken to cross. Yeah, that’s what I said, chicken! So any time you lily-livered brewers want to prove me wrong, just start shipping your beer down here. If you dare!
Well, worth a shot. Meanwhile, we’re doing okay down here in southern climes, as I presume this list shows. Just for variety, and since a few new beers have happened along in the interim, I’ve changed it up some from last time:
Dooley’s Belated Porter, 5.7% ABV, Switchback Brewing Company, Burlington: Long after opening its doors in 2002 the brewery was still making only one kegged beer, the vastly popular Switchback Ale. It finally went into bottles in 2012 and now has several siblings, including this unfiltered and bottle-conditioned porter, roasty, earthy and satisfying.
Sour Golden Ale, @7.2% ABV, Backacre Beermakers, Weston: Backacre suggests it is less a brewery than a blendery, taking wort produced elsewhere in the state back to its barrel-aging facility, where it will sit on oak for a year or more. Different yeast strains are employed and different barrels blended before new bottled batches are released (and ABVs may vary). I’ve had the beer but once—this past New Year’s Eve, but it’s a tart, fruity, zesty wonder that will be gracing the table again. And again.
Mountain Ale, 7.4%, The Shed Brewery, Middlebury: No change with these next two. The Shed was a brewery ahead of its time, a beloved restaurant in Stowe for decades that turned to brewing in 1995 but unfortunately closed in 2011 over a lease issue. The Crop Bistro & Brewing rescued the site for diners and drinkers, and Otter Creek rescued the name and some recipes. Along with a fine Shed IPA, this unfiltered strong brown (called a “rugged brown” on the label) is a long way from mild. It’s deep, dark, and dangerously drinkable—bready, nutty, with sweet hints of toffee and a bracing enough finish.
Native Brown Ale, 7.2% ABV, Foley Brothers Brewing, Brandon: It’s a family affair at the first brewery in Rutland County, which opened in November of 2012. The brothers are on hand, but so is a sister, spouses, and parents in the background, the founders of the Neshobe River Winery. There’s a tasty Ginger Wheat beer in the portfolio, an IPA, Porter, Altbier and an Imperial IPA making the rounds, but of the few I’ve tried I nominate the Native Brown the star of the show at the moment, a deep, dark and hearty brown, the malty sweetness amplified by a maple syrup addition.
Citra Mantra, 5.75%, Otter Creek, Middlebury: This is my sole seasonal beer on the list, and its season has pretty much passed I’m sorry to say. (Even if, meteorologically speaking, spring has barely begun here in Vermont.) Still, this hybridized entry—an India-style Pils Lager—is a real treat, a crisp and Germanic lager as advertised, but redolent with the highly fruity left coast Citra hop aromas. May still be some on the shelves, and worth looking for.
Limbo IPA, 7.5%, Long Trail Brewing Co., Bridgewater Corners: I swapped out Long Trail’s reliable Double Bag alt for the still relatively new Limbo, which is about as good as IPAs get, a hophead’s delight and soon to be—this is a prediction—the brewery’s best-selling product. Long Trail seems overly cautious in not calling this a double IPA, but at 7.5% ABV it is only .5% off the Heady Topper mark. This may be Long Trail’s way of not openly competing with what has been called the world’s best beer. But in these parts Limbo has it all over Heady Topper for one compelling reason—you can get it. Easily.
The usual offer applies—to argue about any of this over a pint, at one of our favorite watering holes. Which sounds like fodder for another community post.
[May 4, 2014]