Featuring more breweries per capita than any other state, Vermont is a small state with a big appreciation for quality beer and this spring, the craft brewing scene expands with ten breweries statewide, bringing the total number of breweries registered with the Vermont Brewers Association to 29 (Executive Director Kurt Staudter estimates there to be as many as 40). Earlier this spring, Vermont Sports visited four of the newest breweries in the state to talk flavor, brewing and the ever-expanding variety of Vermont brews to suit even the most discerning palate.
Operating out of 4750 square feet of warehouse space lined with artwork picked up at Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Burlington Beer Company, based in Williston, is the result of the imaginative brewing of Joe Lemnah, and the business strategy of Jake Durell. The two friends started the endeavor in 2012 and after finding a suitable space in Williston, intend to bring a new selection of beers to the Burlington area.
In addition to completing an intensive course at the American Brewers Guild in Middlebury, Joe Lemnah’s brewing resume includes the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, Dogfish Head Brewery and most recently, Evolution Brewing in Salisbury, Md. Lemnah says working at both large and small operations gave him a good introduction for when he wanted to start from the ground-up.
“At Dogfish Head, I would sign-off and the packaging people would take over,” he says. “But at Evolution, it was just five of us working with all hands on deck. It gave me more background in what it’s going to take to go from zero barrels of beer to five thousand.”
While working as a professional brewer, Lemnah continued to develop and perfect his own beer recipes, brewing hundreds of pilot batches until finally deciding on four flagship ales. Burlington Beer intends to sell their beer in 64-ounce growlers, cans and limited edition bottles. The brewery also offers a community reserve society, based on the models of community supported agriculture programs, with subscribers receiving monthly releases of barrel-aged and/or fruit beers instead of veggies.
Lemnah says as more people become interested in buying locally produced goods, they are also looking locally for their beer as well, an opportunity that brewers all over the state can share.
“We’re getting more regionalized, generation by generation,” Lemnah says. “It’s more than just Wonder Bread and baloney for everyone. It’s getting back to knowing your butcher, your baker and your brewer. As the tide rises, so do all the ships.”
Address: 25 Omega Dr. Suite 150
Hours: Open for tastings Thursday – Friday, 4-7 p.m.; Saturday, 1-7
Queen City is a collaboration between four longtime friends and members of the Green Mountain Mashers home-brewers club. Paul Hale, Paul Held, Phil Kaszuba, and Maarten van Ryckevorsel. Together, they bring 28 years of brewing experience and a combined total of 200 brewing awards including the state homebrew competition to the new brewing venture under the direction of Hale. Queen City Brewing opens this spring, producing German lagers in Bock, Helles and Dunkel styles as well as English-style ales.
“That’s the kind of beer I like to drink,” explains Hale. “But I also like to be able to tell a story behind the beer. They have a tradition and history.”
While most varieties of German and English beers are available at beverage centers in the United States, these export varieties have preservatives added when they’re shipped overseas, which van Ryckevorsel says detract from the authentic taste people deserve.
“There are a lot of beers that you’re never going to get on-tap,” says van Ryckevorsel. “Like a Bamberger Rauchbiear you can get in bottles, but who knows how old those bottles are? You’re never going to get them a week old and on tap. That’s what we want to provide.”
Queen City hopes their “Antwerp Ale,” or “Landlady ale,” each modeled after Belgian and English styles, not imported in the US will help to satisfy the thirst for these harder to find varieties.
“Over the years, we’ve been making real traditional beers and we’ll stick to that,” says Hale, “Our philosophy is to make traditional world-class beers here fresh and have people experience what they’re really supposed to be like.”
Address: 703 Pine Street, behind Swish Cleaners
Hours: Expected to begin brewing in full scale soon.
Infinity Brewing Company
When longtime friends Glenn Cummings and Murray Seaman had parties, Cummings would buy beer for guests while Seaman would bring the beer he brewed himself. When the tenant next to Cumming’s shop moved out, they realized an opportunity to expand.
“Murray was always bringing some great beer,” says Cummings. “And when the space next door opened up, I asked him if he’d ever thought about opening up a brewery.”
Infinity opened its doors in late February with a soft opening publicized only by word of mouth and is a labor of love for the two of them. Cummings is the owner of Cummings Electric and Seaman works fulltime as a project manager at IBM in Essex. Seaman brings 25 years homebrewing experience to the partnership and has stepped into the role of head brewer. He has ten developed recipes, but has started with four until they have the equipment to allow more.
“It’s very much a similar process but with a bigger toy,” says Seaman, describing moving from homebrewing to larger production methods. “
For now, they say the goal isn’t to compete with some of the larger producers. It’s about staying true to the style of beer.”
Since then, they’ve hit the ground running, releasing an Irish Red Ale, an IPA and a Belgian Saisan Golden Ale, all available in their South Burlington tasting room in bottles and growlers, as well as on draught at Leunig’s in Burlington, Rozzi’s Lakeshore Tavern & Restaurant in Colchester and McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House in Williston. The beers are the first varieties to be released, but Seaman says he’s looking to keep experimenting.
“I don’t want to pin myself into saying that we have just one flagship,” he says. “We’ll find out what the customer likes first.”
Address: 80 Ethan Allen Dr. South Burlington
Hours: The tasting room is slated to be open to the public three weekday evenings 4 – 8 pm and Saturdays.
The weekend before Saint Patrick’s Day, a small cluster of people gathered outside a Garage near downtown Winooski for the official opening of the Four Quarters Brewing Company. Operating in a large garage space with secondhand parts bought used from Southern Vermont and Maine, the operation is headed by Brian Eckert. Like others, Eckert started small at home, brewing on a home brewers kit when he wasn’t working fulltime as a web developer for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. He became involved with the Green Mountain Mashers and moved into the space in Winooski in April. His quest to expand sent him driving in a friend’s pickup truck to Southern Vermot for oak barrels from the Saxtons River Distilery in Brattleboro to Portland, Maine for a used tank.
Today, he still works fulltime by the ice cream giant and he finds time to brew twice a week – staying up until four a.m. on some nights. The result is six different Belgian styles of Patersbier, a historic style of beer once reserved only for the monks that brewed it hundreds of years ago. Eckert has taken those traditional styles of beer and added his own spin towards more experimental sour styles of beers.
Eckert says much of the inspiration for his brewing creations comes from his interest in Belgian beers and the newer experimental India Pale Ale’s that have gained popularity in Vermont.
“There’s exceptional IPAs coming from here, so much that it’s almost its own style of beer,” he says. “Because of that, we’ve tried to do our own.”
Outside of brewing, he likes to read about space, physics and Greek mythology.
“There’s a weird link between religion and astronomy,” he says “And monks were some of the first astronomers and the first brewers. A lot of my beers and their names come from that tradition.”
Address: 150 West Canal Street, Winooski
Hours: Friday, Saturday evenings, Sunday afternoons