September 19-20

Oakledge Park, Burlington, VT

Eat X NE Eat X NE


FREE ADMISSION!

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Help-one-percent-For-The-Planet-01 Did you know ExNE will help raise over $20k for nonprofit partners focused on sustainable local food initiatives? Partners include:
– Intervale Center
– Slow Food Vermont
– ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center
VT Community Garden Network
Look for the 1% for the Planet nonprofit village ready to help spread the word throughout this great community!

by: Kerri-Ann Jennings

It’s apple season! While that means an abundance of crunchy, juicy apples hitting co-op shelves and ripe for picking at local orchards, the new hard cider craze in Vermont has found a way to make apple season last all year long. The past few years have seen the birth of several new cideries in Vermont. Citizen Cider in Burlington,  Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge, Pruner’s Pride (Champlain Orchards Hard Cider) in Shoreham, Shacksbury Ciders, Shoreham, and Hall Home Place Ice Cider in Isle La Motte are five cideries currently operating in Vermont. All will be sampling their ciders at Brewhaha, the two-session beer and cider tasting event that’s happening at Oakledge on September 19th and 20th.

I Love Cider, sign series for beers, drinks and alcohol.Hard cider is a boon to the Vermont economy. It takes a native product—apples—and adds value to it in a way that can be sold throughout the year and out of state. While some of the hard cider in Vermont is made by the orchard owners (including Boyden Valley and Pruner’s Pride), others, such as Citizen Cider, have collaborated with apple orchards, thus boosting two businesses through the cider making process.

Hard cider is made by fermenting pressed apple juice. Different strains of yeast can be used to change the flavor of the cider, and different ingredients can be added. Citizen Cider, for instance, have used blueberries to create a bROSé. Shacksubry Cider makes one variety, the 1840, that uses so-called “lost apples”—apples that were cultivated in Vermont specifically for cidermaking over a hundred years ago. Changing up ingredients and brewing processes, results in endless variations that make the new hard cider landscape all the more interesting.

While cider has always been a popular beverage in the UK (it leads the world in cider consumption), the US has had a more nuanced history with cider. It was a popular drink in colonial America, but as people moved to cities in the mid-19th century, cider fell out of favor and beer replaced it as the drink of choice. But that’s been changing, particularly in the last 10 years, and sales in the US have grown exponentially. According to Euromonitor International, cider sales in the US grew by 63% in 2013, and there was similar growth the year before. Market analysts say part of the appeal is that cider is gluten-free. Plus the fact that it’s a hyperlocal product appeals to the growing sense that it’s good to drink, as well as eat, local. Cheers to that.

 

By Kerri-Ann Jennings

Eat x Northeast is a festival with a mission: getting people more involved with their local food community. To that end, most of the events are FREE, to keep it accessible to all, and its it’s also part conference. Yes, there is music, there is good food, there is community. But there will also be educational sessions, during which leaders in the local food movement will share their knowledge with the public, empowering attendees to go local (or more local). “Go local sessions focus on the knowledge it takes to go local and eat local. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, and it can be delicious,” says Benjy Adler, owner of Skinny Pancake and a main coordinator of the festival. These 30 educational sessions fall into three main categories: create, grow, sell.

In the create category, there are sessions on tasting and cooking with local foods: you’ll learn the science behind your taste buds, how to make your own flatbreads and kimchi, among other things. A headlining event in this category is “Cultivate Your Kitchen Confidence,” hosted by South End Kitchen. Two local food mavens, cookbook author Molly Stevens, and Penny Cluse chef Maura O’Sullivan, will tackle the wallflowers of farmers markets, showing you creative and delicious ways to prepare underutilized vegetables. And, yes, there will be samples! There will also be samples from Healthy Living and South End Kitchen throughout the weekend, along with recipes so that you can try new dishes at home. Another session in the main tent is the paid Beer & Chocolate Tasting, which pairs local brews with Lake Champlain Chocolate-made confections.

Grow sessions get you growing food in your kitchen, garden or community garden. You can learn how to save seeds, plant flowers for bees, and get greens growing in a windowsill throughout the winter. Check out the full lineup here.

Two sell sessions focus on getting your own added-value products (homebrew, kimchi) into the marketplace. One session will review the nuts and bolts of getting your product to market, while another is a pitch slam: the winner will get advice from Healthy Living and their product will get 3 months on Healthy Living shelves.

Organizing these 30 sessions was a Herculean task, but it was pulled off through a group effort of the Local Food Super Group and spearheaded by Olga Moriarity, whose ten years of experience coordinating the NOFA conference was instrumental in planning local food sessions. As a group they brainstormed session ideas, culled the best and then volunteered to teach sessions. For any sessions that still needed leaders, Moriarity recruited the best possible people for the job.

by: Ted Kammerer

photo credit: Chris Stearns

Interview the head brewer of the Pro Pig, sample his beer brewed less than 30 feet away, and eat chicken fried steak and biscuits sandwiches? If I have to. Nate Johnson is brewing at the helm of the Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, a restaurant and tap house at the apex of the decadent Vermont food and beer scene and the former site of the Alchemist brewpub. Currently in the process of a sizable brewery and tasting room expansion attached to the restaurant, Nate and Pro Pig brewing have more than a couple tricks up their sleeve in the upcoming year.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 8.09.09 AMTell me how you first got into brewing.

Nate: I started homebrewing about 6 years ago. I was brewing about every week, first with extract brewing then quickly moving to all grain. You know, I just wanted to get better. Ira Glass has this great quote on being creative and what he calls ‘the gap.’ He says that when you start doing something creative, your initial output is never very good. But your taste, what got you into the creativity and what you strive for, is still there so, you’ve got this gap of your ability versus what you want to do. And that right there really sealed the deal for me. I knew it was possible to brew beer the same quality as what you’re buying in a store. My beer wasn’t that good yet. And so every single time I brewed, I wanted to get better, I wanted to push it. All of the sudden, my friends were like, ‘Dude this is really, really good.’

unnamed-2You guy’s are really tight with the Alchemist, can you talk about your relationship with them?

John [Kimmich] is a huge inspiration for me. I remember coming here with my wife in early 2008, and we were the only ones in here at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday; it was just after the Alchemist opened. (Prohibition Pig occupies what used to be the Alchemist’s brewpub until it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The Alchemist has since very successfully relocated and expanded their brewery to another Waterbury location). I come in here, and Heady Topper is on the menu. I’ve never heard of it, I have no idea what it is, but it was a double IPA so I ordered it. I still remember that day, just smelling this double IPA and being blown away to the point where I didn’t even want to drink it. It completely shifted my brewing worldview… holy shit, this is possible. We live in a state where beers are just crazy good.

What are your plans for the new brewery?

The new fermentation tanks glistening and gleaming.

The new fermentation tanks glistening and gleaming.

We’ll have a seven-barrel brewhouse, and will probably keep the one-barrel system for some small batch stuff, and certainly as a piece of Vermont brewing history. We’ll be doing primarily growlers for most of the beers, but will be bottling special releases. Our first bottle release will be our Stout-Porter aged in bourbon barrels, which is currently resting in the barrels.

Nate let me sample two of his brews featured on the Pro Pig tap. The first was called Back To The Grind, a coffee stout. Balancing robust notes of coffee and silky cacao, Grind recalled mellow coffee beans more so than the bitter grinds, making for an accessible stout with great depth. Hell, it might even replace your morning cup of coffee. The second brew was Bantam, a double IPA. Nate had mentioned that he wanted to distance this beer from the traditional VT DIPA trademarks of hazy appearance and tropical fruit notes. The result is a translucent brew resembling a west-coast IPA in the looks department with a walloping taste of big hop-resin dankness and refreshing notes of orange/tangerine citrus. Great success!

Nate Johnson next to his newest apparatus.

Nate Johnson next to his newest apparatus.

What is it about Vermont that lends itself to making a home to so many creative brewers and restauranteurs?

I think the Vermont food and beer scene stems from the agricultural history of the State. Vermonters are used to having relationships with their local farmers and their restaurants. Vermonters want to know where their food is coming from, and I think that extends to beer as well. Another big part of the beer and restaurant movement is that Vermonters want quality food and drink; these are things they’re willing to seek it out and pay premium for it. There’s a really robust food and drink culture here in so many ways, maybe beer is at the forefront of that right now but it’s with everything we eat and drink, like the coffee and local farming and CSA’s, all of this plays into a strong, local food culture that Vermont has really adopted. It’s amazing and impressive.

What are some of your favorite brews?

Hill Farmstead’s saisons are world-class, and I really enjoy Lost Nation’s Gose, Zero Gravity’s Conehead and London Calling for some of my favorite Vermont beers. As for style, American pale ale all the way. That’s the beer I want to drink day in and day out.

What concert are you looking forward to the most this summer?

Phish. Too stereotypical?

Check out three different Prohibition Pig concoctions at the EATxNE BrewHaha on September 9th & 10th. Treat yourself, stop by their Waterbury restaurant for the best smoked meats on this side of the Mason/Dixon and look for the new brewery and tasting room grand opening in upcoming months.

http://www.prohibitionpig.com/

Brewhaha tickets available here: http://eatbynortheast.frontgatetickets.com/allevents.php?a=n

unnamedBeer and chocolate might be two of the simplest gustatory pleasures, but they are a lot more complex than people sometimes give them credit for. “Beer and chocolate are often consumed but misunderstood,” says Eric Lampman, the chocolate maker behind Blue Bandana. Increasingly, people want to know how their food is made and why it tastes the way it does. The Beer & Chocolate Tasting at Eat x Northeast on Saturday, September 20th, is the perfect chance to dive deeper into the process of how both beer and chocolate are made. It will feature chocolates from Blue Bandana and its parent company, Lake Champlain Chocolates and brews that taste great with them.

logoWhile you might not have thought you needed an excuse to pair chocolate and beer—beyond the fact that they’re both wonderful—there actually is one. According to Lampman, “they’re both fermented products. Cocoa beans get fermented and dried before roasted and that’s where the flavor level comes from.” And both chocolate and beer have a wide spectrum of flavors that make for mouth-dazzling combinations.

While Lampman insists that there are no rules when pairing beer and chocolate, he admits that there are three main approaches for pairing beer and chocolate:

CC_Logo211) The first is one-to-one: in which you use the same flavor in the confection and the beverage. At September’s tasting, you’ll taste that in Citizen Cider Unified Press and Lake Champlain Chocolates Apple Cider Caramel. Not only do these products use the same flavor (apples), but they start with exactlythe same ingredient: Happy Valley Orchard apples, making this an ultra-local and seasonal brew and chocolate pairing.

logo2) The second is complimentary: you pull out the same taste in both products (salty and salty or sour and sour, for instance). The pairing of Zero Gravity Gruit and Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker Madagascar 82% Chocolate fits the bill with the sour on sour taste. While ultra dark chocolate is often thought to be bitter, BBCM’s 82% chocolate is surprisingly sweet and sour. “Its complexity plays off of this inspired Gruit,” says Lampman. Another pair at the tasting also boasts a complementary taste approach: Burlington Beer Co’s Mason Jar Mildand LCC’s Almond Butter Crunch. Caramelized, sweet toffee in the almond butter crunch boosts the oat quality in the brown ale, while the roast of almonds complements the layers of light malts used. At the Beer & Chocolate Tasting, you’ll notice this effect when you try the Switchback Ale burlington_beer_co_logoand Dark Chocolate Orange Peel. Thecomplex ale has fruit notes that pair nicely with the orange peel. Also, at 28 IBU (International Bitterness Units), the ale has a moderate bitterness that’s heightened by the bitterness of the orange rind. Overall the pairing delivers balanced flavors of sweet, bitter and sour.

Switchback_Logo_144_x_1443) Lastly, there’s the contrasting flavor pairing. For this one, you might pair a spicy chocolate with a beer that has high carbonation and a cooling or hoppy bitterness to play against the chocolate’s heat and counteract the spice.

There is one more elusive pairing that Lampman calls the “wow factor.” This is the one that blows your socks off—you can’t necessarily predict when it’ll happen, so it’s the surprise that you hope will happen.

During the beer and chocolate tasting, you’ll have a chance to talk with the brewers and chocolate makers to find out about the process and how they developed the style of each beer and confection.

Tickets – $12 available HERE

CC_Logo21by: Ted Kammerer

Founded in 2011 by a wine expert, a chemist, and a farmer, the wildly popular Citizen Cider has found a home in a market largely dominated by craft beer. Available nearly everywhere in the greater Burlington area, you’d be hard-pressed to find a local who doesn’t at least occasionally enjoy the tasty beverage. Citizen Cider has burst out of the gates of entrepreneurship, launched straight to success, and is here to stay. We sat down with Kris Nelson (the wine guy), Citizen’s Co-founder and Director of Marketing and Sales, to find out more behind the story of Citizen Cider.

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Unified Press on the canning line

So how did Citizen Cider come to be?

Kris: It was founded with myself, Bryan [Holmes], and Justin [Heilenbach]. Bryan is the guru around research and development in terms of coming up with new ciders, but we work together to create new ciders. I come from a wine background, so I use my palate gauge flavor profiles to help him. Our roles have been evolving over the course of Citizen Cider’s life. In the beginning, we all were making cider all the time. We were all working other jobs; we would go to our other jobs and do cider nights and weekends, pitching yeast, bottling, we were all doing everything. Now we have Justin overseeing the business’ production, and Bryan develops small batch stuff that we then scale up in production. My role has switched into maintaining connections to our accounts and thinking about our long-term plan with sales, and working with Farrell [Citizen Cider’s distributor]. It’s all been an evolution.

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Kris Nelson, a man of sunflowers and libations.

What inspired you to leave the wine industry and move towards cider?

Food and beverage has always been something I’ve been passionate about. Since 2010 when we got started, I was in the car a lot, seeing what’s out there in Vermont and there’s not a lot of cider. There was Woodchuck, there were finer wine-style ciders like Farm Hill, and I don’t even think Angry Orchard got released yet.

I was reading “Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollen and one of the plants that he talks about is the apple tree and the reason for its existence in North America; pretty much the whole reason for its presence almost everywhere is for hard cider production. He then talks about the Temperance Movement chopping down apple trees and how it did major damage to apple production, also the populations of Irish and German immigrants coming into the country in the later part of the 19th century brought a lot of beer, which was their beverage of choice. Prohibition also killed cider in the United States and is also why we have a monoculture of plots of individual varieties of fruit, like specific apples. In hard cider production you can take all different kinds of apples, whether they’re bitter-sharps, bitter-sweets, even crabapples make great ciders. But fresh fruits, like farm-stand apples, they’re now specifically for pies and eating. So in order for orchards to stay in business during Prohibition, they had to subscribe to that monoculture. Before that, people were not eating apples or fruit like that on a large scale. During Prohibition, the mob turned into a distributor, and manufacturer to some degree, of alcohol, but it was beer and spirits. Hard cider was not really dealt with, and never really made a comeback. It was this odd thing, in terms of taxation and production it’s kind of an odd duck. Now, you can have a conversation about it. People are like ‘Oh totally, I love cider,’ whereas even four years ago in Vermont, there was just a not real conversation about it.

Now we’re creating a category, you know, what is cider? We’re trying to reach people’s palate on what they understand, and people understand very little about cider. If you give people a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, they have an idea of what they’re looking for. But cider, it’s like is it supposed to be dry? Is it supposed to be sweet? What does dry mean even? It’s a very relative and subjective thing. The Dirty Mayor is really funny. It started out as us just adding ginger syrup to our cider to have something else, but people just loved the ginger element so much that we decided to do our own lemon-peel, ginger cider. And it’s crazy! You lose the traditional characteristics of the cider, it’s alcoholic, ginger…cider!

Kris took us out to the tasting room and poured us glasses of Citizen’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cider. Familiar, crisp hard cider dryness and apple characteristics are present but gently mellowed by the bourbon-molasses sweetness that the cider picked up aging in Heaven’s Hill bourbon barrels. For the win.

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Citizen’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cider

What’s the relationship like between food and cider?

Citizen Cider is primarily a production facility and tasting room; whatever food we do here is to showcase the cider, we do want to be able to show foods that go well with cider. Cider and food, it’s kind of a joke but it’s not. What doesn’t it go with? Certain ciders go well with certain foods, but it really is very flexible. It is very, very food friendly. In terms of working with [other restaurants and food trucks], we’re friends with everybody so whenever we have time to work with people to combine food and cider, we’re definitely open to do it.

Be sure to stop by the brand new Citizen Cider tasting room on Pine Street for libations, snacks, and growler fills. You can find Citizen Cider at a wide variety of stores in the greater Burlington area and Vermont, and don’t miss them at EATxNE’s Friday and Saturday BrewHaHa sessions pouring some of their specialty ciders.

http://www.citizencider.com/

http://eatxne.com/

The Brewhaha: Sept 19th & 20th. Oakledge Park, 25+ local breweries, cideries, and vineyards all in one tasting. Get your tickets before they sell out!

By: Kerri-Ann Jennings

For such a small state, Vermont tops some of the national stats for beer drinking and brewing: We lead the country in the average amount we drink (15.1 gallons per adult over 21); rank second in breweries per capita (6.2); and third in economic impact per capita. That’s according to the Brewer’s Association’s stats for 2013 and doesn’t even factor in the new breweries that have opened up this year! This year’s first-ever Brewhaha on September 19th and 20th from 6 – 9pm will bring together over 25 of the region’s smallest, newest, closest, and best up-and-coming breweries, cideries and wineries, offering an amazing opportunity to try the best of what the local beerbrew world has to offer all at once.r.

The Vermont beer scene has exploded in the last few years with new breweries opening at an exponential rate. According to Kurt Staudter from the Vermont Brewer’s Association, nine breweries have opened this year alone and 5 opened last year. There are at least 39 breweries operating in the state, with a few more on the cusp. Says Staudter, “I’m hearing of at least one new brewer a week. Some will take years to open, and a few will open by the end of the year.”

Staudter thinks that the strong localvore movement in Vermont is behind the growth of new breweries, as well as a generation of younger drinkers who know nothing but craft beer. “Unlike folks like me in their 50s that grew up with Bud and Miller, folks in their 20s and 30s won’t settle for anything less than flavorful beer. Many are just finding that life is too short to drink crappy beer.”

In that vein, let’s celebrate these ultra-close, small and innovative breweries that are participating in the first-ever Brewhaha.

Kudos to the newest and closest breweries that will be in attendance:

Newest brewery: Bent Hill Brewery in Braintree opened its doors on June 7th, edging out Queen City Brewery for the newest brewery by just one day! Maple Red Ale and Coconut Porter are two of the innovative new flavors they’ve been brewing up. They only distribute within a 30-mile radius, so this is a great opportunity to try their beer close to home.

Closest brewery: Switchback brewery is less than half a mile up Flynn Avenue from Oakledge! You’ve likely tried their signature Switchback ale, but they brew four other varieties, including porter, roasted red ale, slow-fermented brown ale and extra pale ale.

Now a look at the breweries and cideries that will be at the Brewhaha, sorted by distance:

Switchback, Burlington, started brewing in 2002 (.4 miles)

Queen City Brewery, Burlington, 2014 (1.3 miles)

Citizen Cider, Burlington: The tasting room opened in 2014, the brewery opened in 2011 (1.9 miles)

Zero Gravity, Burlington, 2004 (2.6 miles)

Simple Roots Brewing, Burlington, 2014 (3 miles…farmer’s market locations only)

Four Quarters, Winooski opened to the public 2014 (4.6 miles)

Fiddlehead, Shelburne, opened 2011 (7.2 miles)

Infinity Brewing, Burlington, 2013 (7.6 miles)

Burlington Beer Co., Williston, 2014 (8 miles)

Groenfell Meadery, Colchester, 2013 (8.6 miles)

Stone Corral, Huntington, 2013 (23 miles)

Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, opened 2012 (27 miles)

Boyden Valley Winery, Ice Cider, Cambridge (36 miles)

Trapp Lager Brewery, Stowe, 2010 (38 miles)

Crop Bistro & Brewery, Stowe, German and Belgian-style beers, 2012 (38 miles)

Shacksbury Ciders, Shoreham, 2013 (43 miles)

Rock Art, Morrisville, 1997 (45 miles)

Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Warren, 2009 (46 miles)

Lost Nation, Morrisville, 2013 (46 miles)

Pruner’s Pride (Champlain Orchards Hard Cider), Shoreham (46 miles)

Bent Hill Brewery, Braintree, VT, 2014 (68.1 miles)

Covered Bridge Brewing, Lyndonville, opened in 2012 (83 miles)

The Brewhaha: Sept 19th & 20th. Oakledge Park, 25+ local breweries, cideries, and vineyards all in one tasting. Get your tickets before they sell out!

bildeby: Ted Kammerer

We sat down with Jamie Griffith, Co-owner and one of the head brewers at Lost Nation of Morrisville, Vermont. Jamie helped to start Lost Nation in 2012 after head-brewing with fellow Lost Nation co-founder Allen Van Alda at Trapp Lager Brewery in Stowe. A relatively young brewery in Vermont at two years old, Lost Nation specializes in re-imagining Old World brew recipes, namely forgotten German and Belgian beer-style staples, and is finding a huge following along the way.

What attracted you to brew beer for a living?

Jaime: I fell in love with it right away, I was already kind of in the industry with food production, and I’ve always been into recipes, cooking stuff, and all that kind of stuff. So I was formulating soy milk and tofu when Allen and I met, and he was leaving to do Trapp’s. So when I went to Trapp’s and started brewing I knew instantly that this would be the last job I would ever have.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.33.10 AMWhat’s it like being young gun in the established VT beer scene?

It’s awesome, it’s fun. I’m just psyched with us developing plans, from having nothing, getting funding, building a brewery, launching a product, shipping beer, starting a restaurant, having all of that stuff just to think about and then it actually happening is the coolest thing. I think it’s awesome to be a part of the scene now, where it is and where it’s going, it’s really amazing to be an emerging brewery. I like the community I’m involved in, every day I wake up, I’m just so psyched to go to work. The kind of beer culture we’re creating here is really cool, and Vermont is a really cool place for that to happen.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.33.41 AMDo you guys have a flagship brew?

I think the Gose is. When we started we didn’t want a flagship brew, we wanted our style to be the flagship. Full flavor but lower a.b.v. (alcohol by volume) European and American style beers, a range of varieties, and very approachable was what we had thought our flagship was going to be. We thought the Gose was going to be something that would take everyone by surprise and it’s literally taken us by surprise by how quickly it’s caught on. It’s a pretty addictive style too, it’s the salty crunchy in a bag of chips. All of the styles you see are the beers that, if we went out to a beer-bar, those are the types of colors and flavors and smells that we would want.

Jaime let us try their specialty wheat IPA, the Lost Galaxy. The wheat base was perfect for accentuating the delicious hop bouquet that the Lost Nation boys put in the spotlight. Notes of citrus and tropical fruits tastefully cloaked the dank, resinous whole-cone hop body that came from the final stages of dry-hopping the beer with an abundance of Galaxy hops. A fantastic Vermont IPA.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.33.54 AMFavorite VT brews?

I think Sean Hill’s Hill Farmstead is doing an awesome job, those are the beers that I want to see more of and people doing beers in that vein, more in the funkiness, the saison, and the sour wood fermented. That’s kind where our taste, our palates are. We’d like to do wood fermentation, that’s definitely in our 5 to 10 year plan. Everything that we’re doing in the bottles besides the Gose will be re-fermented in the bottle with Brett (Brettanomyces, a yeast strain that provides the beer with sour, funky characteristics over time) and some other blend of yeast, so anything that we’re doing that will be bottled released will be funky.

How does music factor into brewing? What music would you pair with your beer?

We do Spotify, so I just drag and drop albums and albums, anything I’m thinking, and just shuffle it all. So you’ll get Lettuce one minute and Prince Far Eye or Miles Davis, or Jerry Garcia. Just a range of stuff. Having music is what I would pair with the beer, you know, whistling while you work.

Lost Nation will be at both BrewHaHa sessions as part of the EATxNE festival. You can find Lost Nation at numerous bars and restaurants around the state. Be sure to check out their brewery in Morrisville for fresh pours of their latest brews, growler fills, bottles of their Gose, and delicious smoked meats on the patio or inside the pub.

http://lostnationbrewing.com/

 

four_quarters_logoBy: Ted Kammerer

We took a visit to Winooski’s Four Quarters Brewing to chat with founder, owner, and head brewer Brian Eckert. Four Quarters specializes in off the beaten path, sessionable Belgian-style beers and barrel aging, an unconventional and ambitious technique for such a young brewery to tackle. After a successful 2013 opening, first bottling, and Brewfest session, Four Quarters has steadily been building buzz around the Vermont beer scene and already has craft beer aficionados chomping at the bit for their next round of releases.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 10.44.34 AMWhat’s it like getting your bearings in the VT beer scene?

Brian: Well, I’d say it’s getting pretty crowded. But, I’m also adding to that so it’s kind of a double edged sword for me. I think quality will kind of win out over everything else. It’s a mixture of good and bad; there’s been a lot of [brewers] who have been very helpful and a few that are just not so helpful, but it’s a business and I understand that, and it’s a competitive business so it’s understandable. But there’s been plenty of people who have been great answering questions for me, helping me find equipment, just helping me work out kinks. It’s been fun too, it’s cool to be associated with all of these breweries. Seven years ago when I moved to Vermont it was a little bit of a different scene. I went down to the Montpelier Farmer’s Market and there was the Lawson’s table, no line, you were able to just walk up and pick up a bottle, which I did, it was his Imperial Stout. You know, that was a really good introduction to Vermont beers.

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Fleur de Lis slumbering in oak barrels

Do you guys have a flagship brew?

I can’t really say either yes or no to that, I think it’s important to have a few different beers that people can always get, so I had a couple things in mind to put out there initially to see what the interest is. I think Opus Dei is a really good crossover for people to get into craft beer; it’s very simple but it’s got a lot of depth with it and it goes right in with my line of Belgian beer styles. Fleur de Lis is another one that I personally feel that I want to push out there because it’s not a real true sour beer like a lambic or a gueuze, but it gives people a taste of that sour beer, that’s kind of an introduction to them. I feel like there’s an undercurrent of interest in sour beers, and that’s where my interest is right now too; that’s primarily why I’m doing a lot of barrel aging.

Brian poured us samples of Walter Wheat, an American wheat ale that is the very definition of crushable. Walter Wheat pours a beautiful hazy, lemon-zest color. It drinks super crisp, but feels unfiltered on the palate. This is to be the base beer for Herbie, which will be Walter Wheat conditioned with watermelon. This beer is the perfect foundation for fruit fermentation, be very excited.

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Fleur de Lis

Do you guys have any interest in adding a food element to your brewery?

Absolutely. I love food and so eventually I’d like to do that in one way or another. I wanted to start [Four Quarters] as a production brewery rather than a brewpub and I want that to be the main focus of this and to grow, but also to have a little place where we can do some food down the road. We’re actually moving towards a 1st class liquor license, which is also a restaurant license, so we have to serve some food. People like to go and have beers and eat food; I like that aspect, I also like to entertain people. I like to brew beer, but I also like to throw parties.

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Walter Wheat

Favorite VT beers?

I really like what Shaun Hill (Hill Farmstead) is doing, it’s hard to not have any influence from him because he’s just at the top of his game. It’s just on another level, you know, it’s so good. There’s plenty of other ones, I have enormous respect for what Steve Gagne is doing from 14th Star, he just started out home-brewing and look where he’s going with it. He’s another one that’s been super helpful and supportive with what I’m starting. I like a lot of Lawson’s stuff, some of what Otter Creeks doing, and Long Trail, when I first moved up here that was kind of my pick of the litter. I really enjoy Backacre, but they’re just kind of the ghost.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 10.44.22 AMDoes music play a role in your brewing process?

Absolutely. I’ve actually been a musician for 20 years or so and am usually in some sort of music project but this has kind of taken over my life so I haven’t been able to. We definitely always have music pumping while we’re brewing and have our vinyl kick when we open. Records are an interesting thing; nowadays it’s too easy to just play what you want one at a time, and the records go back to another art form of not just the music but crafting a whole album. So we have a rule of not taking a record off until it’s done. I may still do this idea of having musician-themed beers, like the Herbie beer (Herbie is a watermelon wheat beer that Brian has on deck for release, named after the jazz-pianist-great Herbie Hancock).”


Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 10.43.59 AMI heard you are an ordained minister. Go on…

A couple of years ago my friends were getting married, so they asked me to take an online minister course and marry them. And then it turned out that my wife got pregnant and her due date was right around the same time as their wedding, which was in Philadelphia. So was like, ‘Sorry man, I can’t come.’ So I have this thing, and then last year my friend Keith who helped me start things off with brewing and brewed with me early on here, I married him and his wife last summer. So I have one under my belt.

Four Quarters Brewery is open Friday-Sunday for tastings and growler fills. Look for Four Quarters drafts to start popping up around Winooski, Burlington, and beyond. Be sure to check them out during EATxNE’s BrewHaHa on Friday and Saturday.

 

 

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