It’s that time of year again. The leaves are starting to turn, the days are getting shorter, and you have a sudden, inexplicable desire to get a fresh Trapper Keeper (remember those?). Yes, that’s right – it’s back to school time! That may mean different things for each of us, but here at Vermont.com, our interpretation tells us to head out into the community and learn a bit more about some of our favorite spots.
It just so happens that the folks at The Mule Bar know a thing or two about education. Enlightening the public on fine gastro-pub cuisine and libations seven days a week, these folks know what they’re preaching. A huge part of the Winooski Revitalization, The Mule Bar is leading the charge with amazing food choices, innovative cocktails, and the most impressive beer selection we’ve seen in quite some time. We can’t think of anywhere better suited and more qualified to tutor us on the finer points of some serious chow and booze. We sat down with Owner/Bar Manager/Self-described Beer Nerd, Andrew Leichthammer to hit the books.
Lesson #1: Speak Up In Class, Ask Questions!
Andrew Leichthammer: I love the way our staff handles themselves when speaking with the customers. It’s very easy to be intimidated when you go into a bar and you don’t recognize anything that’s on the menu. You just order the only one you know because it’s familiar. I always push for people to ask questions and we’re happy to give tastes of anything. I love turning people on to new beer and having that person come back and be like, “I can’t believe I never tried this before, I love it!”.
Lesson #2: A G&T History…In Winooski.
The Gin & Tonic started out as a medicinal drink for the Brits, who while in India, were plagued by malaria. Forced to drink quinine syrup, they figured the best way to flavor it would be with gin and limes (we must meet their doctors). As time passed, they decided to doctor up the recipe (yes, it’s a pun) and add soda water and sugar. They quickly realized that they were on to something amazing and delicious. What does this all have to do with The Mule Bar in Winooski?
The original way to make the quinine syrup was to use the bark of the South American Cinchona tree. Only recently have companies started using high–fructose corn syrup and tons of preservatives instead. However, Mule Bar to the rescue: they order Cinchona bark from a herb supply company, make the syrup by hand and then add Vermont’s own Barr Hill Gin to make the best G&T you have ever had. Period.
Gotta love some history.
Lesson #3: Less Is More (Delicious)
When first coming into The Mule Bar, you will observe a noticeable absence of neon beer signs, cardboard cut out promotions, and distracting tap handles each competing for your attention. Instead, the vibe is decidedly stream-lined and modern, while still being rustic and rugged. This creates a very clean and minimalist look that leaves the beer and food as the main attractions. With 16 taps that are in near constant rotation, you can order anything on the menu and have one, two, or even five beers that pair perfectly with your order. Because of the way that The Mule Bar has been arranged, they are able to session significantly more beer varieties than your average establishment.
AL: By having our setup done through Kegerators instead of a walk-in cooler, it allows us to transition kegs way faster. We run pretty much everything off of smaller 5-gallon kegs. So for us, it’s not uncommon to have seven or eight keg changes in a night. Which is great for the customer because they’ll come in and the whole board is completely different and they can try new things all the time.
Lesson #4: Vermont Gets an A++
Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state. We’ll let that excellent news sink in for a minute so you can fully appreciate it.
As Andrew told us, there are reports that at least one new brewery is opening in Vermont each month. Some people are concerned about the over-saturation of new beers coming to the market. However, while Andrew understands the apprehension, he mentions:
AL: “I definitely see where they’re coming from, but when you look at someplace like Portland, Oregon that has like 18 breweries, those fears aren’t necessarily as relevant! I don’t think you can get over-saturated as long as the brewer is doing something different. There are a lot of retro styled beers that are making a comeback. Low alcohol and session style beers – weird recipes that nobody’s brewed in years. Lost Nation brews one with coriander, sea salt and a little lactic acid and that’s what they entered the market with – and it sells amazing! “
So that sums up our lessons for this afternoon. We think we can speak for most when we say that if all classes were this appetizing, then ample studying would prove to be no problem whatsoever.
The Mule Bar is located at 38 Main St. in the Winooski Roundabout and is open Monday – Saturday from noon to 1AM and Sunday from 11AM – 1AM. Serving Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, and Late Night, The Mule Bar has the perfect food pairing for each of their 16 selections on tap. Head on in, say hi to Andrew and the rest of the Mule Bar crew and get the most delicious education available.