It used to be if you told someone you were from Vermont, three things would flash through their mind: Foliage, Hippies, and Ice Cream. Now, we’re not saying that those things are no longer a part of the thought process, however more and more frequently one word dominates the line of thinking: Beer. With 36 breweries currently up and running and another 14 planned for the next year, Vermont is carving itself out one heck of a reputation in the craft brewing world. [Editors Note: BTW, if you were to do the math, that’s one brewery for every 13,000 people – not too shabby at all.]
So why is our small state leading the charge in the craft brewing revolution? Sure, one look at a typical mud season seems like good enough reason alone to open a brewery, but there’s got to be more to the equation. The biggest factor that everyone seems to agree on is that much of the credit should be given to one man – Greg Noonan.
Sadly, Greg passed away in 2009, but not before writing numerous books, opening several brew pubs (including the one closest to his heart, Vermont Pub and Brewery) and inspiring not only brewers, but just about everyone he met. As a lasting legacy, Greg is credited with literally writing the book on microbrews. In running the Vermont Pub and Brewery for so many years, Greg was a mentor to many up and coming brewers. Always more than happy to lend a hand, share equipment, or just talk about any aspect of brewing, Greg was an authority on the subject and more importantly a trusted friend.
As we get closer to this years Vermont Brewer’s Festival, Vermont Pub and Brewery has invited three breweries with whom Greg was especially close, to collaborate and brew limited edition beers in ‘the House the Greg Built’. All from North of the Border, this collaboration is meant to celebrate the long relationship between Quebec and Vermont brewers and to, in the words of VPB owner Steve Polewacyk, “showcase and honor the respect we have for our Quebecois neighbors and bring their expertise into our house.”
All three breweries are headed by disciples of Greg’s: JF Gravel and Stephane Ostiguye from Dieu du Ciel,
Fred Cormier from Hopfenstark,
and Andre Trudel from Le Trou du Diable.
Doing a collaboration is an extremely hands on process. First, VPB Brewmaster Russ FitzPatrick has worked with each brewery and participated in the formulation of the recipe.
They start with an idea and then narrow down the specifics of what styles and flavors they’re going for. On brew day, the breweries come down to VPB and are involved with the mashing in, stirring the mash, checking the gravities, adding the hops – all phases of the brewing. As Russ happily points out, VPB is decidedly not a push button brewery. This seems to be where the love and artistic side of brewing become more and more evident.
Here’s a first look at the three breweries that are participating in this collaborative session and an idea of what beers they’ve put together.
1. Dieu du Ciel
With two locations in Quebec (Montreal and St. Jerome) these folks put out some seriously fine tasting beers. Known for being incredibly original and inventive (check out their beer list), Dieu du Ciel has an almost cult-like following and (similar to each of the breweries in this collaboration) have won nearly countless awards.
For Brewers Fest, VPB and Dieu du Ciel have come together to make a single malt, whiskey-infused malt called Sunset Vibration. A light scotch ale with a whiskey twist and coming in at just under 6%, the only thing better than this creation, might be the story behind the beer itself. Sunset Vibration came about when Dieu du Ciel founder Jean-Francois Gravel was visiting Greg at his house out on the lake. They were all sitting around drinking whiskey (and quite possibly imbibing with a few other spirits), shooting the breeze, and just having a great time all watching the sunset. After looking back on it the next day, they all agreed that it definitely looked like that sun was vibrating. One of JF’s fondest memories of time spent with Greg, Sunset Vibrations was brewed in Greg’s honor.
Hopefenstark is well known for not only having their own distinct styles of beers, but for also exploring other areas and regions around the world. Fred Cormier, Brewer at the Montreal based brewery, brought down a special yeast strain for this beer collaboration, and the result is an exceptional Lemongrass Saison Ale. Saison-styled ales were primarily brewed in Belgium to be enjoyed as a light, refreshing beer by farmers out working in the hot sun. Now, I’m not sure how much farming we’ve necessarily been doing, but I do know that this is going to be the perfect beer to have outside on a warm summer day on the waterfront.
We love the name Le Trou du Diable (Devil’s Hole) for a brewery, but the meaning behind the name is even cooler. Located in Shawinigan, Quebec, the brewery is named for a series of caves nearby that is more than 900 meters in length. Le Trou du Diable brewer André Trudel, has made a reputation for creating very artistic and detailed beers. For the Brewers Fest collaboration, VPB and Le Trou du Diable have created a rhubarb saison that will be a wonderful representation of both characteristics.
So there you have it. Four world-class, award winning breweries all coming together to celebrate the relationship between Vermont and Quebec, honor the gentleman who helped get everybody started, and brew some great beers. Vermont Pub and Brewery will be releasing all three beers the evening of Friday, July 18th at the Vermont Brewers Festival. If you’re not able to make it down to the festival, make sure you stop into Vermont Pub and Brewery itself (144 College St. Burlington) as they will also be featuring all three collaboration beers on draught throughout the weekend or until it’s all gone. Just a suggestion, it will not last all weekend, so make sure you show up early.