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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog


January 23, 2014

Alchemist to Expand With New Tasting Room

1470150_683772101657746_495050057_nOn November 5, 2013, the owners of Vermont cult brewery the Alchemist announced they were closing their tasting room to the public. Now, Jen Kimmich, who runs the company with brewer husband John, has announced the plan to add a new property that will hold a second brewery, a tasting room and a retail shop.

Jen Kimmich says she has been looking at properties in the Waterbury area, and down the Route 100 corridor into Stowe. "We've had tons of people contact us who want us to go to Rutland or Barre or Colchester, but we don't want to drive that far," she says.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Kimmich described finding what she and her husband thought would be the perfect addition, before learning it wasn't zoned for retail. After a busy day hunting on Wednesday, she tells Seven Days she still hasn't found the perfect complement to their small brewery, which turns out 9,000 barrels of Heady Topper each year. "We have a few options," Kimmich says.

Continue reading "Alchemist to Expand With New Tasting Room" »

December 18, 2013

14th Star Brewing Takes Over St. Albans Bowling Alley

Food-beerguys_1Just 18 months after opening, the owners of St. Albans' 14th Star Brewing are moving from their cozy Lower Newton Street digs into a far vaster space — the former St. Albans Bowling Center.

Co-owner Steve Gagner and his partners have signed a 20-year lease (from Pomerleau Real Estate) on the bowling alley at 133 North Main Street, which opened in 1958 and closed last July. The 14th Star crew plans to open a 2500-square-foot taproom and a 13,000-square-foot brewery in the space by next summer. "The plan is to have a place where people can come and enjoy some of the world's best beers," says Gagner, who will devote a few of the pub's 24 or so taps to other beers from around the state.

Continue reading "14th Star Brewing Takes Over St. Albans Bowling Alley" »

Midweek Swig: Steven Sour

Steven_sourThis week: Steven Sour, a "sour IPA" collaboration of Magic Hat Brewing Co. and Vermont Pub & Brewery.

Cost: Sample provided by Magic Hat, but 22-ounce bottles are for sale for $4.99 throughout Vermont (the beer is also on tap throughout the state).

Strength: 5.6 percent abv.

The pour: A murky, burnt orange with a faint head that quickly dissipates. The beer has little to no aroma, but if you try hard you might smell apricots.

The taste: There's zestier carbonation than its appearance suggests, and each sip bristles and roughs up the tip of your tongue before rolling across the middle with the slightest hint of sourness. It's quenching, with dry, lingering wisps of grapefruit — but it's also ever so chalky.

Drink it with: This made me want to start whipping up a chicken curry with almonds and apricots — or maybe just a plate of Comté, sliced baguette and quince paste.

Backstory: Two Vermont brewing heavyweights got together to brew this beer in celebration of VPB's 25th anniversary, and it's only for sale (in bottles and on tap) in Vermont.

Continue reading "Midweek Swig: Steven Sour" »

December 5, 2013

Midweek Swig: Noonan Black IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Black_IPAThis week: Noonan Black IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Co., Portsmouth, N.H.

Cost: $1.55 for a 12-ounce bottle at Lebanon Health Food Store, Lebanon, N.H.

Strength: 5.7 percent a.b.v.

The pour: Inky and almost syrupy, like a porter, with a foamy head that holds its form for up to 10 minutes. The beer smells vaguely like a Dove Dark Chocolate Promise dipped in pine resin. 

The taste: Hoppy-ho, this is bittah! At least to my wino palate. It's dry but substantial in the mouth, with coffee-like edges, hints of smoke and a roasty undercarriage. It lingers a looooong time on the back of the tongue.

Drink it with: I would love this with a plate of chicken molé, a sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwich (on Harpoon miche from King Arthur Flour — I'm just sayin') or hunks of Callebaut chocolate. As it was, I sipped it on its own.

Continue reading "Midweek Swig: Noonan Black IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Co." »

Should Vermont Lift the Ban on Happy Hours? Thinks So

A website called has published an article suggesting that the Vermont ban on happy hours — selling drinks at lower prices during certain times — is economically illogical.

Writer Jon Street quoted the owner of Burlington's Ake's Place, Ronnie Ryan, who suggested that the state should allow bars to lure in customers with occasional happy hours.

“Burlington is so rich in young professionals and college students, I’m confident it would help business, and if it helps our business it also helps the state as it will generate more money in taxes,” he said.

Bill Goggins, director of education, licensing and enforcement for the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, broadly explained the role of the state government in keeping people safe, while a fellow at the Cato Institute lamented, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”

Continue reading "Should Vermont Lift the Ban on Happy Hours? Thinks So" »

December 4, 2013

Québec Microbrewery Stirs the Pot With Questionably Named Beers

UrlA microbrewery in the northern Québec burg of Lévis — just across the Saint Lawrence River from Québec City — is garnering unwanted attention from branding a few of its beers with names and imagery that is less than flattering to women.

This summer, Le Corsaire produced a beer called La Tite Pute, which translates to "the little whore/slut," and was advertised as "easy and fruity." Another beer, Le Perruche, means "the parrot" in French but features a label of a naked woman in a birdcage. Yet another beer is named the Hooker.

Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of Québec's Council on the Status of Women, told the CBC why this was not OK.

"The name La Tite Pute disgusts me," Miville-Dechêne said. 

“[Prostitution] exploits women. There isn’t a lot of choice involved, there is a lot of exploitation, a lot of violence. It’s not something we should be laughing about,”she said.

In the meantime the brewery's owner, Martin Vaillancourt, has explained to various media sources that he intended no harm, and chalks up the names to bad taste. Rather than a slur, for instance, the term "La Tite Pute" is more reflective of the easy-brewing and easy-drinking nature of the blond ale, he explained.

Continue reading "Québec Microbrewery Stirs the Pot With Questionably Named Beers" »

November 5, 2013

The Alchemist Cannery to Close Retail Store

6a00d83451b91969e2019b00b3c62d970d-320wiIn a blog post earlier today, the staff of the Alchemist Cannery in Waterbury announced that they plan to close their retail store and self-guided tour area. "We had hoped our location at 35 Crossroad would be capable of handling the traffic, however, with growth comes growing pains," they wrote. You can read the full announcement here.

Fans of the Alchemist's main beer, Heady Topper, seemed to reel from the news. The double IPA has cult status among beer drinkers, who mob the cannery's retail store in a steady stream (there has long been a one-case limit at the store).

Their passions flared on the Alchemist's Facebook page, where those who love Heady Topper inexplicably turned on those who produce it. One person called the Alchemist staff "selfish," and another called it an "absolutely horribly run business."

One sad fan wrote, "This is terrible, terrible news," echoing those who complained that it's next to impossible to find Heady Topper in stores. "Remember, remember the 5th of November," wrote another, while others defended the brewery's decision and suggested it might help improve foot traffic in area stores.

Whoever is managing the Alchemist's Facebook page suggests complex forces at work behind the closure, and hints another solution is in the works. They've also done an epic job of keeping up with comments.

"There are a lot of moving parts here," the Alchemist wrote to one follower. "We are thinking long term and we will have a plan in place soon — but Ben & Jerry's didn't start where they are, and they had to make plenty of tough calls like this in order to get where they are. Have patience. Thanks."

October 22, 2013

The Alchemist Cannery Starts Growler Fills

Food-alchemist-JWBThis gloomy Tuesday brought bright news for lovers of Alchemist beers. Starting just a few hours ago, the cannery in Waterbury Center began growler fills, launching a brand-new German-made system with 15 barrels (or about 900 fills) of Donovan's Red — an Irish-style red ale that used to pour at the pub when it was still down the road in Waterbury.

"This has been an exciting day for us," writes co-owner Jen Kimmich on the cannery's website. "John [pictured, from a Seven Days file photo] and the entire brew staff are psyched to brew and release some of our old favorites from the pub."

First-time customers will need to fork over $15 each for the sleek stainless-steel growlers that were designed especially for the Alchemist, where the brewers make every effort to keep any sunlight from hitting their beers. Each 64-ounce fill is $12, and the staff request that people clean the vessels before returning for a refill — they won't be fillin' no dirty growlers, and no growlers but their own.

In the coming lineup are a series of "randomly" released beers — about one per month — that will be announced via the Alchemist's Facebook page and Twitter feed on the day of release. The beers "will lean heavily toward hop-forward styles," writes Kimmich.

And in case you're wondering, yes, there's a limit: One growler fill per person, per visit. Read all about it here.

September 25, 2013

Heady Topper Runs Out At The Emmy Awards

Backstage_1At Sunday evening's Emmy Awards, the celebrity-studded audience in LA's Nokia Theater watched Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney take home golden statues and Elton John perform a tribute to Liberace. Backstage, another drama was unfolding — there wasn't enough Heady Topper to go around.

Alchemist co-owner Jen Kimmich says that two cases of their signature brew made it to the Emmys, but halfway through the show, supply was running thin. "We had multiple requests for more," wrote Mark Gonzalez, dressing room coordinator for the awards show. "Neil Patrick Harris, the host of the show, put in a request almost every hour."

Despite what was probably mad prep for the show, Gonzalez managed to treat his cargo properly. "The Heady Topper was placed in refrigerators the second we received them and were not placed in talent rooms until requested to ensure they stayed cold," he wrote.

It's been a high-flying few days for the double IPA. Last week, The Atlantic's James Fallows praised Heady Topper in a blog post on that magazine's site, before carting home a case for himself.

September 19, 2013

'The Atlantic' Tastes the Alchemist

HeadyMost of us know James Fallows as a longtime national correspondent at the Atlantic. But when not pursuing hard-hitting stories, Fallows identifies himself as "a beer guy."

Fallows is in Vermont for his blog series on small cities, which feature positive stories of economic and cultural growth. Last week Fallows tasted his first Heady Topper over dinner at the Bluebird Tavern.

Given the Alchemist's small supply of the beer (two-thirds of it is sold at the Waterbury factory), Fallows had never had a chance to try the beer. "They had it and I thought, Yes!," he told Seven Days today.

When plans fell through yesterday for an interview on "a more worthy topic," Fallows headed to Waterbury, where injured co-owner Jen Kimmich took the journalist on a tour of the factory. Read his post about it here.

Following his hourlong deviation, Fallows was back to reporting on environmental sustainability and public works. But after touring America, the journalist says that despite an encroaching box-store takeover, one thing the country seems to be getting very right is beer.

"There are ways in which America looks more and more the same in a bad way," he reflected. "But what's more and more the same in a good way is every place has a brew pub culture now. America is getting better in that way."

But Vermont is still the only place that has Heady Topper.

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