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Vermont Beercation

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I have been fortunate this past year to have taken not one, but two beercations. Last September I spent a week in Portland Oregon and just last week I was in the Waterbury/Burlington area of Vermont. One of our former employees, Mark opened a great bottle/growler shop in Waterbury called the Craft Beer Cellar. If you happen to be in the area check it out and tell him I said hello. His store is right around the corner from the Prohibition Pig (a great beer bar and they also make small batches of their own excellent beer). [slideshow_deploy id='4649'] On both trips we drank a ton of awesome beer from excellent breweries. But we also drank some not so awesome beers as well. Nothing terrible, but nothing remarkable. This past trip got me thinking why are some breweries beers just better than others? I have my thoughts on this but it is subjective of course. I guess what would make one brewery's beer better than another would be the brewery paying more attention. I guess you could call this better crafting. The ingredients are basically the same for all beer, water malt hops and yeast. So why aren't all beers great? Details like fermentation temperature, pitch rate of yeast, water profile and freshness of ingredients comes to mind. Of course all breweries pay attention to their beer, they have to. But to give an example in Vermont, one of the better brew pubs we went to is called Lost Nation. Every beer in their portfolio was exceptional. Their beers ranged from one of the best examples of Gose I've ever had, to a hop forward amber that was outstanding. I was fortunate enough to speak with one of the brewers and I asked him about the water profile of the area and whether he made any adjustments. He told me they used reservoir water that was very soft (similar to NYC) and they made no adjustments. They brewed beer styles that fit their water. He told me they would never make an Irish dry stout (not enough bicarbonate in the water). I found this very interesting that they paid as much attention to the water to not make certain styles. Some places will make every style of beer without regard to water or water treatment and it shows. Another thing I have noticed at many brewpubs is the tendency for the beers to all taste the same. This comes from using the same yeast strain for all styles. Brewpubs will do this for economy and ease but it does not make for a good roster of beers. A good brewery pays close attention to their yeast strains and pitch a good healthy amount for the style they are brewing. Some breweries have a house strain or two that make their beers exceptional, along with all the other details, (I'm talking to you Hill Farmstead). Other breweries stick to only a few styles such as Trapp brewery. They make only lagers, but they make them really well. Plus their location is so beautiful the beer just tastes better (it was hard to get me to leave that one). Fermentation temperature is also very important according to the strain of yeast you are using. Most breweries have glycol jackets to maintain temperature but what I don't know is how often they will adjust the temp to style. Then there is the freshness of ingredients and the recipes. A good recipe must be balanced and pleasing to your particular palette. This includes the grain bill, mash temp and the type of mash (I am personally a sucker for decoctions), hop bill and lastly, the yeast strain. Another thing they did at Lost Nation was to lager all of their beers in secondary at around 34 F before racking to the bright tank. Ales for 7 days and lagers for 6 weeks. This helps smooth out the flavors before packaging. Again, it showed. I love beer. And any beer you enjoy is a good beer. It's those times when I take the first sip and go wow! that makes me love it more. These are some of my thoughts on what produces those wow moments, but I am always learning. What are your thoughts? What makes you go wow? Always hoping to wow you. John


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