You may already realize that a wave of craft beers has swept the US of A and little old Vermont appears to be on the crest of that wave. Today the explosion of small breweries and brewpubs that began in the 1980’s just continues to increase. Nowhere so abundantly as in Vermont. This fact made me very curious to see what the excitement was all about and so a fellow foodie and I went on a self-conducted tour of some of the Vermont breweries.
We viewed brewing processes and tasted samples all over the state, and were quite impressed with the sheer number of brews being produced here, as well as the variety, the depth of flavors and the difference in alcohol content and bitterness units. A brewery may offer as many as ten year ‘round brews with additional seasonal brews. There are very light lagers, good for thirst quenching, and deep dark ales with the tastes of caramel, chocolate and roasted wheats, oats and barley. The seasonal brews may contain pumpkin or berry flavoring with various herbs and spices.
Of course my main focus during this tasting tour was to determine which flavors would be the best to use in cooking, as well as what beers to drink with various foods. Not being a beer drinker per se, and much more accustomed to cooking with wine, I had to really search for recipes containing beer. I came up with some from my files, but also tapped fellow cooks and searched on line and in cookbooks for the rest.
Most recipes using beer come from Bohemia, Germany, England and Belgium. Of course our local breweries and brewpubs all have menus that feature dishes to accompany beer or are made with beer as an ingredient. If you’re cooking with beer at home, here are a couple of things to consider. Similar to cooking with wine you would use a beer to drink or to cook with that is complimentary to the dish you are serving. For instance a lighter beer would be added to a chicken dish and a darker more full-bodied beer to a beef dish. The breweries usually publish a list of their brews and the foods to “enjoy with” their products. Of course there are always pretzels.
Touring the local breweries was a real eye opener for someone who has never been much of a beer aficionado. If you are like me and have been wondering about the new wave of craft beers, just visit a local shop that stocks beer, and peruse the selection you’ll find there. The extent and variety of the offerings is impressive. Plus most shop owners are quite knowledgeable and will help you decide which brew might appeal to your tastes.
If you don’t care to go it alone then the Fullerton Inn in Chester offers a “Vermont Brewery Tourery” that goes as far afield as Burlington with stops along the way. And, if you want something closer to home, you can visit Bennington or Brattleboro for a brewery or pub stop. Just go on line and you will see that Southern Vermont is full of beer. Northern Vermont is even fuller. A short word to the imbiber, most Vermont brews are not pasteurized and so have a shelf life, therefore try to use before the expiration date on the bottle. And bon appetit.