Is there a Flagship brew you still enjoy regularly?
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A flagship beer is generally the beer that established a brewery, a distinct representation of what that brewery is all about, as well as being it’s most popular…at least initially.

With that, a collective of beer writers/bloggers and well known craft breweries like Sam Adams, Fat Tire, and Anchor, have gotten together for what they are calling #FlagshipFebruary, to pay homage and perhaps revive craft classics. Sales of flagship beers have waned and for some, like Otter Creeks one time flagship Copper Ale, have been discontinued.

With an industry driven by constant innovation and reinvention and getting consumers to try their next new brew…are there any Vermont flagship brews you still drink?

YES! No Collusion Russian Imperial Coffee "Covfefe" Stout.
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Yes, they did that. I’m not ‘putin’ you on.

You’re always likely to find something to put a smile on your face at one of our favorite Vermont Tasting Tours stops, Drop In Brewing, in Middlebury VT. They like to ‘meddle’ around with clever names I think they are trying to ‘influence’ your beer decision.

Not long ago we got to enjoy their Imperial Red Ale Kitten Death Star. So leave it up to them to come out with a Russian Imperial Coffee Stout (one of my favorites) and call it “No Collusion”.

It’s a very limited release, so you better hurry. It might not last as long as a government shut down.

Sherlock discovers: Brits have been enjoying beer for long time!
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Evidence of the earliest brewery in Britain has been unearthed. The Brits have been enjoying a pint for at least 2000 years! Dr. Steve Sherlock of the Highways England archaeology department made the discovery between Cambridge and Huntingdon during an upgrade to the A14 road. The evidence is in the form of fragments that contained barley, water and oats and indications of fermentation.

While we can raise a glass and toast this discovery that proves Britain had brewheads back in 400 BCE, it’s rather recent compared to the Natufian people who lived near Haifa Israel and were making beer 13,000 years ago.

Would you trust RateBeer.com anymore?
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RateBeer, is a popular site for sharing brew reviews by its users. Recently it was 100% acquired by global industrialized beverage behemoth AB Inbev (parent conglomerate of Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser). RateBeer.com and it’s app has been a useful tool especially among craft beer enthusiasts to get tips and recommendations. But now being owned by a corporation whose biggest competition has been the craft beer movement, does RateBeer retain any credibility? Has the fox been let into the hen house?

Besides the biggest player in the beer world owning and controlling an ‘alleged’ unbiased rating site being sketchy at best, AB Inbev throwing their corporate weight around in this manner is the antithesis of the craft beer world. Craft beer is about independence, small locally owned businesses, brewers passionate about their products, working together. Whereas corporations are passionate about profits and market share.

Of course ‘official statements’ from AB InBev and RateBeer, pledge to keep the site unbiased, but you have to wonder why else would they acquire it? They are already buying up craft breweries and now they NEED to own the site that rates their products and competition? It just further illustrates how BIG BEER is interested in maintaining their profits through acquisition and control of the market over actually putting effort and passion into their products.

Beer 101: Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA - what's that all about?

Pale Ale - To understand Pale Ale, you first need to understand what malt is. Malt is a germinated & dried cereal grain, and typically in beer it's barley. Dried barley does not ferment well, but malted barley does. So the barley goes through the malting process: it's first soaked so it sprouts, then further germination is halted by heating/drying it with hot air.

Because the heating and drying process was hard to control before the 1700's, ales, such as porters and stouts were usually dark because the malt was 'dark roasted' . Then as more controllable fuel sources emerged, the malt could be dried yet kept lighter. Beers made this way became known as Pale Ales, and were originally more expensive.

IPA - India Pale Ale. The distinction for an IPA is that it is made with more hops. The type and amounts of hops & malt, as well as alcohol content can vary, hence there is wide diversity within this style — as we are learning is true with every style of beer. IPA’s can also be classified into English & American. English IPA’s are made with English hops and tend to be earthy & woody. American IPA’s are often more hoppy, with pine and bitter grapefruit flavors.

Double IPA - Also called Imperial IPA, is what the name suggests; double the hops or even triple, though the amount of malts is often increased to balance the bitterness. This is a uniquely American style, meaning Americans always have to take things to the extreme.

Beer 101: Just 4 ingredients...but what do they do?
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It may be the world’s 3rd most popular beverage and 11,000 years old, but what makes beer? And why are there so many different kinds?

We’re well beyond the 500 year old German Purity Laws that said beer could only contain Barley Malt, Hops, and Water (Yeast was added in the 1800’s after Pasteur discovered it was the power behind fermentation).

While Barley is still a popular grain, others can be used as well. Grain gives beer it’s color, flavor, maltose (a sugar that feeds the yeast for fermenting), proteins that contribute to the foam or head, and dextrins which are a carb that contributes to mouthfeel.

Hops, also contribute to flavor, oils in the hops add to the aroma, bitterness offsets the sweet sugars from the grain, and the acid it hops repel bacteria to extend it’s shelf life.

Yeast, as mentioned is the engine behind fermentation, turning maltose (sugar) into alcohol and CO2.

Finally water is the main content.

With a variety of Grains, Hops, Yeast strains, and even different minerals in water, you see why beer vary. Add to that different techniques and additives and the possibilities are limitless.

Happy Birthday App Gap!
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A big congratulations to Lars, Chuck and the crew at Appalachian Gap Distillery, part of our Vermont Tasting Tours family of stops, on their 5th anniversary.

And as the ‘spirits’ would have it, their January batch of Ridgeline Vermont Whiskey turned out to be something special. It begins with honey and fruit at the front, spicy character in the middle, and a clean, long finish. So, they’re releasing it as a 5th Anniversary barrel strength edition.

Only 60 bottles will be available and only from their tasting room in Middlebury.

What does beer have to do with your honeymoon?
1665 Painting by Charles LeBrun

1665 Painting by Charles LeBrun

One legend has it that the word honey moon is derived from an ancient Babylonian tradition where the father of the bride gave his new son in law a months worth of mead, a kind of beer made from honey. So this post nuptial month, one cycle of the moon, became know as the honey month or honey moon.

The gift of mead, which the groom was to drink every night for a month was thought to increase the couple’s fertility.

Modernist tend to favor the Oxford dictionary notion that honeymoon comes from the belief that the first month of marriage is the sweetest. Personally I raise my glass to the beer story.

A Wine for Hearty Winter Dishes
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Even if you’re not in Vermont, where today’s high is expected to be zero (farenheit), there’s nothing better than a hearty cold weather dish for dinner. Whether it’s a lasagna Bolognese, a venison stew, chili con carne, pasta with wild mushrooms, or even a cheeseburger, Lincoln Peak Vineyard’s Marquette is a perfect pairing. We recommend popping open the bottle ahead of time and adding a splash to your recipe. Perhaps you should have two.

LPV’s Marquette is a rich dark dry red with notes of black cherry and and black pepper notes and more tannin than the other northern reds. .

From the Marquette grape, a cousin of Frontenac and a grandson of Pinot Noir, it was developed by the University of Minnesota to be cold hearty and is perfect for growers in Vermont. It is also one of the most popular wines from Vermont.

One of the many possible stops on our Addison County tasting tour.

Beer 101: Ales & Lagers
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You like a good beer as much as the next person, but all these beer terms and craft beer lingo can be intimidating…and no one wants to be intimidate by a brewski. Let’s break it down.

There are lots labels and names on the beer menu, but when it comes down to it, most beer falls into one of 2 types. First is lager…what you might think of as your father’s beer, because it was what most of the big brewers in America put out in the 20th century. It includes: Pale Lagers, Pilsner, Dark Lagers & German Style Bocks. The other is Ale. You probably have heard of IPA (or India Pale Ale) but this type also includes: Brown Ale, Stout, Porter, Belgian Style, Wheat Beer.

So what’s the difference? It’s the yeast. Ales are made with yeasts that ferment at the top of the beer mixture. Top fermenting yeast has a higher tolerance to alcohol and ferments at warmer temperatures than lagers. Lagers are made with more fragile yeasts that settle to the bottom. These bottom fermenting yeast need more time and cooler temperatures to ferment.

If you want to remember and impress your friends use this tip: Ale starts with A, think A for 'Above' as in TOP fermentation. Also 'Above' for heat rises above. Lager starts with L, think L for 'Low' as in BOTTOM fermentation. Also 'Low' for cooler temps sink low to the bottom.

And there ya go! Cheers!

New Releases from Foam.
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Our Chittenden County Tasting Tour friends at Foam Brewers in Burlington are releasing two new brews this weekend. First is Dead Wax, an IPA, described as bursting with notes of tangerine, pineapple and creamsicle. It features stylish labels by local Burlington artist Sarah Letteney. The second is Bonus Track, a Double IPA made with wild hops from New Mexico creating candied mango, mint, herbaceous, and feral notes.

How Wine Can Improve Your Health & Happiness
Charlotte Village Winery

Charlotte Village Winery

Usually we take articles and studies about a food or drink being bad or good for you, with a grain of salt (is salt on the nice or naughty list this week?).

However, a recent posting on the website MindBodyGreen.com has a list of 7 benefits of wine, a couple of which we really endorse.
#1. It’s Fun! - This is an obvious one. Wine is great at de-stressing and bringing about a little flair of euphoria but it’s also strongly associated with celebration, even if it’s to celebrate the end of the work week.

#2. The other one we stand behind is how it (re-) connects you to the land. Visiting the place where wine (or any food) is produced is grounding. It’s important to see and learn how it’s made. Wine making is ancient, artistic, and because vineyards are often labours of love you feel the passion that goes into the product.

Vermont Named Craft Beer Capital of the U.S.
Magic Hat Brewery located in South Burlington Vermont.

Magic Hat Brewery located in South Burlington Vermont.

You might guess quirky Oregon, or mountain high Colorado, but a new report by C+R Research names Vermont as the top state for craft beer.

Vermont, with it’s local farm culture and independent nature retains it’s position as the state with the most craft breweries per capita at 11.5, a sizable lead over #2 Montana with 9.6.

Plus, with it’s small size, a single weekend visit to the Green Mountain State can easily have you sampling the offerings of a dozen of the states best, from newbies like Foam Brewers (est. 2016) to pioneers like Magic Hat (est. 1994).