My Passion For Vermont Beers
Artisan beers in Burlington, Vermont have become a passion of mine since the day I discovered Switchback beer, created by Brewmaster, Bill Cherry. I feel that the business really took off once the beer was first sold in October of 2002. The beer is an unfiltered red amber beer that is created with 5 malts the make the beer well balanced and refreshing, especially while hanging out a Breakwaters waterfront restaurant, watching the sunset on a hot summer night, and listening to local musicians jam. I know that there were two breweries in Burlington prior to that, I worked briefly in the kitchen at Vermont Pub and Brewery in the early 1990’s while Greg Noonan crafted his various new beers served on tap in the pub. I was too young, inexperienced, and still in love with tequila to appreciate the wonders of Greg’s infamous beers. As I research the Brewmaster these days, and visit breweries in Vermont, I have found that Greg has inspired so many people in the microbrew business. I regret not appreciating him more at the time, and with Greg’s passing away from cancer in 2009, I can only appreciate him through the memories of his friends who were inspired by him.
One person inspired by Greg’s work is Brewmaster and proprietor of Queen City Brewery, Paul Hale. Paul honored Greg with the Gregarious Scotch Ale, rich malty Scotch ale made from several Scotch malts. Queen City Brewery is a business founded in 2012 with Paul Hale and his partners and long time friends, Paul Held, Phil Kszuba, Sarah van Ryckevorsel and Maatren. The beers are traditional, and many recipes were created by Paul in his homebrew business in the basement of his Essex, Vermont home he shares with his wife Ellen Zeman and daughter Sophie. Paul’s great natured personality and generous sharing of stories in which he tells of the beers fermenting within a few steps away from the large Mahogany bar that used to be a part of the Champlain College community for several years until sold to Paul for use in the new brewery.
The second brewery is Magic Hat Brewery created in 1994, has remained true to its original South Burlington business model in spite of being bought out three times. The brewery is currently owned by Costa Rican company Florida Ice and Farm Co. You can sample as many of the beers for free at the brewery, but they don’t sell by the pint, or offer you a BBQ pork sandwich. You can purchase a growler to go, which I have done many times…my favorite go to from Magic Hat is the #9.
My love for the craft brew from Queen City Brewery began with a sample of Yorkshire Porter at a Wine and Cheese tasting at the Inn at Essex a few years ago. The Porter reminded me of my dense deep chocolate cake, and I thought to myself, I need to make a cake with this right away. I made the first sample of Porter cake and was less impressed than I thought I might be. I had heated the beer, which brought out the yeast flavors, which I didn’t care for in my chocolate cake. I did seven more variations using my favorite Dark Chocolate cake recipe and finally got it to the place I wanted it to be. The first recipe using QCB was born, and since then over 25 recipes have been developed featuring their beers. My favorite beer has been the Steinbier, with its bold smoky flavor created by greywacke stone heated over beech wood fire in the brewery parking lot. The rocks are lowered into the wort, heating it to a boil to get the smoky caramelized flavors that cannot be achieved otherwise. The Steinbier is a great ingredient to a homemade barbeque sauce that I created for slow roasted pork, and a smoky marinara hearty enough to stand up to heady PEI Mussels, tossed with homemade linguine pasta.
For the past two years, I have created amazing food from QCB beer, enjoying every bite along the way. Today, I am creating a recipe book to showcase my favorites for others to try and enjoy as well. Please join me as I write about this journey of creating my first in a series of cookbooks, and blog about my Thirty Year Love Affair with the Food in Vermont.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to contact me,
Chef Sandi Earle
April 9, 2017