Guest Post by Jeff Baker
I’m not a native, but when I moved to Vermont thirteen years ago I quickly realized what a special place it is. Vermont has long been known for producing the world’s finest maple syrup and cheeses, and I’ve made it my mission to sample them all. Right along side of these I found a growing craft beer movement.
Vermont is now home to the second most breweries per capita (2013 data) and is the birthplace of two unique styles of India Pale Ale: Black IPA & Vermont IPA. The Black IPA was first commercially produced at Vermont Pub & Brewery (Burlington, VT) in 1994 and has spread across the country. Around 2012 I noticed a new style of standard IPA from Vermont brewers that didn’t seem to fit within the East Coast or West Coast IPA brewing traditions. I dubbed this new style the “Vermont IPA.” Bright golden-amber and hazy in appearance, the Vermont IPA is soft in mouthfeel, dense with hop flavor and aroma, and restrained in bitterness allowing for balance to occur between the hops and the pale malt.
To celebrate American Craft Beer Week, I sat down to sample four of my favorite Vermont IPAs. If you happen to be in the Burlington area this Wednesday (May 13), stop by The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for our annual #VTbeer celebration and sample some Vermont IPAs for yourself!
Hill Farmstead "Susan" (Greensboro, VT - 6.2%) rushes from the tap a hazy orange-amber. The nose offers tropical flowers and yellow grapefruit. Moderate bitterness up front fades as juicy hop waves crash in with flavors of orange, pink grapefruit and lime essence. The finish is clean and soft.
Fiddlehead "Second Fiddle" (Shelburne, VT - 8.2%) pours hazy orange amber from the can. The nose is full of tropical notes like un-ripe mango, lemongrass, papaya, white peach and yellow grapefruit pith. Earthy tropical fruit, all day: bitter yet juicy. Papaya and mango are joined on the palate with notes of exotic citruses like buddha’s hand, Meyer lemon and satsuma. Second Fiddle is more bitter than the others in this tasting, but still balanced.
Crop "Idletyme" (Stowe, VT - 8%) pours from the bottle a hazy orange-amber. Tropical mango, orange, lemon and lime dominate the nose. The palate is clean and lean, hiding it's 8% ABV. Loaded with tropical fruit, tangerine and dried straw, it’s surprisingly low in bitterness. The finish is clean and juicy, yet dry.
The Alchemist "Focal Banger" (Waterbury, VT - 7%) says to drink it from the can, but for consistency in this tasting, I had to pour it into a glass. It cascades out a hazy peachy-golden. The nose offers up loads of peach aromas, plus white flowers, nectarine and some high-toned pollen notes. Slightly more bitter on the attack, but that fades back as waves of citrus and stone fruit notes wash over the palate. Lush and juicy, like an exotic fruit drink, the finish is clean and leaves you refreshed.
Jeff Baker is the Director of Fluid Assets for The Farmhouse Tap & Grill and a freelance beer writer. He also contributed the Pro Tip for travelers to Vermont in the Field Guide. Find him on Twitter: @aPhilosophyOf