The Commons
Food and Drink

Short sips as summer wanes

News and notes from the local beer scene

Tom Bedell has more on beer (and golf) at his website.

Originally published in The Commons issue #168 (Wednesday, September 5, 2012).

WILLIAMSVILLE—I promised news of the Brattleboro Brewers Festival further on down the road, and the news is that the festival itself is now further on down the road — cancelled for this year but on schedule for next May.

The first two festivals in 2010 and 2011 were held quite successfully in the spring, but this year’s date was pushed back to Sept. 22 and then scuttled when a variety of conflicts arose with the new date.

Plus, said Brattleboro Bowl owner Burl Penton, who has been involved in the past planning, “It makes more sense to hold it in May anyway. Part of the idea of the festival is to get people to visit town at times they might not be coming here, and they’re already coming here in the fall. So this will be best for the festival and best for the town.”

The new date is Saturday, May 18, 2013, at a new site: the Famolare Fields on Old Guilford Road in Brattleboro.

There’s a new logo, a new website under construction and a Facebook page at “Brattleboro Brewers Festival” for those who would like to follow along.

* * *

Noted philosopher Yogi Berra was a maître d’ at Ruggeri’s restaurant in St. Louis in the 1940s. Joe Garagiola was a waiter at the same time. But in discussing the dining spot with fellow major leaguers Stan Musial and Garagiola in 1959, Berra said, “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

One hopes the same pitfall of success doesn’t bedevil the new Whetstone Station in downtown Brattleboro. The place has been packed every time I’ve stopped by, though it seems there’s always room to squeeze in at the bar.

Since it’s currently open only for rooftop dining, business has been weather dependent, but all appears to be going well. According to co-owner Tim Brady, the three-barrel system brewing equipment that will be used to produce its own beers has been purchased (from the Aztec Brewing Company in San Diego, which is expanding), and should arrive on Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, Brady has been negotiating with some of Vermont’s more adventurous brewers, like Hill Farmstead of Greensboro and Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Warren.

Both breweries have limited amounts of beer to offer, but Brady figured that since they were scheduled to be at the Brattleboro Brewers Festival they already had a certain amount set aside to serve that day. So why not run it through the Whetstone Station taps?

* * *

Good thinking, but the partial flaw in the plan is that Hill Farmstead owner/brewer Shaun Hill had never intended to go to the Brattleboro festival in the first place; he’s having a Harvest Festival of his own up in Greensboro on Sept. 22, from noon to 5 p.m.

Well, here’s hoping he can make it next May, because his artisan brewery is turning out some wonderful beers, many named after his Greensboro forebears: Edward, Abner, Ephraim, Florence, Clara, and other family members.

But then there’s the Philosophical Series, too, including Twilight of the Idols, Fear & Trembling, Society & Solitude.

Beyond clever titles, Hill is creating distinctive brews seldom seen in southern Vermont. “I’m selling most of them within 50 miles of here,” he said recently, “and they’re the best-selling beers at every bar we service.”

He can’t short his regular accounts to spread his net further, so the only alternative is to expand beyond the 1,600 to 1,700 barrels a year he’s now already producing at capacity in a 15-barrel brewhouse setup.

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