One thing that's struck us in talking with tech workers about life in the Upper Valley is how often the great local craft beer scene comes up. They’re right. If you like beer from small breweries, this is paradise.
A second thing that struck us is that to write about Upper Valley tech, we should experience it as the workers do. Which is to say, we should drink great local craft beer … and then, of course, write about it.
A third thing that struck us is that in writing about great local craft beer, we have the best of role models: our esteemed former colleague, Tom Haushalter, whose Valley Brews blog featured passages such as this description of Foley Brothers Prospect Double IPA:
This luscious, lacy juice bomb. Too much? I don’t care. It pours a misty mandarin hew, and smells like somebody planted an orange grove in the middle of the piney woods of wherever.
Unbelievable, right? You don’t just read Tom’s words, you savor their mouth feel.
Inspired? You bet we were.
Know what that means? It’s time for the Travis-Gurwitt Local Craft Beer Writeoff.
First, though, we had to get some actual beer. So we stopped at River Roost, our neighborhood brewer--everyone has one, right?--and then at one of the area’s go-to craft beer outlets, Mike’s Store & Deli in Hartland.
Rutland Beer Works: (Rutland, VT) Black Diamond IPA, 6% ABV
Mark: Rob cheated! As he poured, he read from the label: “Subtle pine notes.” You’re not fooling anyone, Rob.
Rob: It has subtle pine notes! I didn’t want you waxing on and on about hemlock or fir.
Mark: Lingers on the tip of the tongue, like a downhiller in the gate, then races down the throat like a bracing run.
Rob: It has a comely nose, but “black diamond” is maybe a little over-hyped. I’m thinking more a guileless little blue run, definitely worth dropping into, but done before you know it.
Zero Gravity, (Burlington, VT) Madonna Double IPA, 8.0% ABV
Rob: Wait! 8%? And we have how many more of these to do?
Mark: One sip at a time. We’ll get there.
Rob: This one’s interesting. A bit dusky on the sniff, but jocular and light-hearted going down.
Mark: I’m not going to say I’m crazy for you, Madonna iipa, but if the front of my tongue was a stage, that would be a dance number. Complete with fireworks.
Rob: Hey Mark, stop while you're ahead!
River Roost, (White River Junction, VT) Unfallen Imperial Stout, 10.2% ABV
Rob: I just read “10.2% ABV” aloud as Mark typed, and he looked up, shocked, and sputtered, “What??!!”
Mark: I’m afraid to take a sniff, never mind a sip.
Rob: This one’s dark, with endless depth. It pours into the glass like something you can only find in some out-of-the-way pub you’ve stumbled on near closing hour on a rainy, miserable night when all you want is warmth and a dry place to sit.
Mark: A world tour of flavor hints for the adventuresome, as complex as an unsolved mystery, as dark as the inside of a spice closet.
Rob: Mark took about an hour to type that, and that first sip is still lingering on my tongue. It’s ruminative -- or is “ruminatory” a word?...
Mark: You just keep right on sipping there, Rob.
Rob: … there’s definitely cacao, but you want to lounge in your chair by the fire, raise your eyes to the ceiling -- dark wood, disappearing into the shadows -- and spend some time contemplating the rest. Cinnamon? Allspice? Something mysterious and beguiling from some forgotten spot across the Pacific?
Frost Beer Works, (Hinesburg, VT)
Shush IPA, 6% ABV
Rob: It has a lavish, you-just-plunged-your-nose-into-the-grapefruit-section smell.
Mark: I’ll be honest. The taste does not leave me wanting to shout out loud in the library. It’s pleasant enough, no bite, but passes without leaving much of an impression.
Rob: Very much unlike a lot of librarians I know. Misnamed?
Mark: Shushed? Anyway, perhaps the real issue is the stout -- a tough act to follow. I mean, who remembers what you read right *after* the best book you ever read?
River Roost, Object M31, 6.6% ABV
Mark: Why two River Roosts? It’s just down the street. Home field advantage.
Rob: Not that we’re there, like, every single day or anything. What I’m wondering is, what does the original Object M31 tell you about this brew?
Mark: So pale as to be space -- the absence of matter!
Rob: So elusive! Anti-matter popping in and out of space-time. But surprisingly puckish for something you can’t really see, right?
Mark: Oh, there’s a there there, allright. It’s out there, in an understated interstellar way. Kind of like light itself.
Rob: Particle or wave, Mark? Or can you not know until you sip?
Mark: Quantum up! Speaking of light, let’s try some cider.
Silo Distillery (Windsor, VT), Semi-Dry Cider, 6.5% ABV
Rob: A lot of the ciders out there announce themselves by their sweetness. AHEM! LISTEN UP! THIS IS CIDER YOU’RE DRINKING. This one’s taciturn -- you keep wanting to tug on its jacket, asking it to let you in on the secret of its apples. But keep tasting, and oh! There they are! Flirting with the roof of your mouth!
Mark: I would make an apple pie out of that anytime. And I’d ask for a second slice. No ice cream. No crust. Just the cider pie.
Okay, look, we better wrap this up while Rob and Mark can drive home without violating any traffic laws. (We’ve been sipping, people!)
Who wins? Upper Valley craft beverage drinkers, for starters. We’ve barely scratched the surface of nearby breweries and their offerings. But as for the writeoff, we’ll let our faithful readers make that call. Be kind! And remember: We can’t all be Tom Haushalter.