Vermont’s biggest beer event of the year — the Vermont Brewers Festival — may have ended, but the brew-centric news keeps coming. Burlington and Williston will each gain a new brewery by year’s end, and the state will soon see its first commercial malt house in — oh, centuries.
In the South End, four longtime home brewers plan to open a 15-barrel brewery and tasting room, Queen City Brewery , by the end of the year — they hope. “The problem is, everything takes longer than you want it to,” says Paul Hale, who with his partners — Paul Held, Phil Kaszuba, and Maarten van Ryckevorsel — secured a federal brewing permit earlier this month. Now they’re renovating a space at 703 Pine Street, readying it for Minnesota-built equipment and the “beautiful mahogany bar” they scored from the shuttered Ethan Allen Club.
They’re also test brewing batches of beer at home. Hale says the brewery will focus on “half ales and half lagers,” with a Helles lager, Munich dunkel, 1950s-style Pilsner, “very flavorful” English bitter and an “easy-to-drink” porter among the offerings.
The partners — three of whom are scientists — will also tap some historical German styles, such as a stein beer that draws flavor from stones heated over a beechwood fire and dropped into the boil to “caramelize the malt.” Also on tap will be a rauchbier whose grain has been smoked over beechwood.
Visitors will be able to taste, have a pint or fill a growler on-site — but food is not part of the equation. “We’re hoping to take advantage of the food-truck thing and have a truck or two in the parking lot,” Hale says.
Meanwhile, Joseph Lemnah, owner of Burlington Beer Company , has leased a 4700-square-foot space in Williston where he plans to begin brewing this fall. “We’re pushing to have the brewery open by November,” writes Lemnah in an email, and adds that he hopes to launch his beer CSA in earnest in January. Some CSA members have already gotten a taste of Lemnah’s beers — home brewed in Jericho — through a series of informal tasting events.
Queen City and other Vermont breweries will soon have the opportunity to use locally grown and roasted malt from Vermont’s first modern commercial malt house. Peterson Quality Malt will open in Monkton in sync with this fall’s grain harvest.
Founder Andrew Peterson is busy renovating a century-old hay barn on his property for the business and plans to source grains from a variety of Vermont grain growers.
Peterson, who’s also home brewed for decades, says, “I always thought I would end up with a brewery.” He initially considered distinguishing himself via homegrown hops and home-malted grains — then realized malting could be a full-time pursuit. “There’s so many great brewers, I thought that maybe I should just supply them,” he says.
Small-scale, home-based malting was once a colonial New England fixture, a tradition brought over with the first English settlers. Barley never grew that well in New England, though, and eventually grain growing (and malting) shifted to the Midwest. While many Vermont brewers in search of local malted grain now look to Québec or Valley Malt  in Massachusetts, Peterson hopes he and other potential malters can capture this “golden opportunity.”
But he’s already hit his first speed bump — the dearth of locally grown grain. When Peterson began his search, “I got such a minimal response, I was shocked,” he says. Now he’s working on grain-testing projects with Heather Darby of University of Vermont Extension, and says he envisions helping farmers secure grants to experiment with growing barley. For now, Peterson hopes to source enough wheat, rye and possibly oats to reach his capacity of two tons of malted grain per week. He’s informally shared his own malt with home-brewer friends, “and some of those beers have been phenomenal,” he notes.
It’s no secret that the local beer scene is thriving, and Vermont Public Radio’s “Vermont Edition” is on the case. Last week, Hale and Peterson both bore witness to the trend as phone-in guests on an episode devoted to local suds.