So I’ll let you in on a little secret. A good beer makes everything better. A tough day or a great day. A day on the slopes or a day at the desk. With certain obvious exceptions (before performing surgery perhaps?) there are few things in life that are not more positively enhanced by the perfect pint. We keep a good amount of craft beers in the Vermont.com offices for just those occasions, and our new favorite is brewed by Drop-In Brewing Company of Middlebury.
Helmed by brewmaster and industry leader Steve Parkes, and aided wonderfully by an amazing crew, [props to Chris, a brewer at Drop-In, for making us feel so at home and keeping the samples flowing], there is a certain joy and playfulness in the brewery that comes through in every drop. Doors to the brewery open and you are instantly hit by really good music. There’s no Top 40 Hits of Today playing on some neglected radio in the corner, these guys take their tunes seriously. In the time we were in, Hendrix, The Clash, Green Day, The Doors, and of course The Ramones, were all cycling through, putting you in a mood to buy a growler or two and post up by the P.A.
Posters of the best are proudly up for display, setting the tone and presiding over the operations. The space up front really isn’t that big, but a permanent stage in the corner really just drives home the point that the music is in every batch they brew.
And as well it should be. Steve Parkes was 17 years old in 1977 and grew up in the punk era with a family that exposed him to all the classics and everything in between. “My dad was 17 in 1957 and grew up listening to Elvis and riding down to the record shop in England to buy all the new 78s – I distinctly remember when I was 8 years old and he came home with the new Sergeant Pepper album and I heard that for the first time…I’ve lived through the whole Rock and Roll era, its easy, I’ve experienced it first hand.” The different brewing tanks are all named after different members of The Ramones – and the tank that holds the runoff and waste by-product from the brewing process (basically it holds all the sh*t) is called Trace Adkins. And we love that.
But it’s not all just fun and games. Steve is an industry innovator and leader. Holding a degree in Brewing Science from the prestigious brewing school at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and having essentially created the industry’s internet based education programs, Steve knows this industry inside and out. Originally recruited to brew in the U.S. as brewmaster for the Humboldt Brewing Company, and eventually moving East to work with Wolavers to turn around the then failing Otter Creek, Steve is a also a Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup judge. ‘Nuff said, guy knows his beer.
And Jesus, is the beer delicious. Their flagship Sunshine and Hoppiness (Belgian-style Golden Ale brewed with Weyermann’s Malt from Germany, Cascade hops from Oregon and a blend of two Belgian yeast strain) is our new go to draught. It’s complimented by a rotating assortment of options. When we stopped in right before the holidays, there was a Christmas Cake on tap that literally tasted as though you were drinking a refreshing, delicious, alcoholic version of a holiday treat (Dark Brown Ale brewed with Raisins, Sultanas, Currants, Orange Peel, Grapefruit Peel, Brown sugar and a Super-Secret ingredient). For the slightly more traditional beer drinker in you, Red Dwarf is a must have (American Amber Ale, brewed with American 2 Row Malt, English crystal malt, Columbus, Willamette, Mt Hood and Cascade hops, and a West coast American yeast strain), again – amazing.
In closing, let me say this. We make the drive from our Burlington office to our Manchester office quite frequently. We always take Rt. 22A in Vergennes to avoid the Rutland traffic. After visiting Drop-In Brewing Company in Middlebury, we’ve changed our travel itinerary to drive down Rt. 7 and bring a growler or two down to Manchester. Rut-Vegas be damned, it’s well worth it.
Drop-In Brewing Company is located just south of Middlebury center at 610 Route 7 South,
Middlebury VT 05753. Their tasting room is open Monday-Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 12pm-5pm. Stop in, say hi to Steve and the crew, listen to some great tunes, and enjoy a taste or two. Cheers!