by Corin Hirsch
It was many moons ago that Crop Bistro & Brewery ordered an 8.5-barrel brewing system from Caspary, a Bavarian brewhouse and manufacturer that produces compact, nimble systems with multiple vessels. Then the staff waited, and a corner of the pub sat empty in expectation.
Crop's head brewer, Will Gilson, who joined the staff in September, has had months to ruminate on what he might do with the copper-clad system — the first of its kind (at this size) in Vermont. Gilson is already known for German-style beers, Weiss beers in particular, to which he has devoted himself during his 20 years of brewing in Utah, Vermont and at New Hampshire's Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. (Gilson attributes his love of German styles in part to studying abroad in Germany during college.)
In December, the equipment finally arrived, accompanied by Caspary founder Rudolf Caspary, who traveled from Germany to Stowe to help install it. In early January, Gilson brewed two batches of Münich-style Helles lager while Caspary assisted.
This evening, Gilson will tap that Helles for the first time, as well as his hallmark style: a Bavarian-style Weiss beer.
The refreshing, straw-colored Helles pours with a frothy, foamy head and is elegant and mild-mannered — slightly citrusy, with a subtle, mouth-watering bitterness. At 4.5 percent a.b.v., it's also light on its feet; Gilson wanted to create a standard session beer for the pub, he says, and this is it.
The Weiss was brewed with 50 percent wheat, and it's cloudy and zesty, with jangling, tart-sweet flavors and a spicy underpinning of banana and clove. Most of those tastes come from the Bavarian strain of yeast used to brew it, says Gilson.
Up next: an English-style brown ale, "leaning toward Newcastle," Gilson says, and an American-style double-brown ale, both set to be tapped next week. Down the road, Gilson hopes to brew some collaboration beers with friends from around the region.
To try either — or just gawk at the gleaming new system — visit Crop Bistro & Brewery at 1859 Mountain Road, Stowe.