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An Axis of Beer

Side Dishes: Two Vermont restos are close to opening their own breweries


Published October 24, 2012 at 7:07 a.m.

One factor that can delay the opening of new craft breweries is the waiting time for equipment, which is in ever-heavier demand. Now, having weathered that lengthy wait, two Vermont restaurants — Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe and Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery in Brattleboro — are poised to begin brewing by late fall.

At Crop, head brewer Will Gilson says the new Bavarian-built, 8.5-barrel system has arrived in town and will be installed in the pub room within a few weeks. Gilson says the staff is “crossing our fingers” that beer will flow by mid-December. “We’ll have a standard beer — a session beer — then a number of rotating, eclectic, more challenging beers,” says Gilson, who has brewed for more than 20 years in Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Vermont. A lover of German styles, Gilson envisions a likely lineup including ales, lagers and German wheat beers.

At the opposite end of the state, Whetstone Station recently opened its rustic indoor dining room after serving on the deck for its first few months. Soon, the owners hope to put the last piece of the puzzle in place when they crank up a nano-sized 3.5-barrel brewery, a pilot system acquired from Aztec Brewing Company in San Diego.

Though Whetstone co-owner Tim Brady says he’ll serve as the head brewer of sorts, he sees the brewery as a collaboration between himself, other restaurant employees and talented regional home brewers who can come in to brew their own creations.

The entire brewery will be encased in stainless steel so it can be easily sterilized — allowing the crew to play with different yeasts, Brady says. “We’ll try doing sours and Brett” short for Brettanomyces, the wild yeast some brewers use to create earthy, funky flavors in their ales. “It will be quasi-experimental,” he adds. Since Brady expects to turn out Whetstone’s own beer in small batches and let it commandeer just one of 15 taps behind the bar, the brewers will have freedom to try out various possibilities, he says. “If anything turns out fantastic, we can cross that road when we get to it.”