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Genie in a Bottle

Side Dishes: Switchback finally goes beyond the tap


Published October 10, 2012 at 7:04 a.m.


For lovers of Switchback Ale, it’s been a 10-year wait. Now, Switchback Brewing Company owner and brewmaster Bill Cherry has finally given them what many want: Starting next week, his toasty ale will be available in 22-ounce bottles.

Cherry and the Burlington Switchback crew, including two new employees, have been bottling feverishly since mid-September, building up enough inventory to slake the thirst of retailers (and drinkers) statewide. “We wanted to have a month’s worth of beer on the trucks October 22 [the release date], so we can deliver to everyone without running out on day one,” Cherry says.

Out-of-staters will still have to trek to Vermont for their fix, though, at least for the first year or so. Cherry plans to distribute exclusively in-state “until we get more comfortable; then we’ll bump things up,” he says.

Cherry says fans of the ale can chalk up the long wait to a few factors — including his own “methodical” nature, he quips, and the brewery’s need to reach the right capacity to meet demand. Cherry is thrilled with the German-built Krones system on which Switchback relies for bottling; his operations manager, Todd Haire, “baked some of our first batch in an incubator at 90 degrees for two weeks, to make it suffer. He gave it really rude abuse,” Cherry says. When they sampled from the bottles, “We could catch [the heat] in the aroma, but the flavors were still there.” Cherry adds that the bottled brew is “identical” to what a drinker might get on tap, just as he intended.

Richmond’s Interrobang Design created the bottle’s label. Each one tells the story of “why we waited so long to bottle,” as Cherry puts it, as well as offering drinking instructions: “We want you to turn [the bottle] upside down and stir the yeast back in, because that’s how we like to drink it.”

Switchback will celebrate the release — as well as its 10th anniversary — at the Flynn Avenue brewery on Saturday, October 13, with food, music and, of course, beer.