During the 17 years that Salisbury’s American Brewers Guild has been training aspiring brewers, interest has soared so dramatically that the school’s courses and apprenticeships are booked for several years to come. “There’s a lot of growth and expansion in craft brewing, and brewers need trained people to fill the vacancies,” says owner Steve Parkes, who rents out space in local breweries for instruction.
Soon he’ll be able to train many of those students at the Drop-In Brewing Company, a 15-barrel craft brewery in Middlebury owned by Parkes and his wife, Christine McKeever-Parkes, which will serve as both a commercial brewery and a teaching center.
“[The system] is going to be used to train students at the Brewers Guild, but we might as well use it to make beer,” says Parkes, whose 28 years in brewing and education have included stints at breweries in his native England as well as at California’s Humboldt Brews and Middlebury’s Otter Creek Brewing.
That experience has given Parkes a crystal-clear idea of the flagship ale he’d like to produce. “People generally like the malty character of German-style beers. They like the hoppy flavor of Cascade — American — hops,” he says. “And they like Belgian-style flavors from Belgian yeast.” So Drop-In’s signature, year-round brew, Sunshine & Hoppiness, will be akin to a Belgian golden ale that balances those three elements. “Balance is key. No one flavor should dominate the other,” says Parkes of his brewing philosophy.
As for accompanying seasonal ales, “We’ll go with the mood that strikes us,” he says. All beers will be sold on the premises in growlers as well as on draft locally.
Parkes expects much of his equipment to arrive some time in April, and the brewery on Route 7 South — which will also include a tasting room — to open this spring.