Brewing up Success


Vermont breweries are creating a lot of buzz within the state

and looking to expand their reach through organic growth.


By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

It is cold in Burlington, Vt., in the middle of November, but the city has a plethora of breweries to keep its residents and visitors warm. Food & Drink International was invited to explore the state’s technology and taps scene for three days last month, visiting a number of manufacturing companies and breweries.

During our time in Vermont, we explored Citizen Cider, 14th Star Brewing Co. and Zero Gravity. Although all three have interesting stories and unique flavors, Citizen Cider was delightfully surprising as its ciders are not overwhelmingly sweet – a nice change that I think some cideries could take alesson from.

Citizen Cider

Justin Heilenbach, Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson founded Citizen Cider in 2010 and discovered their ideas about hard cider translated into some unique and interesting finished products. The trio began by pressing sweet cider in Nelson’s barn and fermenting test batches of hard cider in Holmes’ basement.

Citizen Cider flight 2 copy

Today, Citizen Cider’s core products that are available year-round include Unified Press, The Dirty Mayor, The Lake Hopper and Wit’s Up. During our visit to the cidery in Burlington, Vt., we sampled Wit’s Up, Mr. Burlington, Cori-Anderson, The Americran and Citizen Cellar: Tulsi.

Citizen Cider uses locally sourced apples and cider for all of its products every time. No sugar is added during the apple-pressing operation, which results in a cider that is less sweet. The company is moving its apple-pressing operation from Middlebury to 180 Flynn Avenue in Burlington, Vt. The apples are currently pressed in Middlebury and transported to Burlington in a 6,000-gallon tanker truck filled with apple cider.

The company distributes in New York, New Jersey, metro Philadelphia, North and South Carolina and Illinois. “Trust us, we want to get cider to the people everywhere, but bear with us while we continue to grow and branch out,” the company says. “We appreciate you all loving us so much that we literally can’t make this stuff fast enough.”

14th Star Brewing

Steve Gagner developed the idea for 14th Star Brewing over the course of a year while serving in Iraq. Gagner enlisted in the Army at 17 years old and has been serving for more than 20 years.

14th Star Brewing Tour 2 copyIn 2012, Gagner’s brewery went from concept to reality. On Veteran's Day in 2014, the doors opened to its current location on North Main Street in St. Albans, Vt. It is the only brewery in town and is located in an old bowling alley. Gagner chose the name 14th Star to mark Vermont’s entry into the Union as the 14th state in 1791. Because Kentucky joined shortly thereafter, it is rare to see an American flag with 14 stars, which became the brewery’s logo.

14th Star Brewing’s mission is to brew high-quality beer while enriching the community. By taking over the old bowling alley in downtown St. Albans, the brewery played its part in revitalizing Main Street and the strip mall in which it is located.

The tap selection at 14th Star Brewing is always rotating to include staples, regular favorites, one-offs and experimental brews. Tribute, Valor Ale, Maple Breakfast Stout and Recruit Golden Ale are the company’s signature brews. Being big fans of Stranger Things on Netflix, the 14th Star brewers developed “Eleven’s Eggo Dream” cream ale and Chief Hopper’s Single Hop IPA, which are both on tap now.

The craft brewing community is just that – a community. 14th Star Brewing features Citizen Cider’s signature cider, Unified Press, on tap. The company also borrowed some equipment from the larger Zero Gravity brewery when it first started.

Zero Gravity

Zero Gravity got its start in 2004 inside a Burlington restaurant called Brewpub at Flatbread. The company began distributing its brews for off-premise sales in 2012, and two years later reached capacity in the restaurant. The company moved to the city’s South End Arts District in the spring 2015 and Pine Street brewery came to be.

Zero Gravity cofounder Matt Wilson2 copyToday, a 30-barrel brew house, full canning line, tasting room, retail shop and beer garden make Zero Gravity a premier destination for beer travelers and regulars. At the Pine Street brewery, the company sells six packs of Green State Lager, Conehead and Little Wolf, as well as a rotating seasonal specialty can. Zero Gravity fills more than 100,000 cans of beer per month for statewide distribution.

Although Zero Gravity moved to a larger space, the company’s beers can still be found on tap at Brewpub at Flatbread. As Zero Gravity continues to grow, the company may have to relocate in the next couple of years.

Co-founder Matt Wilson showed us around the brewery and explained that the company prides itself on creating beers that are balanced. That balance is characterized by the logo Wilson created of a hummingbird in flight, yet suspended, with zero gravity.

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