The Brewery Visit Gone Wrong

Vermont has more breweries per person than any other state in the country. I think it's something about the water that makes their beers what they are and has so many fine breweries popping up from top to bottom of the state. I have a goal of visiting, well, as many as I can reasonably visit. It's a work in progress. The visits started in earnest last winter, with my buddy and I stopping at a number of them, a few more than once.

Some breweries give better tours than others, plain and simple. Some are brew pubs with tasty menus, and some just offer beer tastes. Some answer questions down to rather fine detail of what is crafted there, and others are ridiculously tight lipped. Still, of the Vermont breweries I've visited, all were an enjoyable experience for one reason or another.

With the ski season upon us, we headed up to Stowe this past weekend, which put us somewhat in driving distance of a bunch of them, especially since we were only doing a mild tasting and some shopping to stock up our cellars for the next few months.

So, there we were, in a short line to do some tasting. We had the good fortune of the brewer actually being present, and were able to heap praise on his growing business and mention our affinity for a few of his offerings. Little did we know, however, that we were going to have something of a Soup Nazi encounter.

The brewer gave most of those on that line a taste of a Kriek Lambic he is brewing. My buddy was given a tasting glass, but I wasn't. Now, this may recall George Costanza being upset at not receiving bread with his soup. Not receiving this particular sample was fine with me, however, as I had in mind already those I wanted to try, and wasn't sure of what exactly the brewer was sharing when he handed them out. After tasting it himself, my friend of course did let me try his sample and then I made the critical mistake of putting that tasting glass down on the counter. I put it down because I was receiving the taste I had ordered from the server, which happened, by the way, to be a really nice American Brown Ale.

Then it happened. We proceeded to our second sample, when two Lambic sample glasses were picked off the counter by the brewer. We were asked if we really didn't want to finish them.

Only one of the two glasses was ours. I have no idea who the dolt was that put down the other Lambic sample, but I didn't want to sound defensive so stood silent. Still, there were two of us and two glasses, so we were culpable for both unfinished samples. Phrases such as "That's a shame" and "Kind of a waste" were calmly directed to us. The brewer reclaimed each glass. There was no sharp utterance of "No beer for you", but the contents of each glass was poured into a floor drain, and then hosed away. First one sample glass drained and hosed, and then the other. Right in front of us. I wanted to crawl under a rock and feared being shamed right out the door.

A master brewer had been insulted by my not simply finishing off a two-ounce sample. Now, I love this guy's beer, and figured to revisit the place in February or so, but I fear I've insulted him.

Note to yourself, HKHWR: Never, and I mean never, not finish a sample handed to you by the brewer. It may be OK not to finish others you're sampling, but if the brewer is taking it upon himself to share something he is making, by all means, finish it. FINISH IT!!

Anyway, albeit sheepishly, I did walk out of there with a few bottles that will no doubt have me willing to make the journey there when the opportunity next presents itself. Still, my knees may be knocking a bit as I walk through the door.

Comments

  1. Beer is poured in a 2 to 3 (and sometimes even 4) fl oz sample because you're supposed to drink most of it in one swallow -- at least that's how two people in the NYC Home Brewers' Guild who are certified beer judges explained it to me. The reason has to do with the "finish." I also asked if, like wine, beer can be spit out after swishing, and they both said no, again because of the finish. I don't know if I agree based on taste and assessment, but that seems to be the protocol among beer judges and tasters.

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