Switchbake Ale in Vermont

This week I am posting to GFR from the snowy slopes of Vermont. Having decided that this winter in Toronto wasn’t nearly cold enough, our family decided to spend our holiday time and money riding metal chairs up 3,000 feet (that’s about a kilometer) up windswept gullies for the privilege of descending through whatever delight the Polar Vortex decides to serve forth on a pair of expensively acquired fiberglass planks. Thank God they post the temperatures here in Farenheit, so they at least seem warmer. (And, hey, at least there’s snow.)

Anyway, vacationing is tough stuff and makes for thirsty work. My ski career divides into three phases: kid, young adult and middle aged adult. These phases also correspond to three after ski refreshment phases: making ‘swamp juice’ by mixing all the sodas together at the cafeteria fountain, getting leglessly drunk at the ski hill bar in the early evening while still in my ski boots, and having a beer in a corner of the hot tub while my kids terrorize each other and any hapless adult who thought they might come out for a soak to relax. Between phases two and three the quantity of beer consumed has been severely curtailed, but I’d like to think the quality has gone up. And, this Green Mountain State of Vermont, it turns out, is a good place to find a beer for the tub.

The first clue that good beer was going to be found south of the Quebec border (where’s there’s also plenty of bonne bière, bien sur) was when we pulled into the small town grocery store where we loaded up on provisions for our week’s stay. Not only did Steeple Market have its own dedicated cold room with shelves stacked with craft beers in bottle from all around New England and the other United States, but they actually had a few tap as well for customers who wished to buy their brews in growlers. At half a gallon (about 2 litres) a go, a growler is container commitment to big for me, but I noticed that a local beer, Switchback Ale, came in pint sized bottles, which is a format perfect for splitting with a wife who agrees to sharing hot tub parenting duties, or guzzling in a solitary session should the aforementioned not pan out.

I chose blind, but I chose well. The Switchback Ale is a lovely crowd pleasing pale ale. Good hoppy bitterness, with lots of citrus notes and a complexity that elevates it above your average beer, but in a completely accessible and (importantly) refreshing way. Beer geeks might also be interested to know that it’s unfiltered and made with a proprietory strain of yeast. It’s not found its way to Canada, and is only available in Vermont and the surrounding states. But, it’s around everywhere here, including the lodge on the mountain. I like that when I am in a different part of North America, I can drink a different beer, and with as much ease as I could any of the generic industrial brews. That’s pretty much how the good food revolution ought to work, and let’s hope we see more of it everywhere.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley