So the weekend is upon us and it’s time to loosen up a bit. Perhaps have a libation or two. But how to do that without falling outside the Eat Local pledge my family has made that goes through Sunday?
I could always add “alcohol” to my Eat Local Wild Card list (you get five), but since alcohol is the result of a process made up of multiple ingredients and I can’t trace them on the typical label, I went looking for Eat Local worthy beers, wines and distilled libations.
Thankfully, we live in Vermont where the ingenuity of our fellow citizens and the quality of what they put out never ceases to amaze me.
But can they pull of “local” libations?
There is a great article in the Summer 2009 edition of Local Banquet (must-read Vermont foodie magazine) titled Drink Local that explains what it would take to create a truly local microbrew in Vermont. Not easy.
It appears to me after some digging (but not enough) that it hasn’t been accomplished yet.
If you want to get as close as possible to an Eat Local brew, it would seem that you should head over to the Bobcat Café & Brewery in Bristol (ask the bartender for their most local brew using home-grown hops) or pick up some Wolaver’s Ben Gleason’s White Ale (uses Gleason Grains’ organic raw wheat, rolled oats and 2-row malted barley). I don’t believe they are 100% local, but after throwing back a couple cool ones, you may not care quite so much.
Your other option, which I think I will consider for next year’s Eat Local Challenge, is to put the key out-of-region ingredients in your favorite Vermont microbrew on your “Wild Card” list.
While Vermont has plenty of wines made from various fruits, I’m focusing on grape-based varieties, primarily made from Cayuga, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, Marquette, Riesling, St. Croix and Traminette grapes (learn more here).
What we find are a handful or two of wineries using cold-hardy grapes to make some pretty tasty wines.
Our personal favorites come from Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge. My wife and I have visited the winery several times and have tried just about everything they’ve made. Having seen the grapes growing on their vines, and not knowing enough about the wine-making process, I can’t say their wine is 100 percent local, but I can tell you it’s worth getting a bottle for this weekend (or any other one for that matter).
Be sure to try Boyden Valley’s Vermont Ice and Vermont Ice Red dessert wines. If you visit the winery, be sure to ask them to describe how it’s made. Fascinating!
Seven Days recently published a piece titled Beyond Bathtub Gin that tells the story of several up-and-coming Vermont distilleries. You should read the article, but if you’re looking for a short cut to “what to buy”, then here is a summary of what’s available.
- Saxtons River Distillery (Bellows Falls): Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur (gotta try this!)
- Vermont Spirits (St. Johnsbury): Vermont Gold (maple) and White (milk sugar) vodkas
- Green Mountain Distillers (Stowe): Sunshine Vodka made from organic grain (available with orange and lemon infusions – less local)
- Flag Hill Farm (Vershire, NH): still and sparkling hard ciders
Here’s to living, eating and drinking in Vermont! And, please, for all of our sakes, please add options that I’ve missed to this post.
Have a great (and safe) Eat Local weekend.