Beercation 2011: Part 2, Switchback Brewery

This is Part Two of an ongoing series chronicling the Grand Beercation of July 2011. For Part One, click here.

I don’t know why I put an exclamation point there.
It just seemed right.

Ok. I had never heard of Switchback before this trip, but it was one of the breweries in Burlington, so we went to check it out. It’s also listed on the Burlington Brew Tours package (apparently Lady Friend and I hit all these destinations on our own journey). Founded in 2002, they’re a small-ish brewery located within a warehouse in an industrial section of Burlington, which reminded Lady Friend of our visit to Mayflower Brewery in Plymouth, MA. They don’t seem to have an actual website, but do have a Facebook page here. Their tours are by appointment only, but it seemed like you could get away with just showing up, as several people did during the course of our tour. Several arrived at the end of the tour during the tasting; whether this was intentional or not, I don’t know.

We arrived about 10 minutes before our 2pm tour. Parking was a bit of an issue, as parking is along the street, but only between the signs. Someone helpfully wrote on one of the “No Parking” signs “$50 fine,” and we saw at least one vehicle with a bright orange ticket. Just up the street is a park by the water, so on a nice day getting a spot might be an issue. Once we got to the building, we couldn’t figure out how to get in. Around the left of the building, there is an glass door office entrance, which was locked. Don’t bother to call, since they won’t pick up the phone on weekends. Turns out, the brewery entrance is on the right side, just as you enter the lot. It happened to be sandwiched between two large delivery trucks, otherwise it’d be plain as day.

Once inside, we listened to our tour guide (I didn’t catch her name) give the usual ale auditory (lager lecture?) about the creation of beer, which if you’ve ever been to a brewery tour, you’ve heard. A few interesting things about Switchback: their fermenters are custom made to height, and clear one of the ceiling beams by about an inch. They had to punch holes in the roof to install the caps on top because they built them as big as they possibly could.

We’re going to need a bigger roof.

Their beautiful copper brew kettles came from a defunct brewery in Germany.

As a bonus, they got copies of the plans for the kettles from their original home in Germany, and are framed on the wall.

…and a cool copper control panel with fun German beer words like Läutergefäß, Vorwärmer, and Wassermischer.

It was sweltering up next to the kettles (which weren’t even cooking) while we were listening to the brewing process explanation. Of course, this being Burlington, some goddamn smelly dreadlocked hippie douchbag kept asking questions that the tour guide had just finished answered two minutes before. I’d lock him in the lauter tun to roast, but you’d never get the taste of weed and hacky sack out of the mash. Hippies bring out my inner Cartman.

You can dry hop with patchouli.

Switchback is somewhat small, and produces an unfiltered amber ale, simply called Switchback Ale, as their primary product. Their second brew varies depending on season, and when we visited, they had the Roasted Red Ale. After sampling both, I found them to be very unassuming and drinkable. Not quite bland, but just didn’t stand out as anything particularly memorable. They have a small merchandise selection, and I snagged a pint glass for a reasonable $4. Free bumper stickers were offered, but no tasting glasses. Switchback is available on draught only; they do not bottle, they only keg their product. We saw it on tap at a couple other bars throughout Burlington, and they claim to distribute into NY and NH, but I’ve never seen it (not that I had been looking for it). It was a good beer, but nothing I’d seek out specifically. I’d be more willing to order it if I happened to see it on tap, to support a small craft brewery with a decent product.

Passport stamp number two: Switchback. Next up, Part 3, Magic Hat.

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