I have a confession. I really didn’t like beer at first. I tried it in high school. Didn’t like it. When I got to Dartmouth, I tried again. Still no. I rushed a fraternity and tried again. Still didn’t like it. And I’m not just talking about taking a sip and turning up my nose. I genuinely wanted to like beer, so I always tried to give it a fair chance, but I just couldn’t stomach the stuff. But that changed when my oldest brother and his wife came for a visit. My other brother was actually getting his Ph.D. at Dartmouth when I was an undergraduate, so we all got together to hang out one evening. The beverage for the evening was oversized 22 ounce bottles of Long Trail Ale from a tiny and fairly new brewery in Bridgewater, Vermont. It was a revelation. Unlike the mass market American lagers I had been trying, this beer had real flavor and complexity. It had balanced malt and hop flavors and a clean, pleasing finish. In short, it was tasty. This all came to mind recently when I stumbled on Long Trail’s Pumpkin Ale in my local grocery store and picked up a six pack.
Back in the early 90s, I had no idea that we were at the beginning of a revolution in American brewing. My discovery of Long Trail was entirely accidental. And it was the tip of the iceberg. The diversity of styles, ingredients, and brewmaster artistry that can now be found in American breweries is amazing. Long Trail Brewing Co. is a great example. They now brew no less than 19 different beers and are distributed throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Not bad for a small brewery in the middle of nowhere in the Vermont mountains. So, what about their beers:
Long Trail Ale is styled after German Altbier. As I mentioned above, it is a tasty amber ale with nicely balanced malt and hops. Definitely worth picking up if you are in the mood for a food-friendly ale and it makes a fine anchor in Long Trail’s seasonal variety 12 packs.
This Fall was my first experience with their Pumpkin Ale and it was my favorite discovery of pumpkin beer season (so far). It is more subtle in spice and sweetness than many other pumpkin ales and, as a result, it has a more distinct quality of pumpkin meat in its flavor. I really like that. They also have an Imperial Pumpkin in their Brewmaster Series, but I haven’t found it anywhere yet.
The thing that strikes me about Long Trail is the success of their distribution. I’m pretty sure it was easy for them to be the best-selling craft beer in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, but who cares? Having the best-selling microbrew in Vermont is more of an accomplishment, but it is a small state and they didn’t stop there. Their achievement is really that I can get Long Trail beers in a grocery store in Cooperstown or a bar in Virginia.
So, how can you get your great product into more hands and faraway places?