VERMONT — Amidst the thick muck and agricultural destruction at the University of Vermont’s Borderview Farm in Alburgh last September, walked a seemingly unlikely pair: UVM agronomist Heather Darby and Bobcat Café and Brewery brew master Mark Magiera.
For several years, the two have been studying hops together. And as they strolled through the UVM hop, barley and wheat farm, they couldn’t help but think about the many farmers who were reeling from the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Irene.
From this sentiment, this farm and a love for beer came the Bristol-based Bobcat’s newest creation: Flood Suds.
“They approached me back in October about this,” said Magiera. “I was all for it. We put together the idea that we’d brew a batch of beer and do a single release of this beer made with Vermont barley, wheat and hops and have the proceeds benefit farmers affected by Tropical Storm Irene.”
Flood Suds is a traditional Belgian-style Witbier brewed with 100 percent Vermont hops, barley, wheat and water. Witbiers are light-bodied wheat beers that are generally brewed with coriander (the seed of cilantro) and orange peel. But coriander and, of course, oranges are not prominent features of the Vermont landscape. So Magiera put on his chemistry hat and started running tests and calculations on the 22 hops strains cultivated at Borderview.
In the end, he used 11 varieties to create the desired hop balance and citrus notes he was going for. To mimic coriander, he strictly controlled the temperature of the Belgian yeast.
Once the ale had fermented through, Magiera hand-bottled 66 cases of the 750 milliliter bottles, a huge feat for a brewer accustomed to simply hooking tanks up to hoses in a brew pub. He then contacted brew buddy Shawn Lawson of Lawson’s Finest Liquids, who helped distribute the suds via his distribution company: The Beer Guy LLC.
Flood Suds is currently available at the Bristol Discount Beverage Center, the Addison Four Corner Store and the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. It will soon be distributed across the state, while supplies last.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]