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Dec 21, 2014

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Windham Brewery

By Gregg Smith

The Green Mountains of Vermont, North of Brattleboro, was the area in 1775 where Ethan Allen and a group of patriots met at the Catamount Tavern to plot the taking of Fort Ticonderoga. This famous battle, in which the fort was captured without firing a shot, was the first great victory of the Revolutionary War. Today's Vermonters have maintained that sense of having it their way and, have joined wholeheartedly in the microbrewing revolution. To date there are eight micro's and brewpubs serving a half million residents of the state.

In the southern part of the state one of the best known is Brattleboro's "McNeill's" often noted for the wide variety of beers on tap. Although some wags state it's because the recipes are never quite the same twice. But the small town is also home to another brewpub, one which nearly sits in shadows of it's more famous relative. This lesser known is the Windham Brewery which opened in July 1991.

The brewpub is located in the middle of town, downstairs in the Latchis Hotel and is served as an exclusive of the Latchis Grille. A flight of stairs takes you down beneath the hotel's deli to a hallway made of glass walls. On the right you'll find the 217 gallon fermentation tanks, and on the left, the brewing room. The hall continues to the Grille's dinning area which features a mellow decor of stucco and brick, tables with linen, candle light and piped in Jazz. Further on past the restaurant is the pub room which is styled with the same accent but in a more relaxed setting. Still this is pub style so don't arrive expecting bar stools. There is a smallish stand up bar, cafe sized tables, and an upholstered bench which runs about the perimeter of the room. Old Lithographs of the surrounding country adorn the walls along with a painting of the town as it looked in 1850.

The beers were formulated with advice and assistance from Greg Noonan of Burlington's Vermont Pub and Brewery. Several test batches and fine tuning led to Windham's own handcrafted brews. There are usually four different beers to choose. A regular feature is the Whetstone Gold [1.054 \ 13.5], named after a small brook that parallels the back of the hotel. This brew was a touch cloudy, medium amber colored, with moderate carbonation. It is the brewery's light beer and it uses wild honey in the boil for its flowery aroma with the lightest suggestion of fruitiness. Surprisingly, there is adequate body for the style which fades to a medium-dry finish. Designed for appeal to the mass market crowd it serves as their cross-over beer.

The next is Moonbeam Pale Ale [1.046 \ 11.5]. It has a clean amber\copper color and a quick to diminish head with light carbonation that faithfully replicates the style. The taste presents an appealing balance of sweetness and bittering that goes from malt to hops and back, finally fading to a fairly dry finish;the body owes its character to the effective use of crystal malt. Leaf Trapper [1.053 \ 13.2] provides a lacy head which clings to the side of the glass. A complex nose of malt and fruity hops provides a hint of sweetness and the drinkable the malty body leads to a satisfyingly dry finish.

The food is another highlight. Whether choosing a dinner in the comfortable restaurant or opting for the coziness of the pub, the quality of the food will beckon a return as much as the beer. Be sure to try the sausage pate with fennel. Although listed as an appetizer this portion is enough to make a meal. The plate comes complete with a chunky pate, a soft camembert type cheese, thinly sliced onions and brown bread. Coupled with a Moonbeam Pale Ale, it is a delightful combination.

The small town of 12,000 has supported both brewpubs quite well for a number of years. If you're among those who think two is not enough, you could try, with a designated driver, the route 91 pub crawl. Start at the Hartford Brewery, stop at the Northampton, sample these in Brattleboro and continue on to the Catamount. Those more interested in just Brattleboro should consider a visit that includes Alpine or Nordic skiing in the winter, or canoeing in the summer; just think how good a brew is after a satisfying day outdoors.

Gregg Smith

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