The Syrup-Making Scramble at First Chair Syrup

The 2021 sugaring season has been fast and furious, according to Katie Blackman, who co-owns Killington-based First Chair Syrup with her husband Colton. The couple is hard at work, making the most of the short window of time when the weather cycle is just right for maple-syrup making—freezing nights coupled with warm, sunny days.

Katie and Colton outside the First Chair sugarhouse

We’re proud to have some of First Chair’s first crop of 2021 maple syrup at the Market. But the season isn’t over yet! Here’s an update from Katie, who graciously took the time to answer a few questions during their busiest time of year in the sugarbush.  

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of First Chair?

A. We started First Chair Syrup six years ago as a way to grow our passion for making pure Vermont maple syrup and to offer the product in the local community. Both of us first learned the process of making maple syrup in elementary school—Colton in Sherburne (Killington) and Katie in Brownsville. What began as a hobby has now grown into a local business. We’re proud to be featured in local stores, as well as having a retail presence through our website.

Q. Where are you located? Is there a family history component to your business?

A. We’re located in Killington, Vermont. Our sugarbush is located just off the Killington access road behind Charity’s 1887 Saloon restaurant. The sugarbush neighbors Sherburne Elementary School, where Colton first learned to make maple syrup! We definitely take pride in being a family-run business. We started the business ourselves, but each of our families have always enjoyed making their own maple syrup.

Sap en route to the sugarhouse

Q. How many trees do you tap? 

A. This year, we tapped around 800 trees on a 40-acre parcel off of Killington’s access road.

Q. How many gallons of maple syrup do you produce in a typical year?

A. On average, we produce 350-400 gallons of maple syrup per year.

Q. What can you tell us about the 2021 sugaring season thus far?

A. This year has been an interesting and challenging season so far. The temperatures stayed colder through the late winter and the snowpack in Killington was above average, which delayed the start of the season. We normally would tap around mid-February, but this year we started tapping in early March. Even with the late start, it’s been a sprint for the past couple weeks with all of the warm weather that we’ve had. We definitely made up for lost time and based on the forecast, it looks like we’ll have another week or two of good sugaring weather.

Katie reloads their traditional wood-fired evaporator

Q. How does this year compare to past years?

A. This year is shaping up to be a shorter but busier season compared to previous years. In the past, the sap has run earlier and there was more time between boils. This season, we had a late start and have been boiling consistently every other day. This week, we had the largest one-day sap collection that we’ve ever had!

Q. Anything else you’d like to tell us about your business?

A. As Woodstock area natives, we’re excited to produce local maple syrup that’s featured in local stores that we grew up shopping in. We’ve enjoyed growing the business to what it is today—but what we enjoy even more is sharing our maple syrup with our friends, family, and local community.

 

 

Weird Window Approaches One-Year Anniversary

This month, during our annual Drink Green campaign, we’re sharing news from our Vermont breweries. Up this week is Weird Window Brewing, located in South Burlington. If you haven’t tried them yet, pick up a 4-pack at the Market for 15% through the end of March.

Thank you to co-owner Jack Droppa for taking the time to answer a few questions about how things are going at the brewery. He and his wife, Emily,  own and operate the brewery together; he oversees the brewing operations, and Emily manages the taproom, merchandise, and events. This summer they’ll celebrate one year in business.

Jack, Emily, and Citra

Q. Can you tell us the story behind your brewery’s name?

A. The name of the brewery comes from the crooked windows located throughout New England, including Vermont. The windows are commonly found on old farmhouses in rural Vermont. The windows are called “Crooked Windows,” “Vermont Windows,” “Witch Windows,” and even “Coffin Windows.” When we moved to Vermont, we started to call the windows “Weird Windows” and well, it just stuck. We like the story behind the windows and the connection to Vermont, so why not Weird Window Brewing?!

Q. Who is your brewmaster?

A. I am, but I do not consider myself a “brewmaster.” In my opinion, “brewmaster” is reserved for someone with formal brew training and a degree from a brewing school. I consider myself the “head brewer.”

Q. Do you have any type of formal training? If not, how did you learn the craft?

A. I do not have any formal training. I learned the craft from hands-on experience. I started home brewing in college, and I really enjoyed it. I continued homebrewing during my time as a ski patroller in Utah. When I left that job, I interned at a brewery in California with my friend who first taught me how to brew in college. When I moved to Vermont, I got a job on the packaging line at Otter Creek. I worked my way from the packaging line to the brewdeck in my time at Otter Creek, and I had the chance to learn from some really great brewers. I left Otter Creek to brew at Frost Beer Works before I decided to start my own brewery.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of your brewery? How did you get started and how long have you been in business?

A. We are a brand new brewery. We started construction in August 2019, and we opened our doors on July 18, 2020.

Q. How large is the brewery (# of barrels annually)?

A. We have the capacity to brew about 3,000 bbls annually. As a new brewery, and with COVID-19, we decided to start small. We anticipate brewing about 1,000 bbls in 2021.

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your business and what have you done to adapt to the new conditions?

A. Covid has had a significant impact on our business. We were originally hoping to open in May of 2020. Construction wasn’t completed until April 2020 as a result of COVID-19, so we weren’t able to open our taproom until July 2020. We were able to remain open throughout the summer, but made the difficult decision to close the taproom to in-person service in November 2020. We have remained open two days a week for curbside pickup of cans, growlers, and merch, and we are optimistic that we will be able to re-open the taproom in the next few months.

A lineup of Weird Window brews

Q. What is your favorite style of beer to drink?

A. It is hard to pick just one style. I really enjoy drinking all different styles of beer. It is very cool to see how each individual brewer and brewery puts their own spin on different styles of beer to make them their own.

Q. What is your “desert island beer”?

A. This is an impossible question. I don’t know if I could pick just one beer. If I were on a desert island, I would probably want something light and crisp. Bierstadt’s Slow Pour Pilsner is one of the best Pilsners I have ever drank, so I might pick that one.

Q. If you could sit down with anyone (living or dead) and have a beer, who would it be and why? What would be the first question you would ask them?

A. I would love the opportunity to sit down for a beer with JFK. I was a history major in college and I enjoy learning about the Cold War and post-45 US History. I would be very interested to be able to sit down and ask JFK about the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Space Race.

Good Things Are Brewing in Rutland

This month, during our annual Drink Green campaign, we’re sharing news from our Vermont breweries. Up this week is Rutland Beer Works. A big thanks to brewery owner Dale Patterson for updating us on how things are going.  Through the end of March, Rutland Beer Works beers are 15% off. Give them a try if you’re not already a fan!

Dale Patterson, owner

Q. How would you describe your role at the brewery.

A. As the owner of a small brewery I have many roles depending on the day.  Everything from materials ordering to running the packaging line to loading trucks.

Q. Can you tell us the story behind your brewery’s name?

A. We wanted to bring some positive light to Rutland and the surrounding area. We started as Hop’n Moose Brewing, and although we continue to operate the restaurant under that banner, Rutland Beer Works made sense from a packaging standpoint.

Q. Who is your brewmaster?

A. Woodstock native and former head brewer at Long Trail, Ian Harbage.  He is also, as I understand it, a former long-time employee of the Woodstock Farmers Market when he was younger.

Ian Harbage, brewmaster

Q. Does Ian have any type of formal training?

A. He does. We feel that he is one of the better brewers in the state, if not the country.  His attention to detail and skills are amazing.  He has a Masters of Brewing Science and years of work experience.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of your brewery? How did you get started and how long have you been in business?

A. We started as a brewpub on Center Street in Rutland as Hop’n Moose 7-plus years ago. That has evolved into packaging our beer locally and to several surrounding states. We also do some contract brewing for other small breweries in the area.

Q. How large is the brewery (# of barrels annually)?

A. Approx. 2000bbl

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your business and what have you done to adapt to the new conditions?

A. It has affected the restaurant dramatically, but it has not affected the brewery too badly. Initially we lost some employees, but sales resumed quickly and we are now busier than ever.

Q. What is your favorite style of beer to drink?

A. My favorite style is a good Red Ale, hence the reason we pushed so hard for Rutland Red to succeed. It’s just a great style and a great drinking beer.

Q. What is your “desert island beer”?

A. Probably a Better Dayz.  No matter how good or bad it seems, there will also be Better Dayz.

Q. If you could sit down with anyone (living or dead) and have a beer, who would it be and why? What would be the first question you would ask them?

A. Oh boy, probably my grandfather.  I’d ask him what in the heck has happened to the world in the 20 years since he left us?

Inspired by a Love for Outer Space and Good Beer

This month, during our annual Drink Green campaign, we’re sharing news from our Vermont breweries. Up this week is Outer Limits Brewing, located in Proctorsville.

We’re greatly appreciative to Wesley Tice, co-owner and head brewer, for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re not already a fan of Outer Limits, now’s the time to give them a try. Through the end of March, Outer Limits beers are 15% off.

Brewery owners, Wesley and Taylor Rice, pictured with their children.

Q. Can you tell us the story behind your brewery’s name?

A. My wife’s father and I were brainstorming names for the brewery. He said “Outer Limits,” and I knew immediately that was it. We both have a love for Outer Space and space rocks. I’ve had a small collection of meteorites for many years as has Mike. He has a 250 lb. museum-grade meteorite from the Sikhote-Alin meteorite shower of 1947 in Southeastern Russia. Someday we hope to put it in the brewery as it’s kind of our mascot.

Q. Who is your brewmaster?

A. Although I’m the head brewer, I’m not quite sure I want to call myself a brewmaster just yet. I have a consultant/mentor, Alan Pugsley (of Pugsley’s Brewing Projects International) whom I work with and who has been a pivotal figure in the history of New England brewing. I met Alan and worked with him when I was at Shipyard in Portland, ME.

Q. Does you have any type of formal training? If not, how did you learn your craft?

A. I learned to brew professionally at Shipyard in Portland, ME. Our brew system, the Peter Austin Brick Kettle Brewing System that Shipyard uses, was designed by Alan and Peter Austin back in England. All the equipment used to be built in England and sent over by ship. Now the equipment, including our system, is fabricated in Maine.

Wesley sampling his own beer

Q. Can you give us a brief history of your brewery? How did you get started and how long have you been in business?

A. Outer Limits came from a shared desire and vision (between me and my wife) of wanting to open and run our own business. We happened upon the building—an old wool mill built in the 1850s—and knew it would make the perfect brewery. Outer Limits Brewing is a 10BBL brewery and taproom and we opened in July of 2019.

Q. How large is the brewery (# of barrels annually)?

A. We currently have the capacity to brew 1500BBL/year but have the space for the addition of a few more fermenters and conditioning tanks that would allow us to produce around 1800BBL/year.

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your business and what have you done to adapt to the new conditions?

A. Covid has most certainly affected every aspect of our business. We’ve adapted by keeping an open mind and staying focused on moving forward. Creativity and efficiency have become extra important.

Q. What is your favorite style of beer to drink?

A. To be honest, I consider myself a dark beer fan, but at the moment I’m in love with our Bitter. Our Black River Bitter is 4%abv with just a touch of hop character. The hops are more traditional, so it’s not a juice bomb and it’s absolutely crushable.

Q. What is your “desert island beer”?

A. You might think it’s weird because it’s not my own beer, but Alllagash White has always been my desert island beer. We will make a white at some point.

Q. If you could sit down with anyone (living or dead) and have a beer, who would it be and why? What would be the first question you would ask them?

A. I think it’d be fun to sit down with Michael Jackson, a British author. He was one of the original beer geeks and I think it’d be fun to ask him what he thinks of my beer.

Drink Green Beer Specials

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re feeling pretty darn lucky.

This month we’re celebrating our good fortune as Vermonters to have so many amazing breweries right here in the Green Mountain State. Here’s what’s happening at each store:


In Woodstock, 15% off these Vermont beers through the end of March:

Whetsone Craft Beers (Brattleboro)
Outer Limit Brewing (Proctorsville)
Rutland Beer Works (Rutland)
Weird Window Brewing (South Burlington)
Good Measure Brewing (Northfield)

In Waterbury, “Ten Days of Tin Cans”: 15% off ALL Vermont beers, March 9-18. Here’s the lineup (subject to change):

Four Quarters Brewing (Winooski)
Idletyme Brewing (Stowe)
14th Star Brewing Co. (Saint Albans)
Zero Gravity (St. Albans)
von Trapp Brewing (Stowe)
Collaborative Brewing (Waitsfield)
Green Empire Brewing (Colchester)
Frost Beer Works (Hinesburg)
Burlington Beer Company (Williston)
Fiddlehead Brewing (Shelburne)
Vermont Beer Makers (Springfield)

Whetstone Turns to Cans during Covid Restrictions

This month, during our annual Drink Green campaign, we’ll be sharing news from our Vermont breweries. Up this week is Whetsone Craft Beers, located in Brattleboro.

Thank you to Connor Busch, their head brewer, for taking the time to answer a few questions. If you want to give them a try, here’s some added incentive: Whetstone beers are 15% off throughout the month of March!

Left to right, James Branagan, Tim Brady, and Connor Busch

Q. Can you tell us the story behind your brewery’s name?

A. Whetstone Craft Beers was named after the Whetstone Brook which is located just next to our taproom. Our taproom, The Whetstone Station, also gets its name from the train station (Amtrak stop) that has been a huge part of Brattleboro’s history. 

Q. Do you have any type of formal training? If not, how did you learn the craft?
I was an avid homebrewer for years before becoming the head brewer at Whetstone.  In my eight years at Whetstone I’ve had the opportunity to really expand on my talents and attend more professional training. I’ve also had the honor of working alongside some incredibly talented brewers, both in collaborations as well as contract brewing.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of your brewery? How did you get started and how long have you been in business?
A. Our brewery opened in 2012 with a 3.5bbl brew system. In the summer of 2019, we upgraded to a 15bbl brewhouse located just down the road from our beautiful waterfront taproom. 

Whetstone Craft Beers @ Whetstone Station combines an award-winning brewery with a casual dining experience in a picturesque waterfront location. With more than 100 outdoor, comfortably spaced seats, our biergarten and open riverfront deck provides the perfect place to enjoy a craft beer in a comfortable, socially distant outdoor atmosphere.  Beautiful in every season, the covered patio has been called “a stop not to miss in your New England getaway” and “one of the most beautiful places to enjoy a beer in the Northeast.” 

Q. How large is the brewery (# of barrels annually)?
A. 750bbl

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your business and what have you done to adapt to the new conditions?
A. We had to slow down production as draft sales were harder to come by; however, we were able to invest in a new canning line to package our product for the very first time.  It’s been really exciting to see all of our beer packaged. 

Q. What is your favorite style of beer to drink?
A. Session IPAs

Q. What is your “desert island beer”?
A. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 

Q. If you could sit down with anyone (living or dead) and have a beer, who would it be and why? What would be the first question you would ask them?
A. Definitely Wayne Gretzky. I’d love to ask him about his favorite Canadian macro breweries. I am a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and have always wanted to share a brew with Gretzky!

Q-and-A with Meals on Wheels Director

Your pennies, dimes, and quarters are quickly adding up. Since we launched the Farmers’ Round Up campaign benefiting the Thompson Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program in early February, we’ve raised $4,169 in donations. These monies will go toward helping the center provide hot meals for our neighbors in need.

We were curious to learn more about the program and how it has been impacted by Covid-19. Thank you to Deanna Jones, the Thompson’s Center executive director, who took the time to answer our questions. Suffice it to say, your donations are making a real difference in people’s lives in our community.

Q. Who do you serve?

A. The Thompson Senior Center nutrition program provides over 20,000 meals annually.  The home-delivered Meals on Wheels program delivers hot, delicious, and nutritious meals to older Vermonters throughout the towns of Woodstock, Bridgewater, Barnard, and Pomfret. 

During normal times we serve meals in our dining room as well (average about 50/day), but those have now become curbside take-out meals (average about 30/day). These and Meals on Wheels are often the main meal of the day and sometimes even serve as lunch and dinner for recipients at home.  

Q. How has Covid-19 impacted demand for meals?

A. In 2020, we delivered 12,296 Meals on Wheels (MOW)—a dramatic increase over the 9,808 meals delivered in 2019!  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve served 88 NEW recipients.  

Q. Where do you deliver, and how often?

A. We have 30 volunteers who deliver meals each week.   Currently, 40 meals are delivered each day (Monday through Friday) to the furthest reaches of Barnard, Bridgewater, Pomfret, and Woodstock.  Some routes take up to an hour because of the distances.  On Friday, extra meals are delivered for the weekend as well. 

The daily deliveries serve as a valuable check-in for many participants. 

We have a “contactless” delivery system now, but if the driver doesn’t see the person they notify us at the Thompson and we call to check on them.   Extra frozen meals are sent in advance of every storm. Milk is sent weekly and extra grocery items whenever we have them.    

Q. Who prepares the meals?

A. We have a talented Chef, Ryan Martin, who graduated from New England Culinary Institute. Chef Ryan prepares a monthly menu that is reviewed and approved by a dietician to make sure that it meets all of the Older American’s Act requirements.  (Sodium is limited and spread out between days and weeks, carbohydrates intake is counted,  adequate vitamin C and A is a must).  

Thank you to everyone who has opted to round up for Meals on Wheels over the past few weeks. Together we’ll reach our fundraising goal of $5K!

Thirteen Vermont Crafters Win National Food Awards

by Amelia

We’re so proud of our Vermont food crafters! Thirteen companies in the Green Mountain State won awards in last week’s national Good Food Awards competition

Each year the Good Food Foundation offers an award for the best products in a number of categories. In 2020 there were over 2,000 entries for judging and a total of 276 winners in 17 categories. As a buyer, it’s thrilling to discover the best of the best, to learn about companies from all over the country, and to bring these amazing products to our customers.

Along with product taste and appearance, Good Food Award winners meet high standards around ingredient sourcing and environmentally sound agricultural practices. You’ll recognize most, if not all, of the names on the list. We are honored to carry many of these amazing products at the Market.

Here is a list of the Vermont winners, plus the product that took the prize and its category (click on the link to try them for yourself!):

  • All Souls Tortilleria (Burlington): Hearty Heirloom Corn Tortillas — Grains

  • Babette’s Table (Waitsfield): Finocchiona — Charcuterie

  • Mad River Distillers (Waitsfield): Revolution Rye — Spirits

  • Mount Mansfield Maple Products (Winooski): Pure Organic Vermont Dark Robust Maple Syrup — Pantry

  • Republic of Vermont (Goshen): Vermont Wildflower Raw Honey — Honey

  • V. Smiley Preserves (Bristol): Black Velvet Gooseberry Summer Flowers Honey Jam — Preserves

The Market has been a member of the Good Food Merchants Alliance for many years. I can remember the first Good Foods trade show—called the Mercantile—that I went to, in 2016. A jaded veteran of many food trade shows, I was struck by the quality, integrity, and originality of the products on offer, and by how many foods I fell in love with and wanted to carry right away. In the years since, I have attended many more GF Mercantiles and the experience is the same every time—amazing foods made by real people with quality ingredients, great missions, and no compromise.

It is a tremendous honor to be one of the 20 independent retailers who make up the Merchant’s Alliance. Our group is made up of the best retailers in the country, from San Francisco to Philadelphia and in between. We share ideas and resources; rely on each other for advice and encouragement; and work together to champion and promote all the amazing food crafters who put their passion into the fantastic products that they make.

How to Store and Preserve Your Citrus

It happens to the best of us. We dig into that bowl of gorgeous citrus fruits on our kitchen counter and pull out a green, moldy orange. What went wrong?

Here are a few things you can do to keep your citrus fresh:

Purchase ripe, in-season citrus

“Know what’s in season during citrus season,” advised Luke, our produce guru. You want to buy the freshest fruit possible, and every type of citrus has its season. Right now, fresh off the truck from California, we have the following organic fruits: Minneola, Cara Cara, Red and Pink Grapefruit, Navel Oranges, Satsumas, and 2-pound bags of Clementines. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for Honeybells, which are the same variety as Minneolas but come from Florida. They’re usually around for about two weeks, so get them when you see them!

Unlike other fruits, citrus doesn’t continue to ripen after it’s picked. When you’re shopping for oranges and grapefruit, look for a nice color and firm skin. There are a few varieties, like mandarins and tangelos, that naturally have a loose skin.

Put it in the fridge

“Refrigeration for citrus is best,” Luke said. Oranges and grapefruit can last for several weeks if stored properly in the fridge. This means placing them loose (or in a mesh bag) in the veggie drawer and then turning them from time to time to allow airflow. While most citrus can be stored loosely, lemons should be placed in a plastic bag before going in the fridge.

Eat them quickly if kept at room temperature

To encourage healthy snacking, we suggest keeping a few oranges in a bowl on the countertop and the rest in the fridge. As the bowl empties, pull a few more oranges out of the fridge. “The countertop is nice if you plan to eat it within a few days,” Luke said. “Otherwise, it should go in the fridge.” Just make sure that your countertop citrus has good airflow and that you don’t let it sit for too long. And if the room is warm or muggy, forego the countertop altogether. Citrus prefers a cool, dry environment.

Keep it dry

Wherever you store your citrus, make sure the fruit is dry and that you rotate it regularly for proper airflow. Moisture between pieces of citrus is a recipe for disaster. If the fruit comes in a bag, we recommend taking the citrus out of the bag and placing it in a shallow bowl on the counter or directly in the fridge.

Learn about a few unique citrus varieties you’ll find at the Market this winter.