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Meet the Brewers: Steve Parkes of Drop In Brewing Co.

 Drop-In Brewing Company in Middlebury offers a wide range of both year round and seasonal brews from the American amber ale Red Dwarf to the Fresh Fine Fierce session IPA and on to Dancing Baby Animals, their perfect-for-the-summer saison, there is a beer for everyone whatever your taste. 

How did you get started in beer brewing?

I've been a brewer all of my life. In fact, it's all I've ever done, except for when I'm teaching brewing science at the brewing school or when my wife and I run together. I have a degree in Brewing from Heriot - Watt University in Edinburgh Scotland and started my first brewery in Maryland in 1988.

How did you become involved with your current brewery?

My wife and I started Drop In in 2012 in Middlebury, at which point I realized that I no longer had a boss to tell me my ideas were stupid.

What is your favorite beer style?

After brewing for 36 years on two continents and both coasts, and judging at the World Beer Cup, I've tried a lot of beer. Different beers are appropriate for different occasions, an Imperial Stout is not an ideal refreshment after mowing the lawn, but it’s perfect with a dessert in a fine restaurant. My favorite beer is a beer brewed by Trappist Monks in Belgium. Its called Orval and resembles an English ESB which has become contaminated by Brettanomyces [yeast].Of course it’s all intentional and I would try to recreate it myself but know perfection is impossible without devotion.

What comes first when developing a new beer?

For me, after all this time, it's hard to find a style I haven't attempted before already. The question is like asking where ideas come from. Judging the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup exposes me to world-class examples of styles, so I can taste perfection, and also strange and unusual ideas which really get me thinking about what is possible with beer.

Name a favorite beer that you have brewed?

I created a beer in California that was very successful. It's called Red Nectar and is still being brewed somewhere. Drop In's Red Dwarf is a variation on that original recipe.

What makes the Vermont beer community unique?

Our sense of community, appreciation of artisanal products, the outdoor lifestyle, all contribute to make Vermont an ideal market for craft beers. Add in some truly dedicated, inspired, and talented individuals and something special emerges.

What is one of the most challenging aspects of being a brewer in Vermont?

So many talented people making beer now that the market is getting crowded. Because we're all passionate about beer we move over and make room for the new brewery. We may be reaching the point where that is less likely to happen and I worry that the sense of camaraderie will be lost. I'm concerned about quality with some of the startups. They're underfunded, inexperienced, and tend to follow the successful brewers’ model. Not all of them have the brewing knowledge to offer a quality product time and time again. It takes most people an hour of work to earn the money to buy a 4 pack of beer so I think that deserves respect.

What has surprised you the most as a Vermont brewer?

I'm honestly not sure I've been surprised by much. Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist seemed to come out of nowhere to become industry leaders, but in both cases the brewers paid their dues working hard for many years before their success. The things that make Vermont a special place make everything that has happened make perfect sense.

What is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a brewer in Vermont?

The loyalty my customers show me. The ability to enjoy truly excellent beer in every part of the state -- that is not something that every state can claim.

If you'd like to hear more from Steve, check out this episode of "It's the beer talking" podcast.

Read our profile of Dan Ukolowicz and Kara Pawlusiak of Simple Roots Brewing Co. in Burlington.

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