Behind the Scenes at Fiddlehead Brewing—EatingWell's Next-Door Neighbor
EatingWell's editor-in-chief, Jessie Price—and a few lucky team members—got a chance to tour the Wonka-esque brewery behind a super-successful Vermont beer.
After opening its doors on New Year's Eve of 2011, Fiddlehead Brewing Company—which is located right next to EatingWell's offices in Shelburne, Vermont—skyrocketed to success. Owner and brewmaster Matt "Matty-O" Cohen gave the EatingWell team a tour of his operation—and a little behind-the-scenes info on how he did it.
From the beginning, a big part of Cohen's strategy was developing good relationships with local bar owners. In just one month of business, Cohen got Fiddlehead's flagship IPA on tap in more than 50 bars and restaurants. Keeping keg prices low and quality high, Cohen has kept up those good relations—and kept the same beer on tap—in an industry with ever-changing trends.
Another part of the strategy, Cohen explained, is exclusivity. While Fiddlehead now cans several beers for distribution across Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York, you won't find the flagship IPA in cans at your local bar. Note: If you're thinking, "I'm pretty sure I have seen it …" you may be right. Fiddlehead has made an exception for just a handful of venues and special events where draft beer was just not an option—and people went crazy for it!
Speaking of exclusivity, Fiddlehead has several beers that are served in the taproom only, so the Shelburne-based brewery is definitely worth a visit. (And FYI, there's delicious pizza in the same building, which you can get delivered to your table with just a couple buttons on a kiosk. How cool is that?!) Cohen showed us five 30-barrel (930-gallon) fermenters he uses for small test batches that end up in the taproom: Smells Like Thunder Double IPA, Juan Ricardo Dark and Betty Nelson, to name a few.
Shelburne is just minutes from the craft-brew mecca known as Burlington, Vermont. But Cohen is passionate about keeping the brewery in Shelburne, where it all began, even if that creates some challenges. Fiddlehead recently installed an anaerobic digester to treat the wastewater created by their operation, something that Burlington breweries don't have to deal with (it has to do with the size of the municipality). "When we opened in Shelburne all those years ago, we were also committing to being a part of the community," Cohen told us. Looks like he's here to stay.
While brewing beer can take a toll on the environment, the Fiddlehead team is doing all they can to mitigate their carbon footprint. The wastewater treatment equipment was no small part of that, with a million-dollar (!) price tag. They're also burning off methane gas produced by the water-treatment process. As they continue to grow, they'll be able to capture that gas to clean and power their boiler. Jessie can see the methane flame from her office window, and it's one of the reasons she wanted to visit. "We saw the flare and thought, 'What kind of crazy things are they doing over there?' The fact that they’re capturing methane and generating energy from it is really cool and impressive. We can't wait to see what's next."