Detour: Stowe, VT – von Trapp Brewing

STOWE, VT

DETOUR: Stowe, VT – von Trapp

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"DETOURS" is a travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As.

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No. 039

VON TRAPP BREWERY & BIERHALL

1333 Luce Hill ROAd, Stowe, VERMONT 05672

Last winter we found ourselves in scenic Stowe, Vermont amid snow covered hills, and booked in for a stay at the famous Trapp Family Lodge–yes, that Trapp family. While we weren’t necessarily there to indulge in The Sound of Music lore, it became clear early on that references to Maria von Trapp and the famous family of Austrian singers were going to be tough to avoid. But, we were glad that were the case–it should come as no surprise that the family name is fully embraced around these parts.

Arriving to the von Trapp Brewery makes for a rather grand entrance, after an already beautiful drive up winding evergreen-lined roads. The facility sits back from the main entrance enough to make the drive up feel almost regal. And the backdrop? Stowe’s famous mountains, a skier’s paradise.

Upon arrival, Sam von Trappgrandson of Maria, president of the lodge and owner of the namesake brewery that he began with his father, Johannes, in 2010–met us in the Bierhall over pints of Helles. We discussed his father’s dreams of opening the facility as a way to brew American versions of lagers native to their ancestral Austria, and Germany. He also described to us how he often skis to or from the brewery to his home when the weather allows it. And with that, von Trapp became the first brewery owner we’ve met who skis to work.

My dad was influenced to start a brewery–by Austrian roots–back in the 90s. But but then it just kind of got shelved. I came back into the family business in 2007, and my dad started getting reinvigorated and just excited about the [lodge] again in general. So I started doing a bunch of projects around here, with his blessing. He in turn got excited seeing me doing all these things... And then he decided to eclipse all of my projects by doing the coolest one, by starting a brewery.
— Sam von Trapp, Owner

Taking his father Johannes’ plans for a lager brewery, Sam got to work hiring brewers for their then-bakery-turned-brewery facility. Von Trapp Brewing’s original Brewmaster was Alan Van Anda. But after leaving to begin Lost Nation Brewing, in 2012, JP Williams stepped in. Williams had left Magic Hat where he managed brewery production. Going from one of the region’s biggest breweries, Williams found himself at a new setup just a fraction of the size in von Trapp, where capacity was 15-barrels. A stark contrast, no doubt. But, a lot has changed since then, and von Trapp Brewing now hosts a massive, shiny new facility, that was last updated in 2016 to accommodate several new state-of-the-art vessels.

JP was kind enough to show us around the facility on bottling day, where fresh Pilsner was getting packaged. “Authenticity and quality are at the core of everything we do here,” said Williams. And it’s easy to see everywhere you look. No expense was spared in the creation of a top of the line setup.

And what was further evident was the respect and reputation for von Trapp, as we traveled around the state the rest of our trip. The brewery’s name constantly came up in conversation, not only in reference to go-to lagers, but also for what the brewery and family have done for the industry.

No gimmicks here, just quality, traditionally brewed beers.

What We Drank

Trösten [5.6%] – A rich, dark, smoked lager with an ample amount of roastiness. It was hearty and smooth on the finish, making for a welcoming ‘welcome beer.’

Helles [4.9%] – This lager is possibly the best in the brewery’s lineup. It’s soft and supremely easy drinking; a real brewers’ beer and a great nod to their German recipe inspiration.

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In the mid-90s was when my dad first thought about having a brewery. I was always trying to get my dad to drink more craft beer. I was kind of that guy in college who when, all my friends were drinking Natty Light, I was the guy going and buying ‘craft beer’ at the time; Saranac, Pete’s Wicked Ale... You know, someone needs to bring that back...
— Sam von Trapp, Owner
Owner Sam von Trapp describes the history of the family’s lodge and brewery.

Owner Sam von Trapp describes the history of the family’s lodge and brewery.

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Brewmaster JP Williams.

Brewmaster JP Williams.

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...We even have tanks of spring water that comes from up the hill here. It is phenomenal water quality and is of course ideal for brewing German-style light lagers like we do.
— JP Williams, Brewmaster
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An unmatched view, outside the brewery’s doors.

An unmatched view, outside the brewery’s doors.

Our core beers all use German malts and hops–except the Saaz from Czech Republic, or sometimes from Michigan. And then sometimes, for specialty beers, we’ll mix in local malts and hops where we can. Michigan though...they’re growing some of the best hops, at least for the styles that we want. Michigan’s on fire right now.
— JP Williams
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Authenticity and quality are at the core of everything we do here.
— JP Williams
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The view from the Trapp Family Lodge, overlooking Stowe.

The view from the Trapp Family Lodge, overlooking Stowe.

 

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Photography by Matt Tanaka for The Hop Review.

Authored by Jack Muldowney of The Hop Review, in coordination with The Vermont Department of Tourism. Check out the rest of DETOURS series as we travel the world looking for unique beers and where to drink them.