What do you do after you’ve helped Magic Hat become a somewhat household name? Well, if you’re Matt Cohen, or Matty O as he’s affectionately known, you start your own brewery.
Fiddlehead is the fairly new brainchild of the former head brewer at Magic Hat. Started in 2011, the Shelburne brewery sits on a quiet section of Shelburne Road right across from a vineyard and connected to a small pizza joint. What you’ll find in the small brewery is something different from most other breweries in the state. Fiddlehead’s flagship beer is an IPA that appeals to a wide audience. Something the pound-you-over-the-head-with-hops IPA world has been lacking as of late. We’re not talking a palate-wrecker of any kind, but a drinkable IPA that appeals to the masses.
Of course, the funny thing is, it doesn’t reach “the masses.” It only reaches those in Vermont and it only reaches them on draft.
“We’re on tap at over 275 restaurants and bars in Vermont,” Cohen said. “We don’t have any plans to bottle; we just think that the draft system is the best.”
After doing the whole widespread distribution thing at Magic Hat, Cohen wants to stay local this time.
“There was a market here for a sessionable IPA. Vermonters are very loyal to local products and we want to build a fanbase here.”
What’s really interesting about what Fiddlehead is doing is the beer outside their flaship, easy drinking IPA. Outside of very rare exceptions, no other beer is getting brewed twice. You may stumble upon a kolsch or their exceptional Hodad Porter, but, as Cohen suggests, “Don’t fall in love.” For example, we sampled Second Fiddle, their double IPA, and it was fantastic and we’d gladly make the trip back to have it again, but we probably can’t, and oddly that’s part of the fun of Fiddlehead.
There’s a realness there too. Here’s a guy who’s making a beer with the average drinker in mind and then having some fun playing around with other recipes. And when you talk to Matty O, that all comes across as he describes the process. There’s no pretentiousness at Fiddlehead, it’s a bunch of folks having a good time, and that comes across in their beer. So head up, enjoy an IPA and whatever the hell else you happen to stumble upon.