You can credit part of the success of Switchback Brewing Company to bologna. Yes, bologna. You see, it was in a bologna factory where Bill Cherry, the owner and brewmaster at Switchback, learned the importance of an efficient workplace. And as you talk to Bill and tour Switchback Brewing Company, you see it everywhere. The equipment he’s found/acquired, the thought out workspaces, heck, there’s even a control board in German.
What this efficiency has lead to is one of the most popular beers in all of Vermont: Switchback Ale.
“When we started, I didn’t want to do another pale ale,” Bill said. “I wanted something different but not weird, and I wanted one beer that people would know when they heard our name.”
Switchback Ale is surprisingly complex for an easy drinking beer. It’s got a nice malty finish with little fruit notes as you smell and drink it. It’s unfiltered, like all the beers Switchback makes, and is quite sessionable at only 5% ABV. It also happens to be everywhere you turn in Vermont:
“We only needed one tap handle at a bar as opposed to many for different beers. It became the beer a lot of bartenders would drink after their shift, and after a while we decided to start bottling it so people could take that experience home. That was about a year ago, and we’ve had a tremendous response.”
Switchback Brewing feels very different from many of the other breweries in the state. Where others have an indie, Vermont granola vibe, Switchback was clean and business-like. Things are organized. It’s much less a mad scientist’s lair than a sterile work environment. And, in a weird way, it works for what they’re doing.
Bill has the experience to make Switchback successful, besides the bologna factory, he was the Brewmaster at Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City and studied microbiology during his time in school. With Switchback, he seems to have carved a niche in the Vermont beer market, giving customers a tasty, everyday drinker than is far more complex than all those macros.
Switchback Ale can be found outside of Vermont. The brewery does distribute to new Hampshire, some of New York, and Maine as well, but if you want to sample any of the rotating specials, you will have to make the trip up. We’d recommend trying some of their Roasted Red Ale if you have the chance, it had a really nice malty taste with just a little hit of roastiness.
If you are planning your Vermont beer trip, we’d recommend putting Switchback on your schedule to try the handful of beers they’ve got and to see the stark contrast with some of the other spots you’ll hit.