Dog River Brewery Brings Tradition Back to Vermont Brewing

by Ivan Shadis

Yet another brewery has opened its doors in Central Vermont, just off the Barre-Montpelier road, in the former RadioShack space. After turning on the taps on December 16, Dog River Brewery sold “over a hundred gallons” of beer in its first month, according to proprietor Leo Foy. “It seems like most everyone enjoys beer and having a neighborhood brewery now,” said Foy.

The brewery offers a rotating selection of beers, the fruit of Foy’s ongoing experimentation with different recipes. “I find recipes I like and try to tweak them into stuff that sounds good to me and that I think I could sell to the public,” said Foy. The current line-up includes an American pale ale, an amber ale, a dark winter ale, and what Foy called his “wildcard,”—a tart cherry ale.

Foy plans to distinguish his brewery by focusing less on the IPA-style beers, which have elevated the state to a world renowned mecca for craft beer, and instead on more traditional styles. “I don’t plan on creating beer with ingredients or flavors that sound like they belong in a potpourri or an herbal emporium,” said Foy, “just solid recipes carefully crafted and aged for smoothness and character.

”Customers can sit down to enjoy the beer on tap or buy it to go in a 32-ounce aluminum can called a crowler. Dog River Brewery sells some snacks, but encourages customers to bring their own food to enjoy in the beer hall. For now Foy is not distributing, so his beers are only available at Dog River Brewery, or as part of event catering.

Foy, an engineer by trade, first got his feet wet in brewing as a hobbyist. “I was interested in doing it and looking for ways to save money on drinking beer, so I figured out how to make my own,” said Foy. But over the course of seven years Foy’s strategy for saving money on beer turned into a passion culminating in a $100,000 investment in his new brewery.

Visitors entering the beer hall through its double glass doors will find an irreverent mix of the homespun, industrial, and commercial in the cavernous three-thousand-square foot room. Wooden picnic tables, characteristic of a European beer hall, span a smooth concrete floor, while fluorescent lights in the Styrofoam-tile ceiling shine down on a plank serving counter built from Foy’s son’s reclaimed treehouse. An enormous American flag hangs above the corrugated metal wainscoting. And in the back, chained off behind the bar, the works: the kettle, the fermentation tanks, the sinks, the glycol lines, which feed the beer into four giant stainless steel tanks behind the bar.

“Myself, my wife, and my kid, we did the build out ourselves,” said Foy of the renovation, which transformed the stripped hull of the old electronics store into a beer hall.

Foy, who lives in Berlin, said he picked the brewery’s location because it was close to home, but also because he considers Berlin to be business friendly, and that’s where space was available and affordable. “The biggest deal to us was space really. There isn’t really a lot of commercial space in this area that is suitable or even halfway suitable for a brewing operation,” said Foy, “Montpelier would have been cool, but there’s so little space available there and whatever is available there, is really darn expensive.”

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