As new tasting rooms and breweries open their doors, and 22oz bottles and 16oz cans create a line-up of folks eagerly awaiting their releases, it is hard to think back to what Vermont’s craft beer scene was like before the boom. Vermont Pub & Brewery first opened their doors in Burlington, VT in 1988 after founder and brewmaster, Greg Noonan took his vision and made it into a reality. Opening up a brewpub did not have only the typical hurdles that one might think of today. Noonan spent about 3 years lobbying the Vermont Legislature to legalize brewpubs.
Noonan passed away in 2009 at the age of 58. He was a craft beer pioneer and brewing expert. He paved the way for those who shared his passion for beer, and the opportunity for craft beer to flourish in Vermont. When writing this post, it quickly became clear to me how big of an impact Greg has had in the community and the legacy he left behind. “Greg was my single biggest influence in the world of brewing beer. In the years that I knew him and worked for him, he was an endless source of advice and knowledge about brewing beer. He was a dear friend that I miss very much. He was a mentor indeed, but much more importantly, he was a friend”, states Jon Kimmich founder and brewer of the Alchemist.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s as Noonan was on his journey to making “good beer”, he found little resources along the way. He had extensive notes and recipes, and this is what drove him to publish several books on brewing. Including Brewing Lager Beer, which is still considered a bible for homebrewers and small craft breweries.
Back in ‘88 craft beer was not only new to our vocabulary, but most people did not comprehend what a brew pub was either. At the time the west coast had a few brewpubs, but it was a new concept on the east coast. “We were constantly educating people and we established tools such as a beer list which described the different beer styles,” claims Steve Polewacyk, now owner of VPB. Polewacyk met Noonan back in college, and decided to come up to Vermont to help with Greg’s labor of love. They were working 80-hour weeks, doing everything from carpentry work, mopping the floor and hopping behind the bar.
"Greg would have never taken credit for paving the way for Vermont’s craft beer scene and was extremely humble; providing a helping hand to anyone who needed it." In all of Steve’s time with Greg, he never remembers Greg discussing the future of the Vermont beer scene, “in fact, we were so caught up in the moment, that I don't think that the future had anything to do with the endeavor at hand. He, (we) were just doing what we had to do to get by...”