“We’ve never served beef from outside the state,” says Stowe Mountain Lodge Executive Chef Sean Buchanan. “The same with our quail, pheasant, eggs, and dairy products.”
One of the most popular pairings on the menu at Stowe Mountain Lodge is mussels steamed in Hourglass Ale.
Since opening in mid-2008, Stowe Mountain Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, has been committed to working with local purveyors. This extends beyond food items to include wine, beer, and spirits. In addition to selling locally brewed beer, F&B Director Kim Lambrechts worked with Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville, Vermont, to develop the lodge’s own house ale. Named after a popular backcountry ski trail, Hourglass Ale is served in Stowe Mountain’s Solstice restaurant and Hourglass lounge.
According to Executive Chef Sean Buchanan, the European-style Hourglass Ale “has enough hops, acidity, and bite to pair well with a lot of our bar food.” It took Lambrechts about two months to perfect the recipe, Buchanan says, to make sure it was the right flavor profile. “We have started using it for weddings and catered events, and people love it,” he says. “Some people come here just for the beer.” Although Hourglass Ale won’t be found anywhere outside of Stowe Mountain Lodge, fans can buy it at Schuss, the lodge’s gourmet takeout shop.
Other popular Vermont-sourced beers at Stowe Mountain include those from Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, particularly Wolaver’s (Otter Creek’s organic ale). Beyond beer, the lodge works with local wineries such as Snow Farm Winery in South Hero, which supplies their Seyval Blanc, Baco Noir, Late Harvest Vignole, and Vidal Blanc Ice Wine.
Stowe Mountain features local spirits specialties such as Sunshine Vodka, made in Stowe by Green Mountain Distillers; Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur, made by Saxtons River Distillery; and Vermont Spirits Gold, a vodka made in St. Johnsbury from maple syrup. The lodge serves many maple syrup-inspired drinks, including the Maple Chili Tini, which is made with vodka and maple syrup combined with lime and habanero pepper.
The lodge also offers Pop Soda, an all-natural soda brewed in the Otter Creek facility. “They brew their soda like beer, then chill it and ultra-pressurize CO2 into it,” Buchanan says. This time-consuming process results in soda sweetened with Vermont honey and flavored with herbs and spices such as fresh mint and ginger. “It makes a great cocktail mixer,” adds Buchanan. Like many of the foods used by the lodge, Pop Soda is made in such small quantities that it’s difficult to find outside the state, which, for foodies, can be a reason to visit Stowe Mountain.
Buchanan notes that Vermont’s locally brewed beers go well with another famous state product, cheese. “Beer and cheese is a classic combination,” he says, adding that the lodge’s Hourglass Ale pairs well with acidic cheeses such as Shelburne Farms’ 36-month cheddar, Major Farms’ hard sheep’s milk cheese (called Vermont Shepherd), or the hard maple-smoked Gouda from Taylor Farms in Londonderry. There are approximately 34 artisanal cheese makers in Vermont, and Buchanan likes to use each producer’s top cheeses. “These are cheeses that win American Cheese Society blue ribbons and best in shows,” he says. “These are the ones we love to showcase.”
Beer pairs well with more than cheese, of course. “Currently,” Buchanan says, “one of the best pairings on our menu is mussels steamed in Hourglass Ale mounted with a Creole seasoning and fresh thyme and butter.” Buchanan says the lodge plans to hold culinary beer dinners, most likely partnering with Rock Art or Otter Creek breweries.
NURTURING LOCAL RELATIONSHIPS
Buchanan describes Vermont as a nurturing environment and culture that reveres and respects food. And the state is so dedicated to its small-scale producers, Buchanan adds, that it’s the only state he knows where most supermarkets offer local meats and produce. “We’ve never served beef from outside the state. The same with our quail, pheasant, eggs, and dairy products.”
When Buchanan refers to purveyors, he mentions the owners of the companies by name. “It’s about who they are and how they raise their crops or how they treat their lambs and what they feed their goats. Building relationships with people who are doing the right thing is important because we want to tell that story. And we want to make a commitment to people using the best farming processes out there.”
Beth Rogers is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Maryland, and a long-time contributor to HOTEL F&B.