UnCapped: Foam Brewers in Vermont

·5 min read

Sep. 14—In this episode of the UnCapped podcast, host Chris Sands talks with cofounder and head brewer Bob Grim and research and development brewer Josh Bayer at Foam Brewers about how well people in Vermont are brewing IPAs. They also talk about the beginnings of the brewery, its evolution to present day and Garbage Pail Kids. Here is an excerpt of their talk.

UnCapped: Where did the name Foam Brewers come from?

Bob Grim: That's a popular question. We're called Foam Brewers because the three of us who initially started planning the brewery were professional brewers. We wanted it to be a brewery for brewers. The name foam comes from our desire to create the best beer possible. Crafting a beer, you might have the best ingredients, the best recipe, but if the beer is poured and presented to you without a head, without foam on top of it, it's kind of the mark of a flabby beer. Foam on top of a perfectly-made beer is kind of the crowning achievement, I would say — and it just makes it look really tasty.

Another piece of the puzzle is that we ended up down here on the shores of Lake Champlain and the waterfront, and the waves can be crashing out there, stirring up a little bit of foam. That was an afterthought, but some people have attributed that to the [name] as well.

UnCapped: It's a nice little addition to the story.

Grim: A lot of other people think "foam" comes from the Phish song ["Foam"] ... and obviously there are a lot of Phishheads around here in Burlington, Vermont. That is not where the inspiration for the name came from.

UnCapped: That's where you draw the line.

Grim: Yeah, exactly. Two of my partners would be upset that I just said that because they're big Phishheads, but it's true.

UnCapped: There is a brewery in Maryland [Pherm] that is almost entirely Phish-themed. When I interviewed them, every story involved being in the parking lot of a Phish show.

Grim: Josh [Bayer] has a couple experiences. I've only been to one show. It was a big one, but Josh might be able to relate a little better to that life.

UnCapped: You'd mentioned your goal to brew your amazing beer, but before we get into the history of Foam and your story, why is it that you guys up in Vermont are so good at brewing IPAs?

Grim: I think there are little epicenters of newer styles done really well, whether it's a hoppy beer, a fruited sour beer, a stout, whatever. I think there just happened to be a group of people in Vermont that set the bar pretty high, so if you want to make a mark in Vermont, you have to aim to be in that same zone. I always credit the original people who do Vermont-style IPA — not New England-style. Vermont-style IPA, I think Hill Farmstead and Alchemist are the grandfathers of that genre of beer, and they do it really, really well. It's inspiring.

I think it should be the goal of every brewer to always create the best beer you can possibly create — source the ingredients that you know are right for the beer and always be working to make a better beer and a more efficient process.

UnCapped: I guess with the competition from the original people, you don't have much choice but to put out amazing beer if you want to survive.

Grim: Right. And that's true for every brewery in general. There are so many breweries in the world, in the United States and even in Vermont. Vermont is always going back and forth with Oregon for most breweries per capita. Yes, we have a small state, not very many people, but either way, there are a lot of great breweries out there now.

I think the overall standard has increased over the years. Five years ago, a beer snob in the know might say 50% of the breweries are making good beer. I think it's higher than that now. I think most breweries are making at least something that's good.

UnCapped: Yeah, the days of being able to open with mediocre beer are long gone.

Grim: Exactly. It's that rising tide thing. If you're going to stay alive in this industry, you gotta roll with the punches. You gotta try to make the best thing possible. If you're not standing out, you're probably failing.

There's a lot of innovation, too, a lot of new styles popping up, things that haven't been done before, and I think that's all part of it: working toward a common goal, trying to create the best thing you can create. That ends up perpetuating itself and allowing the industry to move forward and be creative and focus on quality and efficiency.

UnCapped: How did Todd [Haire, cofounder] end up on a Garbage Pail card?

Grim: Todd is the older guy in the group, I guess you could say. He grew up in the '80s, when that was a thing.

UnCapped: So he's probably my age.

Grim: Right. He's the old guy. A lot of our branding comes from that era, whether it's music, pop culture, stuff like that. It worked out in a weird way. The resident artist for Mikkeller reached out to a handful of breweries that he had known of [including us], and Todd was the obvious choice for being one of the Garbage Pail Kids. It's cool to be a part of that whole thing. Some great breweries were chosen to be a part of that. He's in good company with the other Garbage Pail Kids.

UnCapped: It is kind of a who's who of breweries. It definitely hit me in the nostalgia. I had a huge collection of those when I was a kid.

Grim: Absolutely. It is funny. There's definitely a target market for that stuff. I wouldn't say they're flying off the shelves, but people who know what it is really love it.

This excerpt has been edited for space and clarity. Listen to the full podcast at fnppodcasts.com/uncapped. Got UnCapped news? Email csands@newspost.com.