Beers with a Story: Green Empire BrewingAug 31, 2020 09:20PM ● By Bart Beeson
While you may have tried one of the many beers from Colchester’s Green Empire Brewing, what you may not know is that their delicious brews often come with a backstory. When cofounder Dave Bombard got married last year, they brewed a special Our Day IPA just for the occasion, with a unique blend of hops and malts that wasn’t too strong, to keep people dancing all night. They also brewed a Field of Flowers Double IPA, in honor of cofounder Evan Vacarr’s partner, who loves flowers, after the birth of the couple’s second child.
And then there’s one that’s particularly close to Evan’s heart. The Leo IPA is named after his three-year-old son Leo, who has successfully undergone various surgeries, including two heart surgeries. The can’s design features an ultrasound image of Leo’s heart, and each year’s can also features an updated picture of him – what Evan calls “a beer book of sorts.”
Founding an Empire
When Evan and Dave started homebrewing together in Plattsburgh, New York, back in 2015, they had no idea it would eventually become a commercial business. “Dave was just excited about brewing and he got me excited about it, which drove us to keep buying equipment and hops from local farmers,” says Evan. He relates that their early setups in apartments involved brewing in the parking lot with hoses running upstairs into their sink, probably annoying the neighbors. Eventually the two relocated to Vermont and found a dedicated space for brewing in Colchester. The name Green Empire represents their past and their present—starting in the Empire State and moving to the Green Mountain State.
After going through the licensing process, Green Empire was officially formed in 2017, and soon afterward, in partnership with the Vermont Beer Shepherd, started distributing their beer throughout the state. Originally, their main focus was on IPAs and Double IPAs, with their flagship beer, Side Business (named for the fact that for both partners brewing was a side business), quickly becoming their most popular brew. Evan jokes that their side business is steadily becoming a full-time business and notes that he has even found a way to combine two of his side businesses. He previously had a business making and selling candles and now offers CANdles on their website—homemade candles inside a Green Empire beer can.
While IPAs are still their bread and butter, Evan says one of the things he likes most about brewing is the ability to be creative. “I enjoy the freedom to express myself in a different way and be as creative as you want. Your only limit is your own creativity.” He points to July 4th of last year, when after brewing a big batch of stout, they decided to put some in a cask with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate for a special “S’more” beer.
They are also experimenting with a variety of different barrel-aged stouts and have a collection of 40 different barrels to use, ranging from gin to whiskey to chardonnay. In addition, last year they featured an Imperial Stout aged in rye whiskey barrels and conditioned with cold brew coffee from their Colchester neighbor, Snowcap Cold Brew. Evan says they are working on another batch of the same beer, using a different brewing method in order to get all of the flavor without diluting the beer (at 10 percent ABV, it packs a punch).
Jacks of All Trades
Of course, opening and running a growing brewery has not been without its challenges. In addition to being brewers, on any given day they might have to be plumbers or electricians, or perhaps learn to solder on the spur of the moment, notes Evan. And the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges as well. In response, the partners quickly set up an online ordering system on their website where customers in neighboring towns can have beer delivered to their house (often on the same day) or pick it up at the Colchester site.
As for the future of Green Empire, Evan says they will continue to focus on barrel-aged beer and canning every two weeks. Down the road, they will consider looking into a bigger space that can house a taproom and bigger tanks. Regardless, they plan to keep producing tasty and creative beer—beers that just might have a story behind them.
478 Hegeman Avenue