Ah, good memories of 1997: the movie Titanic was killing it at the box office, Married With Children was cancelled and Dolly the sheep was cloned. It’s also the year Rock Art Brewery was born, humbly starting out in owner Matt Nadeau’s basement, doubling as a brew room and growler station in Johnson, Vermont. Rock Art's one of the breweries that helped put Vermont on the map as a craft beer destination (have you heard of Heady Topper before?). Nadeau likes to keep the local tradition alive by using locally sourced ingredients when tinkering with his brews, like Vermont maple syrup, hand-picked spruce buds, and locally grown hops.
In 2011, Rock Art’s brewery expanded once again, this time remaining in Morrisville.
An American wheat brewed with Northern Brewer and Mt. Hood hops, Whitetail is quintessentially pleasant. It pours a pleasant, clear golden honey with dancing champagne bubbles. The nose is a pleasantly sweet, grassy smell with a hint of wheat. And the taste? You guessed it: a pleasant, grassy and honey-sweet palate with a tinge of grains and vegetables and a dry finish.
American Red is distinctly… American. A simple brew, it’s an easygoing beer for when you just want something decently palatable and don’t feel like downing another Yuenglings. Pouring a clear, burnt honey that looks similar to a dark black tea, the nose has a subtle, last month’s campfire quality about it -- almost a little syrupy. The taste is what you’d expect from a malty, easy-going American dark beer.
Described as a “mild barley wine” by Rock Art, Ridge Runner is indeed on the lower end of the ABV spectrum for a traditional barley wine. Pouring a stained-wood mahogany, the nose exhibits cereal grain and dry fruits. The palate has a robust brown ale quality about it with some smokiness at the end, perfect for those turned off from typical barley wines because of the intense booziness.
Rock Art does the smoked porter justice with this excellent low-ABV offering. Midnight Madness, brewed with Northern Brewer and East Kent Golding hops, pours a Dr. Pepper-ish bubbly red and shows much promise on the nose: a smokey scent of brunt wood, smoked meats and peat emanated from our sample. The light bodied palate delivers a crisp, smokey taste, similar to smoked cheese with hints of peat. As with Ridge Runner, Midnight Madness is a great brew for those who are usually turned off from porters.