1.03.2012

Raise a glass to the memories

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
(Auld Lang Syne)

Raise a glass to the memories. 
I'll start the new year by looking back, as usual.  For many people in Vermont, 2011 was memorable year, albeit for mostly bad reasons.

It's a VERY inconsequential claim to fame, but I had the last pint of 'cask conditioned ale' ever pulled at the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury.

It was about 7:30 pm on Saturday, August 27, 2011, and the beer was, as I recall, Donovan's Red. The cask 'kicked' with my order, and there was no more til the next week.  But the next week never came.  I finished the beer, bid a hasty good night to Kenny (the head bartender) through the thick scrum of customers at the bar, and headed out into the evening.

Happier times at the bar, standing room only in December 2010.
The next day tropical storm Irene hit Vermont and the village of Waterbury was inundated by the Winooski River. The Alchemist, like many other businesses in the village, was heavily damaged.

After the flood.
At first the pub's owners thought that they would be able to reopen but then the reality of the situation (coupled with an artfully written flood insurance policy that managed to not cover very significant damages) meant the plan to reopen did not come to fruition. The space will reopen as a pub but under new management.

The owners of the Alchemist had (thankfully) diversified prior to the flood and built a small brewery - cannery on a hill in Waterbury which will be their main line of business from now on.  I wish them every success, and have purchased some of their canned product, but it's not the same.

Many words -- online and in print -- have been spilled on the fate the Alchemist (here). It was a place that kind of put Waterbury on the map for nightlife as people traveled from far and wide to sample the beer and eat the reasonably priced pub food.   You could tell Waterbury was becoming a happening place because prior to the flood it was getting so that it was hard find parking downtown in the evening.

The Alchemist really was where I first encountered a range of beer styles that I could experience (beer has become quite the topic on this blog) and also was the first bar that I ever became a semi-regular in.  The staff displayed an amazing ability to remember names and faces considering that the place was always busy.

And it was a place of some solace in times of economic distress -- I noticed, that the worse the economy was, the more time I tended to spend there -- meaning I spent a lot of time there in the past four years. I met some interesting folks there and heard some stories of the wider world.

It's all gone now, consigned to the realm of  memory. Some beer geeks filmed an interview with brewer/co-owner John Kimmich in July of 2011 and the clip is like watching a train wreck in slow motion, at one point there's some banter about the flood of 1927, not knowing what was in store a month and a half later.

The clip -- which is not so much about beer, as it is about the rewards and perils involved in running a small business -- can be viewed here and some photos of Waterbury -- including the Alchemist -- after the flood can be viewed here.

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