April 24, 2014

Mashers award McAllister best brew

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Fiddlehead Brewing Company owner and head brewer Matt Cohen (left) hoists a pint of McAllister Irish Red Ale with its creator, Williston resident and homebrewer Marty Bonneau. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Williston home brewer names beer after mom

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The Williston beer scene got a local boost on Sunday with the tapping of McAllister Irish Red Ale, a homebrew that had its origin in the basement of Williston resident Marty Bonneau.

“This is pretty much on style for a red ale,” Bonneau said. “It’s more of a malt beer, but it’s balanced with hops, so it’s not too sweet.”

Compared to Smithwick’s, the benchmark red ale of the Emerald Isle, Bonneau remarked: “Smithwick’s is a little bit thinner. This has more of a malt character to it, making it more of a full-bodied beer. The alcohol is a little higher, because the specialty malts will add more sugars to it.”

McAllister Irish Red Ale, dubbed from the maiden name of Bonneau’s mother, was granted a Cuddy’s tap of honor for winning first place in its beer category in a recent homebrew competition hosted by Green Mountain Mashers, a society of Vermont homebrewers founded in 1989.

The McGillicuddy’s batch of Bonneau’s McAllister recipe was brewed at Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne. Fiddlehead owner Matt Cohen, who formerly served as head brewer of Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, was a Masher before he became a Magic Hatter.

“I’ve always been active in the homebrew community. That’s how I started, as a homebrewer,” Cohen said. “Marty came down and brewed the beer with me. He gave me the recipe and I scaled it up for our system. We made a slight adjustment to the yeast strain, so it was a little bit drier.”

According to the Fiddlehead website, McAllister Irish Red Ale “uses some pale and caramel malts as well as a pinch of roasted barley to create a very malt forward beer with little residual sweetness. Fuggles, a traditional British hop, add a slight earthy tone to this Red.”

Bonneau, who began homebrewing in the late 1980s, said 10 barrels (310 gallons) of his Irish red recipe were brewed at Fiddlehead. The final two kegs of the batch were provided to McGillicuddy’s for Sunday’s “meet the brewer” party.

“Brewing is part science, part art,” Bonneau said. “That kind of makes it fun. Everybody can take the same recipe and brew it a little differently, depending on the kind of equipment they use or how long they ferment or when they add hops, so a lot of it has to do with how you create the recipe.”

The football allegiances of McGillicuddy’s patrons were split Sunday afternoon, with significant rooting contingencies devoted to the Patriots, Colts and Steelers, although none of the AFC rivals faced one another.

But support was unified behind McAllister Irish Red Ale.

“I think it’s lovely,” said Hinesburg resident Amy Sylvia. “I love the way it tastes.”

Former Essex resident John Elliott, a friend of Bonneau who currently resides in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, agreed with Sylvia.

“This is tasty, tasty Irish red,” Bonneau said. “I had this last year at Marty’s place. I said, ‘You should make this available to the general public.’”

Bonneau did, although supplies are going fast.

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