New Williston hot spot for craft beer lovers

Beer styles—likes the IPAs above—will be grouped together at Beer Palate. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)
Beer styles—likes the IPAs above—will be grouped together at Beer Palate. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

November 21st, 2013

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Brian Frary’s retirement plan sounds like an ideal career for many beer-loving Vermonters.

The Williston resident is set to open Beer Palate—a shop selling hundreds of varieties of bottled, canned and mini-kegged beer, with six tap lines for growlers—in Maple Tree Place this weekend.

It’s no secret Vermonters love their beer. The small state is home to the highest number of brewpubs per capita, and several Vermont brewers have created international stirs. The Alchemist’s Heady Topper—which often sells out in stores within hours—caps beer promoter Beer Advocate’s list of top beers, Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Double Sunshine comes in at number 10 and Hill Farmstead’s Abner sits at number 15.

Frary said he is negotiating with all three buzzed-about brewers, and hopes to add Beer Palate to their distribution lists.

Frary decided to open the store after his recent retirement from a career in the heating and air conditioning business.

“I didn’t want to retire, retire,” he said. “I wanted to do something completely different from what I did.”

With the encouragement of his son, Jay Frary, who works for a beer distributing company in Brooklyn, N.Y., Frary decided to open Beer Palate. Jay Frary, who has been in the beer business for more than a decade, said Vermont is a leading spot for top breweries, but the retail side has yet to catch up.

“Right now, there’s no beer stores that equal the beer coming out of Vermont,” he said. “We have great beer, we just don’t have great beer stores. We want to help get more people involved in the craft beer scene.”

The store will open with nearly 400 varieties, but Jay Frary said they hope to eventually offer every beer licensed to be sold in Vermont—approximately 1,000 beers.

“The goal really is to carry every single style and highlight the ones we thing make the most sense for people to try,” he said.

Education will be a major component of the store, taking beer drinkers beyond typical labels like lager and IPA and into more finite distinctions—such as ryes and Belgian farmhouse ales.

Jay Frary said they hope to stock a craft beer collection that is “really eclectic and esoteric, as well as mainstream beers and high-end imports.”

All consumers should be able to find something to their taste, the Frarys said, from the most elusive brands to good old Budweiser.

“The idea is to give people enough of a selection,” Brian Frary said. “They can have some fun trying different ones.”

Brian Frary did the store’s renovations himself, including building a walk-in cooler. Once he receives his final shipments of beer, filling in the gaps in the shelves, he has to undertake the tedious task of entering everything into his computer system before letting the public get their hands on the tasty beverages.

Like wine, Brian Frary will organize the store by style. So, those looking for a rich stout or a hoppy IPA can browse them all at once.

“I want it to be a place people feel comfortable browsing in, and basically have fun with it,” he said. “People can pick up three or four styles and experiment.”

Frary added that he is open to suggestions.

“It’s going to be a learning process on both sides of the counter,” he said.

Like the shop’s name suggests, Frary will also work to illuminate the joys of pairing beer with food.

Along with beer-minded staff, Frary will have several iPads in the store with a program where people can select what they are having for dinner, and the program will suggest several beers that pair well.

When tasting beer, Jay Frary said, samplers normally swallow their sips—unlike wine tasting (serious wine tasting, anyway). That’s because the taste buds that pick up the bitter notes in beer are at the back of the tongue.

“Beer actually tastes better than wine with food because of all these other sensories on the tongue,” he said.

Not only can consumers select various beers that will taste good with certain foods, the beer styles will work differently with the meal.

“Spicy food, for example,” Jay Frary said. “An IPA enhances spiciness or you could pair it with something that actually cleanses your palate, so the next bite is as fresh as the first.”

Brian Frary said everyone he has talked to about Beer Palate has been “kind of excited…there’s no place like this in the area,” he said.

With the first shipment of beer already stocked on the shelves, the store has started attracting some attention.

“There have been people peering in the windows a lot lately,” he said.

Beer Palate is located at 188 Boxwood Street.