Monday, March 12, 2012

A changing of the guard at High Point

A bittersweet moment at High Point Brewing's first open house of the year and the release its 2012 Ramstein Maibock.

The event on Saturday (3/10) was also a sendoff for head brewer Bryan Baxter, who's leaving to join Otter Creek Brewing, the Middlebury, Vermont, brewery known for Stovepipe Porter, Copper Ale, Wolaver organic beers, and now a component of Long Trail Brewing of Burlington, Vermont.

Before the doors opened for the Ramstein event, owner Greg Zaccardi gathered the brewery's volunteers and thanked Bryan for his dedication to High Point, presenting him with personalized 2-liter, German-style growler.

Bryan says Vermont had virtually become a second home, and the Otter Creek job he starts March 19th grew out of that.

"I've been going up there pretty much every summer with my fiance, and we always were stopping in. I got to know their brewmaster and their head brewer," he says. "It's an opportunity right now I can't refuse. It's a way bigger brewery. I'll be able to learn a lot of crazy stuff."

Bryan took over as High Point's brewer in 2008, when Paul Scarmazzo retired after a stroke. He quickly put his own stamp on the Ramstein wheat and lager beers, including the brewery's well-received seasonals. Ramstein Oktoberfest and Maibock earned top ratings by BeerAdvocate and RateBeer during his tenure.

"Bryan came in cleaning kegs, like everybody does, scrubbing kegs, working side by side with Paul, helping out and learning the importance of cleanliness and exact careful brewing techniques," Greg says. "He demonstrated he could do the job when Paul retired."

Leaving, Bryan says, is tough: "This is my home. Greg's my friend. He's not my boss, he's my friend. He gave me the opportunity to take over."

Alexis Bacon (at left with girlfriend Melody Bioletti), the assistant brewer under Bryan, now moves up to head brewer.

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