Over the last two months, Juniper has been proud to feature the Valor Ale from the St. Albans based 14th Star Brewing. Conceived while deployed overseas in Afghanistan, 14th Star has joined the growing ranks of Vermont breweries. The Valor Ale, a hoppy amber ale, is quickly becoming a staple of the Vermont craft brewing culture. A portion of sales from the Valor Ale goes to the Purple Hearts Reunited Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to returning lost or stolen Purple Hearts. So think about that as you take your first and last sips of this delicious brew. Stop by Juniper at Hotel Vermont and taste it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed, we promise.
We got a chance to ask 14th Star owner/head brewer a few questions about the brewery and Vermont.
Your flagship beer, the Valor Ale, is a hoppy amber ale with a portion of proceeds benefitting the Purple Hearts Reunited Foundation. How did you decide on this recipe to become your flagship?
It started as a recipe we were brewing for years that was always a hit with our family and friends. It just became hoppier and hoppier with each iteration. It finally reached a point where we decided that we didn’t want it any hoppier as it balanced the caramel and chocolate of the malts nicely. Presto, we had the recipe for Valor. It originally wasn’t named Valor, simply our Hoppy Amber Ale, but after hearing about Zac Fike’s personal efforts with Purple Hearts Reunited we decided to brand that beer and support Zac’s cause.
Why is philanthropy such an integral aspect in the 14th Star mission?
I personally believe that philanthropy — whether it’s in the form of monetary donations or physical acts of charity and community — are inherent responsibilities of a company/corporation/institution as a “corporate citizen” in their communities. Supporting Purple Hearts Reunited was an easy choice for us as the military community is as much home to us as St. Albans is. We’ve also recently reached out to the recreation department here to see if we can assist with their youth athletic programs. Athletics were a huge part of our young lives and they gave us something constructive and healthy to do, instead of finding trouble. Our goal is to get other businesses in St. Albans to sponsor a team, sport, or activity to help strengthen the youth programs in town.
How does 14th Star embody the spirit of Vermont?
Defining the “spirit of Vermont” is a difficult thing to do. Our residents are as diverse as they could possibly be: from a pharmaceutical executive at Mylan Technologies to a Dairy Farmer in Highgate. One thing that unites us, however, is our resilience in the face of adversity and our independence. When we were building the brewery in St. Albans, we had several people tell us that Franklin County would never support a brewery and that it wasn’t “craft beer country.” 20 months after opening, we’ve increased production by 4000% and we’re undergoing another massive expansion and moving up to Main St. It reminds me of Ethan Allen’s response when he was told the Vermont Militia couldn’t defeat the British: “The gods of the valleys are not the gods of the hills.”
What values does 14th Star hold that are unique in comparison to the greater craft brewing culture?
Craft brewers, by and large, share the same values across the industry: Craftsmanship over consumerism, sustainability, local support, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. The real nexus of the brewery, however, was not the creation of something to do after the Army, but the desire, the need, to create something that brings people together. In the words of Jonathan Larson, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” The ultimate reward at the end of this journey isn’t measured in dollars, but in the experiences people have over a pint of our beer and knowing that we shared in those experiences while helping revitalize our local economy and society.
14th Star Brewing is in the midst of an expansion in St. Albans. There is more beer on the way, and not just the Valor Ale. The brewery is just a few short weeks away from a new release. But not only will there be more beer, there will be a spacious taproom for all to enjoy. We’re excited.