It’ not often you’re invited to swill beer with a former Ralph Lauren model who once appeared on People magazine’s most eligible bachelors list. That’s right, Ryan and I enjoyed pints with Dave Smutok.
Hahahaha. God, I could barely type that last sentence for laughing so hard.
Okay. Just kidding. Ryan and I did have drinks with GT pro rider Smutok but the former model also at the table was none other than Sam Von Trapp, heir to the Trapp Family dynasty and new purveyor of the best lagers this side of Austria. We had been invited to the Trapp Lodge in Stowe to review their brew offerings and we decided it was important in terms of journalistic integrity to sip suds with Sam. (Dave just came along to imbibe.)
It was an educational trip. No, seriously, it was. We learned words like helles (bright) and dunkel (dark) and the four components that make the perfect brew. We also learned a bit of history: the Trapp Family Lodge is owned by the von Trapps, the family portrayed in the Sound of Music, who escaped Nazi Europe in the ’40s and moved to Stowe. Today you can find them dancing on hilltops singing Edelwiess. Okay. Not really. You’ll find them hard at work running the family empire, hooning around the property’s 13-miles of singletrack, or enjoying a pint at the family’s on-site brewery.
In March 2010 the Trapp Family Brewery thrust its first pint onto the world. Today, the company brews about 60,000 gallons of beer annually under the watchful eye of brewmaster Allen Van Anda. Sam told us, “there are four key elements to beer making which I learned from Allen.” First, you need good water, which Trapp’s has plenty of thanks to its gravity-fed spring system. Second, you need a good brewmaster. Sam explained how Allen had perfected his trade at Rock Art Brewery and the Trapps later sent him to Europe to learn how to brew Austrian/German-style lager.
Third, you need a good recipe. Trapps is one of the only breweries in the U.S. that just brews lagers, which use bottom-fermenting yeasts that require colder temperatures and more time than your typical ale.
Finally, you need a clear vision, something Sam’s father Johanne had a decade ago when he first thought of brewing his own beer – the type of lager he enjoyed as a young man in Austria.
At the end of the tasting our vision was decidedly less clear but we still managed to vote on our preferred offerings. Trapps always has three lagers on hand and the Helles was Ryan’s favorite. It’s a pale lager that’s dry, clean-tasting and crisp. The perfect mid-ride swill on a hot summer’s day. Smutok preferred the Vienna, an amber lager that smelled faintly of butterscotch and honey. It definitely had a more “toasty” character to it.
As for me, I liked the Dunkel, the lager that looked like root beer and tasted like heaven – nutty and robust with lots of caramel and a touch of wood smoke. Definitely better for your cooler shoulder-season evenings.
Each of these beers hovers around the 5% alcohol mark and Sam says the best part about them is “they have way less of a hangover factor than other beers.” We can definitely attest to that – we swilled about 5 pints each and still managed to get to work the next morning.
So if you’re looking for an excellent post-ride lager (or pre-ride for that matter) thrust your pretty face into a pint of Trapps. One sip and you’ll be shouting “Prosit” from the mountaintops.