Switchback, Appalachian Gap Distillery Unveil Essential Spirits

Switchback Brewing Co., home to Vermont’s iconic Switchback Ale, faced a unique challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic forced bars and restaurants across the nation to close their doors. With thousands of gallons of beer brewed in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day Weekend at risk of going to waste, the innovative teams at Switchback and Appalachian Gap Distillery embarked on a new venture, partnering to create Essential Spirits.

The process began by distilling approximately 1,500 kegs, equivalent to 250,000 cans of Switchback Ale at Appalachian Gap Distillery. After distillation, the whiskey is aged for at least three years in oak barrels in App Gap’s facility in Middlebury, VT, developing a beautiful amber hue, herbaceous notes and a warm, caramel whiskey body.

Additionally, the collaboration between the local brewery and distillery includes Essential Vermont Gin. This refreshing spirit evokes bright hop notes and a delicious evergreen touch that blends seamlessly with warm spice. 

“There is a saying that it takes a lot of great beer to make great wine, in this case it takes a lot of great beer to make great whiskey,” says Switchback’s Production Manager, Craig Wilkinson, who spearheads the brewery side of the project. “This has been a true collaborative effort and a great opportunity for us to learn from each other.”

The process also provided a much-needed distraction during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was a strange and weird time,” says Will Drucker, Appalachian Gap’s Founder. “The collaboration was something to look forward to during this dark period and the partnership not only helped prevent great beer from going to waste but also aligned with our commitment to sustainability.”

Bottles of Essential Vermont Malt Whiskey and Gin are available for purchase at 802 Spirits liquor stores across the state, at Appalachian Gap Distillery and will be featured at Switchback’s new Beer Garden & Tap House, set to open in Summer of 2024 in the South End of Burlington, VT. The new space will feature an expanded food menu, outdoor patio and event lawn, along with 20 taps offering beer brewed on-site and an extensive cocktail list.

For more information, visit switchbackvt.com or appalachiangap.com.

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