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Mission Accomplished

Written by Matt Crawford on . Posted in Entrepreneurs, Taste of the Landscape

Imagined while at war, soldier’s dream becomes reality as military-minded brewery takes hold in St. Albans

Photographed by Gary Hall

It is — as Billy Joel sang in his ’70s hit “Piano Man” — a pretty good crowd for a Saturday. Except it isn’t Saturday — it’s the middle of the week in northern Vermont and the crowd at 14th Star Brewery spills from the hardwood bar to the picnic table seating to the back room where about 30 people, predominantly women, take part in a directed art exercise marketed as “Paint and a Pint.”

Over the shoulders of the beer drinkers at the bar, the regular crowd shuffles in, queuing up to have their half-gallon glass growlers filled. Some quiz the bartenders about new beers on tap, some swill small samples before deciding on what brew to bring home to tide them over until the weekend.


Andrea Gagner, CEO of 14th Star, spearheaded the growth of the company, which now rings up annual sales of $2.5 million.

Andrea Gagner is slinging beers tonight. She’s actually the CEO of the brewery, but as the painters and the regulars commingle in the taproom, she’s pouring pints ofValor ale and Tribute double IPA, ringing up sales at the register.

Located in the heart of downtown St. Albans, 14th Star Brewery is a part of Vermont’s thriving craft beer industry. In four short years, an idea that was hatched during downtime between patrols in Afghanistan has grown from a part-time operation into a company with a reported $2.5 million in annual sales. But there’s more to it than that. 14th Star’s ascension is a case study in small business success, a central figure in downtown St. Albans’ aggressive revitalization and a reliable partner for numerous charitable causes, especially those focused on veterans.

The genesis of 14th Star begins in a small outpost east of Bagram Airfield, a sprawling U.S. military base in Afghanistan, where Steve Gagner was serving. There, he would often come under sporadic and usually inaccurate rocket fire from Taliban troops, but there was also plenty of that hurry-up-and-wait that the U.S. Army is famous for. In those monotonous moments an idea took shape.

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Recipe: Leek and Fennel Cream

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Recipes

Leek and Fennel Cream
This relatively simple combination simmers up to a sumptuous and versatile sauce that is far more than the sum of its parts. Michael Orfan presents it under seared scallops, halibut or salmon at his restaurant and also with roast chicken or stuffed into trout. We cooled it and spread some over meaty filets of cod before baking them. Warm, it also makes a stellar stand-in for hollandaise in smoked-salmon eggs Benedict and works beautifully as a pasta sauce to complement sautéed sweet, pink shrimp, as pictured.
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  1. 2 medium leeks (about ¾ pound total)
  2. 1 large (about ¾ pound) fennel bulb, ideally with fresh-looking fronds
  3. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  4. ¼ cup very thinly sliced shallot
  5. 1½ tablespoons very thinly sliced garlic
  6. ½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  7. ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, 
plus more to taste
  8. ⅔ cup heavy cream
  9. ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  1. Trim root and tough dark green ends from leeks. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and then slice into fine julienne, like thick spaghetti, keeping the pieces as long as you can but don’t worry if some are shorter. Wash well in a colander, working out any sand trapped between layers. Shake dry. Trim stalks from fennel bulb. Finely chop about 2 tablespoons of the fronds and set aside. Slice fennel very thinly crosswise, discarding tough core pieces. You should have roughly the same volume of each vegetable.
  2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add wine and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until most of liquid has simmered away, about 5 minutes. Add leeks and fennel to pan and toss to combine with shallot and garlic. Add the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened but not colored, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and cream has reduced, leaving only a little liquid, about 12–15 minutes. Fold in about 1 tablespoon of the reserved fennel fronds. Season with white pepper and more salt to taste. Yields about 2 cups of sauce, enough for 8–12 ounces of pasta, such as pappardelle, or to accompany four servings of fish or chicken. Use remaining fennel fronds as garnish.
  1. Photo by Ken Burris.
Adapted from Chef-owner Michael Orfan, Rustic Roots, Shelburne
Adapted from Chef-owner Michael Orfan, Rustic Roots, Shelburne
Vermont Life Magazine

Recipe: Helles Lager–Braised Leek Tarts

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Recipes

Helles Lager–Braised Leek Tarts
At Idletyme Brewing Co. in Stowe, house-brewed beer is an ingredient, not just a beverage. Here, a blonde lager builds flavor in the filling for a rich and elegant appetizer, or lunch paired with lemon-dressed salad of peppery greens. For variations on this recipe, consider the original, which uses onions, or add crisp bacon before serving.
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  1. 7–8 ounces frozen puff pastry (one 
sheet or one-half sheet, depending on brand), thawed according to package directions
  2. 4 large leeks (about 2¼ pounds or 
5 cups when sliced)
  3. 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  5. Freshly ground pepper to taste
  6. ⅔ cup Helles lager from Idletyme Brewing Company or von Trapp Brewing, or any Munich-style blonde lager
  7. 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  8. 6 ounces Alpine-style cheese such as Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise or Gruyère, coarsely shredded
  9. ⅓ cup (generous) mayonnaise
  10. 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  11. 1½ tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs such as parsley, rosemary 
and thyme
  12. Egg wash made from 1 egg beaten with a splash of milk
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll thawed puff pastry into a 12-inch square. Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into nine 4-inch squares. Place on a baking sheet and chill in refrigerator while preparing filling.
  2. Trim root and tough dark green ends from leeks. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and then across in ¼-inch half circles to yield about five generous cups. Wash well in a colander, working out any sand trapped between layers. Shake dry. Melt butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add leeks with salt plus generous grinds of black pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and reduced in volume, about 12 minutes. Add beer and thyme leaves and simmer until liquid has evaporated and leeks are completely soft, about 8–10 minutes. Scrape leek mixture onto a plate and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, stir together shredded cheese, mayonnaise, mustard and mixed herbs. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Divide the leek and cheese mixtures each into nine roughly even portions. Take four of the pastry squares from refrigerator and space them out on a second baking sheet, leaving the others in the refrigerator. Using a fork, mark off a ⅓-inch border around edge of each square and then prick the center all over with the fork inside the border to prevent it from puffing up. Spread one portion of leek mixture on each puff pastry square leaving the border uncovered. Top leek mixture with one portion of the cheese mixture, spreading to cover the leeks. (Can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for several hours before baking.) Make sure filling is inside the border and brush border with egg wash. Bake 16–18 minutes until pastry border is puffed and deep golden brown. Repeat with remaining pastry squares. Cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Makes 9 small tarts. Tarts can also be cut diagonally, once cooled, for smaller appetizer portions. (Recipe can be doubled easily.)
  1. Photo by Ken Burris.
Adapted from Idletyme Brewing Co., Stowe
Adapted from Idletyme Brewing Co., Stowe
Vermont Life Magazine

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