The Switchback Brewing Company was founded in 2002 by Bill Cherry and his longtime friend, Jeff. Bill had pursued a career in brewing while Jeff had created his own electrical engineering company. Jeff convinced Bill that between his business experience and Bill’s brewing experience they could make a serious go at their own brewery.
With a SBA loan in hand, all the brewing equipment from a failed brewery in Arizona was purchased and installed in the summer of 2002. Bill began testing the equipment in August and once the kinks were worked out, brewed the first saleable batch of Switchback Ale in September. The very first pint of Switchback ever served was at Ake’s Place in Burlington, VT on October 22, 2002.
The idea that became Switchback Ale was developed by Bill over the course of a couple of years. Jeff had approached him with the brewery concept earlier, and Bill’s first response was, “Who needs another pale ale? What would we make that was new?” From that obstinate stance, he started rolling flavor ideas around in his head. Many are interested to learn that all of the formulation was done in Bill’s imagination, with no test brewing. He envisioned maximizing complexity, flavor, and delivering beer the way a brewmaster experiences it. To do this, the beer is left unfiltered and is carbonated 100% naturally in a special process using the yeast. The result is a beer that defies easy description, because it is brewed to a flavor idea and not based on any existing style guidelines. A tough first sell, but ultimately creating a uniqueness to itself.
The marketing plan had always been to introduce draught beer first, which allowed Bill to do all of the brewing, packaging, cleaning, and selling by himself until sales justified hiring some help.
By the end of 2003, the brewing alone was dominating Bill’s time, with 17 hour days necessary to fill the fermenters. It was during one of these long days that Bill took a phone call from Chris Dooley, who became the brewery’s first hired employee. With Dooley’s help the brewery settled into a steady routine, and Bill was able to hit the road more often to sell the brand.
Eventually, the brewery was working 24 hours a day to keep up with demand. At this point a serious expansion was needed. Over the course of three years, 2008-2010, a new brewhouse and matching fermenters were installed. The “new” brewhouse was actually a 1964 built copper brewhouse from the Braurei Schmucker in Beerfelden, Germany. This new brewhouse increased our production capacity to meet Switchback Ale demand today and in the future.
With this newly found brewing capability, Switchback was growing both its portfolio and its sales territory. Using the original smaller brewhouse, Dooley’s Belated Porter and Slow-Fermented Brown Ale were introduced in addition to Roasted Red Ale, as the company’s Rotating Specials.
Of course the elephant in the room for many years was the lack of bottled Switchback beers.
In October of 2012, we announced that we will bottle our beers in Vermont with state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to stay local and true to our commitment to quality. The centerpiece of the new bottling line is a German engineered filling system that is arguably the best in the world. The gentle and hygienic handling of the beer in this filling line allows for Switchback Ale and our Rotating Specials to be absolutely identical to the draught (keg) beer version.
In June of 2014 we revamped our small tasting room at the brewery into the Tap Room at Switchback. This has provided us with an outlet to showcase experimental brews and limited release batches you usually can’t find anywhere else. It has also allowed us to host beer themed events including Stretch & Sip Yoga, Cheese and Beer Pairings and various educational classes. Information on our Tap Room, including hours, current beers on tap and upcoming events can be found on our social media pages as well as the Tap Room section of our website.
In 2017 we launched Citra-Pils Keller Bier as our second beer to be brewed, bottled, and distributed year-round along with the Switchback Ale. The Connector IPA also is brewed year-round and bottled and distributed in Vermont year-round.
Switchback has grown our Rotating Special lineup to include six unique beers: Roasted Red Ale, Dooley’s Belated Porter, Slow-Fermented Brown Ale, Extra Pale Ale, Märzen Fest Bier, and SwitchBOCK. Our distribution has grown to reach five states in addition to Vermont, including New Hampshire, Maine, Upstate New York, parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In 2017, Switchback announced that we became 100% employee-owned. We hope you appreciate our dedication to providing you the best taste experience possible with each glass of Switchback beer, even if that means growing at a slower pace. Our first and last thought with every brew is the quality of the product going to our customers.