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Jul 12, 2006 08:01 PM

McNeil's Kölsch availability?

I have always been a huge fan of McNeil's and it is distributed here in Massachusetts by Craft Brewer's Guild. I have gotten a couple of local liquor stores to carry it. However, when I have tried to have my local merchant see whether he could order the Kölsch and Alt... and he said that CBG basically just delivered what was in the warehouse. I have called Ray McNeil in the past (how I got the stores in touch with CBG), but wanted to ask if folks knew if either of those are currently available in Vermont?

I definately miss having Dornbusch around!!

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  1. The alt was available as of yesterday at Norwich Wine & Spirits, though I don't know how long it had been there. (It was delicious.)

    1. You're a little more adventurous than me buying McNeill's beers in MA. I do not trust one bottle of McNeill's outside of Brattleboro to be fresh. Doesn't surprise me to hear Craft is the distributor in MA.

      The Co-op down the street from the pub is the largest offsite seller of thier beer is the best place to buy McNeill's. But even the selection is unknown until you actually look at it - although 5-10 styles are usually available. The alt is usually available, but the Kolsch is not a regular - I bought some during the winter time a couple of years ago.

      They make beer for the bar first, and if something is leftover, they will bottle and distribute, so availability will be spotty.

      Ray has threated to open a packaging only brewery for the last 2 years or so. I hope that he gets it one day and he gets excited about brewing again, because the quality of his beers have been hit or miss in the last 5 or so years - even when fresh.

      Ray McNeill was a pioneer in New England and introduced many new styles never seen before in the area and has influenced many area brewers, so it is sad to see his beers slipping and/or not keeping up with the times.

      2 Replies
      1. re: LStaff

        Thanks for the response its very helpful. I do not buy McNeill's in just any place. I have a very responsive local merchant and when I heard that Craft was distributing McNeill's, I had him order several cases. At least at that point they weren't warehousing it and there was none in stock, so next time it came in they put it on the next Tue/Thu truck and he had it. .. that was the last good McNeill's I have had down here. There are a couple of other places locally which have his beers on a shelf (Lion Liquors and I believe Downtown), but its just Amber/Bitter/Pale Ale and not at all fresh. At one point Casablanca had one of his beers on tap which was fresh and when Redbones rotates one in, that is also usually a good bet.

        For the longest time I had a friend who regularly brought me down cases and he must have shopped at the co-op... he even once brought down a keg for a birthday party. The same friend had indicated that Ray was having others do the brewing, perhaps that the root of the hit or miss. Dunno, when fresh he still has better selection and quality than most beers brewed down in the Boston area.

        A number of years ago I did pretty well buying his beers outside So Burlington on Williston Rd. However, I was in there often enough to know what had just come in vs what was sitting on the shelf... and things sat on the shelf forever.

        1. re: LStaff

          Although i'd rather buy my McNeill's in VT, Downtown Liquers in Davis Square (somerville, ma) has a nice selection and i've never had a problem with the quality...and when I have had quality issues with other local microbrews, they always take the beer back w/out question and give a refund/swap it out.

        2. Re: Horst Dornbusch - still kicking around the area, but just not brewing commercially anymore. I talked to him about a month ago at the Beer Adocate fest and he said he is giving tours to American beer journalists for some Bavarian tourist councel along with PR/consulting work for German breweries who want to distribute in the US.

          He writes articles periodically for Beer Advocate and has a few websites going also:

          1. There is usually a great selection of McNeill's beers at The Smoker's Den in Bennington. I haven't been there recently so I can't say whether they have the Kolsch, but I believe I've gotten it there before. It is on the west side of US Route 7, roughly a mile north of the intersection with VT Route 9 (and just a couple of doors north of the Blue Benn diner).

            1. Update: I was at the newly renamed Beverage Den & Smoke Shop (formerly Smoker's Den) in Bennington on 7/15. I got the last bottle of McNeill's Kolsch on the shelf and it was excellent. I would expect they'll be re-stocked soon. I also got an assortment of other McNeill's brews and all were top-notch. I especially love the Ruby Ale.