Greg Noonan was a pioneer in home-brewing methodology, an acclaimed brewing author, a co-founder of one of the first brewpubs in New England, an innovator in professional brewing techniques and a truly great publican.
Early on, Greg was frustrated by the scant choices of the 1970’s American beer scene. He credited a chance discovery of some prohibition-era homebrewed beer (bottles found in a root cellar, after the beer had run out at a rural party) and sampling the regional brews when he hitch-hiked across the US, as inspiration for his first attempts at all grain brewing in 1977. Having found a shortage of literature on the science of brewing for homebrewers, he set out to get definitive information that could be put to use in his own makeshift home brewery. He traveled to libraries throughout New England and spoke to many commercial brewmasters, scientists and academics. As this research grew to be more comprehensive, he decided to compile a “how-to” book for other homebrewers. There were a few setbacks but eventually in 1984, he put his type-written manuscript in a shoe-box and handed it to Charlie Papazian at a brewing conference. It became the first published book from Brewers Publications called Brewing Lager Beer, which despite its title, is about brewing all styles of beer. It continues to be a mainstay of serious brewers’ libraries everywhere.
He opened the Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington, VT in 1988 after getting the legislature to pass a bill to accommodate the concept of brewpubs. His popular restaurant and pub continues to this day and has been the origin of many innovative brews and brewmasters. In 1994, he and his wife, Nancy, opened the Seven Barrel Brewery in Lebanon, NH. He later secured changes to legislation in that state, as well. Greg was co-founder of the Amherst Brewing Company in Amherst, MA in 1997. Greg was always a great resource for brewing equipment and a generous advisor for many other brewers in the northeast, building and designing three complete breweries and consulting on a dozen more.
In 1993, Greg wrote Scotch Ale for the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications and followed that with a revision of his original work titled New Brewing Lager Beer, in 1996. He also co-wrote The Seven Barrel Brewery Handbook in 1996. He was an original member and past president of the Vermont Brewers Association. Greg was recognized as a Certified National Judge by the Beer Judge Certification Program and as a panel judge at the Great American Beer Festival. He was a frequent contributor to the pages of Zymurgy, The New Brewer, Beer and Brewing and a frequent keynote speaker at events around the country. As brewmaster, his beers have won top awards at the Great American Beer Festival and the Great International Beer Festival. He was known for serving bold new styles at the Vermont Pub and Brewery including Tibetan Chang beer (1990), Wee Heavy -120 shilling scotch ale (1990), Christmas Ale- a spruce beer (1991), Blue Lotus – a rye gruit beer made with actual lotus flowers (2008) and Ambergris-a spicy floral weiss (2008).
He received the Recognition Award from the American Homebrewers Association in 1997, the Achievement Award from Brewers Association in 2004, the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing in 2005 and received numerous posthumous tributes including the Mondiale du Biere’s “Greg Noonan M Beer “ Professional Contest, the Greg Noonan New England Brewer’s Scholarship from the American Brewers Guild and a great variety of micro-brewery beers named in his honor by the many brewmasters who were influenced by him. The most oft-repeated accolade about Greg Noonan has been that he always took the time to talk to anyone interested in brewing.
Greg passed away in 2009. In addition to operating the Vermont Pub and Brewery, he was busy researching a book on ancient Irish origin stories, updating their translations and correlating them to modern studies about Bronze Age commerce and migration. (see www.anseanchas.com)