Steve Parkes / Middlebury, VT


Photo Credit: Steve Parkes

Photo Credit: Steve Parkes

Sunshine and Limes 

For craft beer lovers, the official start of beer season might be American Craft Beer Week in May. Summer weather signals something else to make beer lovers smile: Outdoor festivals. They’re often the place to find special releases like Six Holes in My Freezer, a Key Lime-filtered wheat beer with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crusts that’s been a local sensation since it appeared eight years ago at the Vermont Brewers Festival. Juicy, tart, and refreshing, it gets fans on the shores of Lake Champlain in a “Boat Drinks” state of mind.

“It was a lovely summer afternoon and we had a line going all the way across the show grounds,” recalls Steve Parkes, brewmaster and founder at Drop In Brewing Company. “We were the story of the year that year with our key lime pie-flavored beer.”

Drop In sold Six Holes in cans for a while but now it’s a festival exclusive. For added “Margaritaville” effect, it’s served in a slushy machine. Steve says the beer gets flat in the machine but foams up when it’s poured and still tastes great. “Because this beer is so strongly key lime pie-flavored, it works,” he says. “It’s something people look forward to every year.”

Key to its success is The Perfect Purée. A single batch of Six Holes in My Freezer uses 24 jars of The Perfect Purée Key Lime and a five-gallon bucket of marshmallow fluff. During Steve’s search for true Key Lime flavor, he found purées that were harsh, bitter, and off-smelling. “[The Perfect Purée] requires a little bit of extra effort, but it’s worth it for us,” he says.

Brew Like a Brit

Steve is originally from the United Kingdom and studied brewing sciences at Heriot-Wyatt University in Edinburgh. He worked at several small English breweries but soon realized the English brewing scene was saturated. So in 1988, he moved to the U.S.  to open Maryland’s first microbrewery, the British Brewing Company.

“I saw the writing on the wall, a career in brewing in England was going to be a bit of a challenge,” he says. “America provided a tremendous opportunity.”

The American craft beer industry has been lucky to have him. Forty years later, there’s hardly a beer Steve hasn’t brewed including the cult favorite Red Nectar for Humboldt Brewing in California. If he’s not brewing, he’s teaching brewing as the owner of the American Brewers Guild. Steve tastes beers from around the world as a judge at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. He’s a regular speaker at the National Craft Brewers Conference and the National Brewpub Conference. He’s also served as the technical editor at Brewpub magazine and a contributing columnist to American Brewer Magazine and All About Beer magazine.

Steve and his wife, Christine McKeever-Parkes, created Drop In from an old plumbing supply building in Middlebury, Vermont, in 2012. Drop In has built its reputation on world-class beers with distinctive crisp, clear style.

Silver Anniversary 

Through the different eras of America’s craft beer revolution, Steve say there’s never not been a need for education and he’s proud to usher the ABG into its 25th year in 2024. Designed to offer professional and aspiring brewers formal training, ABG courses span topics from brewing science and cash flow to accounting, packaging, and marketing.

Drop In functions as a hands-on laboratory, exposing students to the technical, scientific, and operational issues in a craft brewing environment.

“Drop In gathers real-time info for ABG, like how many staff it takes to run a tasting room, and here’s what portion you can expect to sell over-the-counter versus wholesale,” Steve says. “You have to have actual knowledge and real-world knowledge to do what it actually takes to run a brewery.”

Steve says if students ask about the right way to brew fruit beers, he tells them The Perfect Purée is the best option for true-to-fruit flavor. One of the brewing tips he offers students: Don’t be scared of adding flavor agents like purées during fermentation. Six Holes in My Freezer helped him learn that. As long as the yeast has been removed during filtration, even adding sugar and graham cracker crumbs will be ok, he says.