our people. our strength.
Founder • Brewer • Educator • Certified Cicerone® • BJCP Certified Beer Judge
Chris has a business degree from University of Vermont with a concentration in Management Information Systems. In the first decade of his career, he rose quickly from programming jobs, into team leadership, then management positions eventually in charge of hiring and managing 4 departments for an IBM vendor company in Essex Junction. Finally succumbing to his natural entrepreneurial instincts, he founded a web design, development and marketing company (Earthlogic, Inc. in May of 1998). 15 years later, he founded a second company (Logic Properties, LLC) and purchased an old Church building in Essex Junction. After renovating the building, he began using it as a base of operations for Earthlogic, brought on a local co-working space (Excelerate Essex), and most important – began his home brewing career in the basement.
Fast forward to 2017, Chris was top 2 in the state-wide Make the Cut competition. Many home brewing awards later, he was named Vermont Homebrewer of the year in 2018 and followed up with back to back wins (along with Justin Rito) in 2019. 2017 also put Chris on the path to aggressive beer education – he hosted a year long BJCP study group and a 9 month Cicerone® study group with both ending in successful certifications. Chris is currently only one of two people in Vermont that is both a Certified Cicerone® and a Certified BJCP beer judge (Amy Todd from Zymology Labs being the other). He is hosting another round of each hoping to advance to the next levels (Advanced Cicerone® and National BJCP Beer Judge). In 2018, Chris also earned a certificate in the business of Craft Beer at UVM.
Chris is the founding partner of Black Flannel Brewing Co. and one of 4 founding partners of Black Flannel Distilling Co. He looks forward to bringing a unique experience to local & state residents, and travelers looking to experience the best Vermont has to offer.
Head of Brewing Operations • Certified Cicerone®
Dan began his pro brewing career as assistant brewer in 2011 at the historic Shed Brewery in Stowe, Vermont. He also worked a short time at Rock Art Brewery and the original Trapp Family Lodge brewery as a cellarman and brewer. Most recently, Dan was the Brewmaster at 14th Star Brewery and Taproom where, with his amazing team, he was able to grow 14th Star from a “garage operation” to a large regional production brewery.
When Dan isn’t brewing beer, he enjoys spending time with his family of 4 in northern Vermont. Dan enjoys hiking through the woods of Vermont foraging for wild edibles, fishing, and pondering the secrets of the universe.
Dan is excited to collaborate with the entire Black Flannel team to create world class brews for all of our loyal patrons. Black Flannel Brewing is the essence of craft, quality, education, community, and sustainability. Every step of the process will be highly scrutinized by all of these tenets so that when you receive a glass of beer from one of our highly trained beertenders, the overall experience will be unmatched.
Assistant Brewer • Head of Beer Curriculum • Certified Cicerone®
Justin is Black Flannel Brewing Co.’s Assistant Brewer and Head of Beer Curriculum. Justin has a background in academia most recently at Northern Vermont University as a professor of music. He has many homebrewing awards including Vermont Co-Homebrewer of the Year 2019 (with Chris Kesler), top 4 in 2018 Make the Cut Competition, 2019 Second place Best of Show (out of 420 entries) at the NE Regional Homebrew Competition, 2018 Dual Gold Medal Winner at NE Regional Homebrew Competition. Justin is a BJCP Recognized Beer Judge (soon to be Certified) and 1 of 17 Certified Cicerone®’s in the State of Vermont.
Head of Barrel & Sour Program • Certified Cicerone®
Aaron Ritchie grew up idolizing rock stars who did splits in the air, wrestlers who had long hair, and P.I.’s who were most debonair. He takes these balls-to-the-wall influences and carries them over into his greatest passion: brewing the best damn beer humanly possible. Oak barrels and mixed fermentation beers turn him on – the marriage of wood and beer is something magical to him. Aaron is deeply passionate about working with fresh fruits, spices, coffee, and going the extra mile to create truly world-class innovative beers. Aaron leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of creating new, never before experienced beers – one of his latest quests was to isolate, trial and discover brand new wild Vermont saccharomyces yeast strains for brewing, resulting in the discovery of a fantastic Belgian-like native Vermont strain!
Aaron’s name may sound familiar. As a homebrewer, his highly rated collaboration beer (“Rock, Stock, and Barrel”) with Greg Noonan’s Vermont Pub and Brewery was served at the world famous 2017 Vermont Brewers Festival. Aaron was also a finalist in Vermont’s 2018 Make the Cut Homebrew competition. His stunning purple-pink Catharina-style sour named “Tropical Graffiti” was brewed with 14th Star Brewery and was served at a dozen of Vermont’s best craft beer bars, to much fanfare.
He’s won countless competitions, competed in the finals of the National Homebrew Competition multiple times, written feature articles for BYO magazine, made educational brewing videos with tens of thousands of views, founded Vermont’s experimental homebrew crew, is a Certified Cicerone®, BJCP Recognized judge, lifetime member of the Green Mountain Mashers, a pioneer of the Mega BIAB brewing technique, and much much more.
Aaron approaches brewing like a rockstar, always working to write the next big hit. Ingredients are like notes on the guitar that can be put together to make an epic creation. Any beer with his name on it is the equivalent of a high flying guitar solo, an 80’s neon spandex rockstar split in the air, or an elbow drop from the top rope.
By day Aaron is a mild mannered full-time tech worker, but by night (or weekend/early morning), in the words of Stevie Wonder, he’s our “part-time lover”, and we are lucky to have him as part of the crew!
Director of Operations
There is a reason Karen is our Director of Operations. She has that rare ability to be ultra-organized yet have the temperament to work with a highly creative group of individuals and let them do what they do best. She herself has a great deal of creative talent and understands great craft when she sees it.
Karen is a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server and has studied in the Business of Craft Beer certificate program at the University of Vermont.
She has worked in varied industries; construction, printing, health & fitness, and is now very excited to be working in craft beer, craft spirits, and hospitality. She loves a challenge and is ready, willing, and able to rise to any challenge put before her.
Dave has been a Ski Industry professional for most of his career but his true passion is in craft distilling. After 20 years of home brewing, Dave developed an interest in distilling and his true education began around 2013 when he spent all of his free time working to educate himself in the process of starting a distillery. This involved countless road trips to visit distilleries, ask questions, and create alliances.
In his travels, he landed an apprenticeship at SILO Distillery in, Windsor, VT, for the summer of 2014 and worked alongside their Master Distiller, Ray Parker. He picked up a part-time summer weekend job as a Farmers Market Sales rep for Lake George Distilling Co. in Fort Ann, NY. Around this time, he met Duncan Holaday, owner and founder of Dunc’s Mill Distillery in, Barnet, VT – Vermont’s first distillery post-prohibition. After a work session & tasting, Duncan encouraged Dave to pursue a career in distilling.
A couple years later Dave enrolled in Duncan’s week-long distilling course through VTC called Craft Distilling As a Profession – The Vermont Experience. By the time the course was over, Duncan asked Dave to run his distillery with him for the summer. Then when Duncan decided he wanted to retire from the VTC Course, he asked Dave to take over. Dave has been running the course since 2018.
Through his distillery associations, Dave had a chance to develop a unique skill producing pilot batches from vegetables, fruits, roots and botanicals. As a founder of Black Flannel Distilling Co., Dave has the opportunity to bring his distinctive and unique brandies, whiskeys, and specialty spirits to the market. Educating folks in the art and science of distillation is a large part of his vision. It’s fun to share the passion!
Head Distiller & Maintenance Lead
Travis is the Head Distiller and jack of all trades at Black Flannel Distilling Co. Born in the small town of Robbinston, Maine, he grew up with a passion for building and creating things. Since moving to Milton, Vermont in 2011, projects have included: woodworking (where he has constructed a home bar, a coffee table from a used whiskey barrel, and an apple cider press), metalworking, cheesemaking, smoking foods, gardening, and most importantly, home brewing.
Travis became a member of the Green Mountain Mashers Home brew Club shortly after moving to Vermont, where he met Chris, Dave and Peter, and where Black Flannel Distilling Co. was conceptualized. Travis has split his time over the last 9 years between being a marine engineer on a ship (in the Bering Sea off Alaska) and his home in Vermont with his wife Abbie and their two dogs.
At Black Flannel Distilling Co, Travis is most excited about educating visitors about the ins and outs of distilling, and of course creating world class spirits. If you miss him at the tasting room, you might find him on his boat enjoying Lake Champlain, in the woods of Vermont, or at the local disc golf course looking for an aberrantly thrown disc in the bushes.
Chef Christian Kruse was born and raised near Essex Vermont. He is a graduate of NECI and is the former Executive Chef at Basin Harbor Club. He owned Vergennes Laundry – a world class, wood-fired bakery and restaurant that served brunch and dinner featuring the finest local ingredients and flavors. Among his other accolades, Chef Christian was 2016 Vermont Chef of the Year and was honored by an invitation to cook at the James Beard House in NYC. He brings a unique sense of vision, creativity, and style to the culinary world. His unique ethnic backgrounds (Filipino, Danish and French-Canadian) all serve to inspire his approach and passion for the diverse food he creates. Chef Christian has a traditional background with food and wine pairing and is excited to start a new chapter of his career in collaboration with our staff of 4 Certified Cicerone’s to incorporate interesting, unique and diverse food and beer pairings to our menu.
Director of Accounting
Deb is our Director of Accounting, who on a daily basis performs the bookkeeping & accounting functions for both Black Flannel Brewing and Black Flannel Distilling. Deb is the keeper of clear heads and sanity checks. She also doubles as our Human Resource administrator helping to organize on-boarding, employee benefits, handbook, and many other day to day office activities.
For the last 30 years, Deb has been responsible for varying functions and roles in accounting for many industries including trash & recycling, marketing & design, manufacturing, health & fitness, property management, and is now excited to take on an entirely new challenge in the craft beer, craft spirits, scratch food and hospitality industry.
Black Flannel prides itself on assembling a team of highly talented people in their respective crafts and professions. Deb brings a level of professionalism and applies bookkeeping and accounting principles as her own “craft” on a daily basis.
Partner, Facility Owner, Advisory Board
Peter is a serial entrepreneur with 30 years in leasing, financing, and developing retail centers across the country. Peter has owned the Essex Experience (formerly Essex Outlets) since 1993 and owns the Essex Cinema and the Essex Resort and Spa. Peter began his career at the Old Vail Ranch in Southern California where he developed 550 homes plus 80 acres of commercial properties. He has developed and re-developed commercial projects around the country including 230,000-square-foot Essex Experience in Vermont, Las Americas – 650,000sf Class A Outlet Center in San Diego CA, acquisition and sale of the Secaucus Designer Center, Development projects in Columbia, SC & Plattsburgh NY. Peter is a partner of both Black Flannel Brewing Co. and Black Flannel Distilling Co.
When not spending time with his wife and partner Jessica and his younger children Katarina and Janosh, he can also be found on the tennis courts, or in the water, skiing, surfing, kayaking, rowing, sailing or under water waiting for the next alien encounter at Buff Ledge.