Our process is really unique and we believe it produces the best small-batch American vinegars you will find.
We know we are unique because we literally had to custom rebuild the machines we use by consulting historical records and partnering with local universities. The old academic etching you see at the top of this page is a graphic of how our machines looked when they were invented.
Our fermentation process dates from the early 1800s and this was how many quality vinegars were made centuries ago. The problem is that there was a wave of ‘innovation’ in vinegar manufacturing in the 1900s and this led to faster and cheaper vinegar. You will notice that I did not say it led to better tasting vinegar—in fact quality and flavor both suffered materially and this is how vinegar became the one-note acid bomb we now find in most supermarkets.
Our vinegars are fermented in small-batches and take two to three months just to ferment. After fermentation we age our vinegars for up to one year. Our aging process varies depending on the flavor profile we are looking to achieve. The vast majority of our vinegars are aged in 25-gallon American oak barrels previously used to make rye whiskey and bourbon. Aging in old barrels gives our vinegars complexity but does not add a woody or whiskey flavor. We source all these barrels directly from a craft distillery from our neighbors in New York.
What about ingredients? We only use quality American beers, wines, ciders, and sakes as our alcohol base to ferment our vinegars at our vinegar works in New England. Why? Because the taste of the underlying alcohol used directly impacts the flavor of the vinegar. Beyond that we are focused on creating great vinegars with a sense of place. We do not think there is something better or worse about an American wine or beer versus one from Europe for instance. We do, however, think it is important for real food like our vinegars to reflect where it comes from. In this way American Vinegar Works is building great vinegars on the shoulders of the craftspeople that are creating great and uniquely American wines, beers, sakes, and ciders. We are immeasurably grateful to them.
To find the right beer or wine for our vinegars we go through an extensive taste and test process to ensure it has the best taste profile. For example, when we set out to make our IPA and Porter Beer Malt Vinegars we went on countless road trips to craft breweries and engaged in endless tastings and fermentations until we found the two beers and breweries that we thought best exemplified the type of beer and beer vinegar we wanted to make. I know, I know, poor us…