Vermont is a popular place to visit with it’s top-rated ski resorts, beautiful forests, fresh maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Cabot cheese, etc. but for me… it’s the Craft Beer Mecca of the east coast with many top rated breweries. And living only 8 hours away, conquering Vermont’s Beer Trail was a must. This past December, Derek and I made the trek to explore craft beer at it’s finest and freshest. Direct from the source. Merry Christmas to us!
BRING YOUR GROWLERS
I highly recommend taking several empty growlers with you on your journey. Not only can you bring back a taste of Vermont to all your friends and family when you return but some breweries are so small that many of their beers are only available on draft. We ended up having a nice selection of brew for a beer tasting party when we got home.
TIP: Use only the brown glass variety to keep as much light out as possible so your beer quality doesn’t degrade. Especially if you leave the beer in the car, as we did… after all it was 27 degrees outside. Instant refrigerator!
WHERE TO FIND THE BREWERIES
We used this handy map to form our game plan knowing we couldn’t hit everything in our four day excursion. > Vermont Brewery Map
Our first stop was Brattleboro, VT. There’s a great brew pub called Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery that overlooks the Connecticut River. They’re a nano-brewery that produces “experiment batches” to serve only in their restaurant. While we sipped on these tasty craft beers, we dined on pan fried pierogies for an appetizer, then rabbit stew for our main course. Both hearty and delicious.
Brattleboro is a quaint historic town that you can explore at your leisure. We opted to stay overnight at the Forty Putney Bed & Breakfast where they have a parlor turned pub with 3 Vermont beers on draft and many other options in bottles. The living room across from the pub featured a large fireplace, comfy couches, a pool table and pub snacks as you downed a few brews. It seemed like a perfect place for us to stay and it was. Delicious beer before we turned in for the night. A fabulous breakfast the next morning crafted from local ingredients. Who could ask for more? Great place.
ON OUR WAY TO STOWE, VERMONT
Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT was our first stop as we drove north toward our final destination of Stowe. Although we didn’t get a growler of anything to go, we did hit their gift shop for a 6-pack of Chocolate Stout. Our souvenir of sorts.
Next up: Long Trail Brewing Co. in Bridgewater Corners, VT. We opted to do lunch here as well. Loaded Nachos paired with Long Trail Blackberry Wheat. Ideally, I would have chosen Limbo IPA but it wasn’t in season when we visited. Insert pouting face here! I was bummed but the blackberry wheat was a tasty alternative.
TIP: There aren’t a whole lot of places to make bathroom pit stops. So plan accordingly… as in, use the facilities at the brewery before leaving. Or you might end up having to visit a creepy rest stop in the middle of nowhere that has vintage album covers plastered all over the wall. This is a true story. And this photo is proof.
The convenience store with the unusual bathroom was very rural. Creaky, worn wood floors. Dimly lit. But ironically, a decent little wine and beer selection.
After checking in to the Brass Lantern Bed & Breakfast, we headed to the trendy Piecasso for amazing handcrafted, NY styled pizza and some Heady Topper by The Alchemist. Why didn’t we go directly to The Alchemist brewery? Good question. As luck would have it, the brewery was forced to close temporarily to the public because of a zoning ordinance violation. But no worries. Heady Topper was available on draft just about everywhere we stopped to eat or drink. And, we already had a case of it sitting at home. It pays to have friends who live in Vermont!
FUN FACT: Stowe, Vermont does not allow fast food restaurants in their town. And many of the restaurants there make it a priority to buy locally grown/farmed ingredients or locally made foods. Needless to say you can taste the fresh difference. Delicious.
LOTS TO DO WITHIN A SHORT DRIVE
Cabot Cheese and fresh maple syrup were our goals the next day. Well. Before we hit more breweries, of course. We went to both the Cabot factory in Cabot, VT and the Cabot Annex in Waterbury, VT during our stay. That’s how much we love good cheese. There are many samples to try before you buy. And believe me… we sampled.
After the cheese fest, we hit 3 breweries on the way back to Stowe.
First up: Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, VT which is really tricky to find. Even with a GPS, it gets quite difficult to tell which roads you are on. Many are unmarked (no signs with street names). Lots of dirt roads winding through what looks like the middle of the wilderness. But trust me. It’s worth the hassle.
Be prepared for long lines once you get to the brewery. Hopefully this problem has been resolved now that the expansion is completed. It was under construction when we were there. However, we thought we fared well with only an hour and a half wait. We were warned that it could take 2-3 hours in line. But, we got to do a flight of our choice while we stood in line. That was pretty cool. It helped us decide what we wanted to fill our growlers with once we made it to the taps. They also have a few of their beers in 500ml bomber bottles. We, of course, bought a few of those.
- In addition to bringing your growlers, take in an empty box or cooler to put your purchases in so it’s easier to carry everything back to your car. There are no shopping carts or anything like that available.
- Review the Growler Guidelines. Not all types of growlers are allowed to be filled. > Growler Policy
- The brewery is NOT open to the public Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. So plan accordingly. > Retail Hours
Next Stop: Lost Nation Brewing in Morrisville, VT. This was also tricky to find once your GPS declares that you have reached your destination. The building reminds me of an old saw mill and it’s at the back of an industrial parking lot. It definitely doesn’t look like your average brewery building. Thank goodness we finally spied the understated sign.
Once inside, we were pleasantly surprised by the large bar to belly up to. There’s also a small kitchen that serves up bold interpretations of sandwiches and soup. We chose a grilled cheese sandwich that included bleu cheese, gruyere, apple slices, red onion and honey mustard. Rustic Red Ale was my selection in beverage. As we ate and drank, we were mesmerized by the glowing, uber cool counter pressure growler filler. Yes. It glowed. > Check out this photo.
Last Stop of the Day: Rock Art Brewery also in Morrisville, VT. Thank goodness, this place was much easier to find! You can’t miss it! It is quite ordinary in appearance inside and out, but don’t let that fool you. There is a wide range of beer types that have bold flavor.
We opted for a flight of the following: Barrel Aged Vermonster (american barleywine), 90 Schilling Scottish Ale, Rich Creamy Bock Lager, Pine Pale Ale, and Amarillo Single Hop IPA.
After we finished, we checked out the upstairs overlook so we could see their brewery setup.
Only a 15-20 minute drive from Stowe with lots of cool pubs, restaurants, shops and of course, Ben & Jerry’s. That was a must stop for us. We’ve been big fans for years and we decided to do the tour. Afterwards, we got a free small dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Then we hit up the gift store and ice cream shop for more creamy, cold goodness.
While visiting Waterbury, VT, definitely hit up the Cabot Cheese Annex for cheese samples, Lake Champlain chocolate store and Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Green Mountain Coffee is also in town.
GREAT EATS & GREAT BEER SELECTION
As for food and beer, these three places are a must visit which coincidentally are all within a block of each other.
Fab food. Tons of local craft brew on draft. This place will definitely blow your diet. Southern comfort food with quality ingredients. Beef Brisket, Slow-roasted Pork, Mac ‘n Cheese, Fried Chicken with Buttermilk Biscuits. Panko coated pimento cheese balls with chili pepper jam for dipping was our favorite selection. We ordered these two nights in a row. It’s THAT good.
Check out photos and examples of there delicious food on their Facebook page.
FUN FACT: This building was previously The Alchemist Pub & Brewery before the area flooded from Hurricane Irene in 2011.
UPDATE: (08/2015) Prohibition Pig now has a brewery. > Tap List
THE RESERVOIR RESTAURANT & TAPROOM
Although the place is rustic, the food menu is more upscale with filet mignon, scallops and such. Another great place for tons of local craft beer on draft. Since we didn’t get to visit the Trapp Family Lodge Brewery, I ordered the Golden Helles Lager so I could get a taste of what the brewery had to offer. Crisp, malty, sweet and refreshing. At the time, I was on a helles lager kick so I was thrilled with this take on the brew style.
FUN FACT: They have a chalk artist that creates several pieces within the establishment. One of them depicts many of the craft brew stops along the Vermont Beer Trail. So neat.
This quaint irish-styled pub has a smaller selection of craft beer but still a nice choice. It also has an amazing selection of top shelf bourbons and whiskeys of which I couldn’t resist. The bartender was very knowledgeable and helped me make my selections… so many choices!
They also have a nice selection of upscale pub eats to pair with your beverage of choice. > Check out the Menu
All in all, we were so thrilled with our adventure and the many Vermont craft beers discovered. And, we had a car full of bottles, 6 packs, growlers, cheese and even wine. Couldn’t have asked for better hosts at the B&Bs and our friends helped us tremendously. Now you have an insider guide to the Vermont Craft Beer Trail. Go forth and explore!
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