What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Vermont? Mountains? Maple Syrup? Ben & Jerry's? While all of those may be accurate, for me now the definitive answer is beer...and quality beer at that. This past June some friends and I embarked upon a whirlwind beer tour throughout the state including stops at Hill Farmstead, a very special visit to Lawson's Finest Liquids, the beer-friendly town of Burlington, Trapp Family Lodge & Brewery and The Alchemist.
Hill Farmstead Brewery - Greensboro Bend, VT
The very first stop on our journey was at Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend, VT. If you don't live in either Vermont, New York City or Philly (the only places they currently distribute), then you may not have heard of this little operation. Trust me though, they are absolutely worth seeking out and/or visiting.
Thankfully, we brought a cooler with us to attempt to bring as many bottles home with us as we could. Unfortunately here only two of their wonderful bottles were available, but it didn't matter as their tap list was phenomenal.
Hill Farmstead is still in its early stages as owner/brewmaster Shaun Hill just celebrated his first Anniversary back in May. But growth is already necessary. Above you see their new tasting room that will eventually house even more brewing equipment in addition to the neighboring structure that they currently occupy.
HF offers a $7 flight where you get to try everything they have on tap. Just DON'T FORGET TO BRING CASH! You'll also notice above that they had a Mikkeller beer on as a Guest Tap. That is actually a beer brewed by Mikkeller in Denmark and sent to Hill Farmstead to help celebrate their 1st Anniversary. Doesn't the world of craft beer just seem like one big lovefest sometimes? My personal favorite draughts here were the Motoeka and the Double Galaxy.
Next we drove to Warren, VT and visited The Warren Store. This is one of the few places you can get the elusively delicious beers of Sean Lawson's Lawson's Finest Liquids. We promptly cleaned out the store of nearly their entire supply of Lawson's, which only consisted of the Weiss-K pictured above (photo taken at campsite after it had a few hour cooler bath). Since we were traveling with an industry person, we made a few calls before the trip to see if we could arrange a few special meetups while we around. Amazingly, Sean Lawson himself called us and invited us to come by the brewery, which just so happens to basically be a shed on his family's property.
I did not take any photos there as I did not want to abuse this insanely kind invitation, but Sean has really done what a lot of homebrewers dream of. He basically built a tiny nanobrewery out of a shed, got it licensed and is now brewing award-winning beers. Its truly amazing and inspiring. We spent a solid 90 minutes or so hanging out with Sean and talking beer. If that wasn't enough, he also sampled and gave us some advice on our homebrew. Then on top of that, he allowed us to raid his stash of super rare beers. Needless to say, we walked out with WAY more Lawson's than we could have ever expected, including this bottle that just arrived at his home...his collaboration with The Bruery, Acer Quercus.
Burlington, VT - The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Vermont Pub & Brewery and American Flatbread/Zero Gravity
The next day we continued on to Burlington, VT and its wealth of good beer destinations. First we hit The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for an early dinner.
This is a great spot with a very cool backyard beer garden if you're just looking for beers and appetizers. That's where we started out while we waited for a table. Then we moved into the main dining room and had the most amazing burgers and fries. If you visit Burlington, this place is a must. The food was fantastic.
We then made our way over to Vermont Pub & Brewery for a quick beer as it was already nearing evening. This was the place founded by the late Greg Noonan so it was a necessary stop, but we were a bit underwhelmed by the beer. Maybe it was just an off night but it felt like a bit of a relic of the craft beer past. But we were only there briefly so for the most part we reserved our judgement.
Our final Burlington stop was American Flatbread where they serve their very own brew line known as Zero Gravity.
All the taps are unique at American Flatbread.
Faithfully and obsessively checking in on untappd.
Trapp Family Lodge & Brewery, The Alchemist and The Shed Restaurant & Brewery
The final day of our trip brought us to the Trapp Family Lodge & Brewery in Stowe, VT.
This huge expanse of land seems like an incredible (and expensive) place to stay, but we were only interested in this tiny structure that houses the deli, bakery and in the basement, the brewery. The beers were traditional styles like Golden Helles, Vienna Amber and Dunkel Lager which were all exemplary.
Hop vines growing on the side of the Trapp brewery.
We also made a quick stop at The Shed Restaurant and Brewery in Stowe which feels like a real ski lodge type bar but with solid house-brewed beers. We were in and out rather quick, but this seemed like a good place to stop anytime you're in the area for skiing or otherwise.
Bar side of the restaurant
Hey who took a sip already?
The Alchemist in Waterbury, VT
Next we moved onto The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury which has garnered a great reputation for beers like their Heady Topper. The Alchemist is expanding as well and nearly ready to open an additional brewing and canning facility down the road.
This was quite possibly my favorite stop of the entire trip. All of the beers were just about perfect and then we got to meet one of the co-owners, Jen Kimmich. She escorted us down to the basement where all of the brewing is done by the other co-owner, her husband John. He showed us around his fermenters and mash tuns and let us pull off a few samples of beers that were just about ready for public consumption. After that, they treated us to a few rounds of beers and we sat down and had an amazing dinner. Both Jen and John went well out of their way to show us around and we were elated by the whole visit. DEFINITELY check out The Alchemist the next time you're in VT.
And finally, we returned home with our bounty. Conclusion: Vermont makes very, very good beer.