Zwanze Day in Vermont

Zwanze Day in Vermont

Have you ever heard of Zwanze Day? Every year, beer enthusiasts celebrate the release of a special sour beer made by Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, Belgium. In Flemish, a zwanze is actually a joke, and Zwanze Day is meant to be fun day of drinking this rare beer that is different each year. Cantillon actually hand picks the bars and breweries across the world that they would like to participate in Zwanze day. Then, they send the Zwanze beer over to be tapped at the same time around the world (3 PM EST for us).

Zwanze Day Tickets

Zwanze Day Tickets

Here in Vermont, we were lucky enough to have a brewery that was picked by Cantillon to participate – Hill Farmstead. Hill Farmstead aka Shaun Hill (the brewmaster) really knows how to throw a party! Only ticket holders were allowed at the brewery for the day, and a tent was set up complete with five different beers: 2 Grassroots beers & 3 Cantillon beers (including Zwanze). They decided to approach the festival in a different manner than usual, handing out colored tickets that corresponded to each beer. Each person received one ticket per beer. This gave each drinker a guarantee that they would be able to try all of the beers so that they didn’t have to worry about waiting in any lines. For once, a beer event wasn’t all about getting a beer and drinking it in line so that you could get your hands on the next beer. Instead, we were able to hang out on Hill Farmstead’s beautiful land, enjoying each and every beer in a civilized manner. Shaun Hill mentioned that he is always trying to think of better ways to organize beer events, and I really thought this way worked well.

After the Zwanze event, we headed over the “Zwanze After Party” at a local restaurant, Parker Pie. This is one of our favorite hang outs in Northeastern Vermont. I’ve actually mentioned it before here. Parker Pie had some great Cantillon bottles and I was hooked on their Kriek as usual!

Post Zwanze Day at Parker Pie

Post Zwanze Day at Parker Pie

Burlington Brewers Festival 2013

Burlington Brewers Festival 2013

It’s July 19, just before 11:30 am, and beer enthusiasts from across New England, and beyond, crowd behind a single white string, their empty sample glass in hand. When time changes to 11:30, the white string instantly disappears beneath the crowd, and the beer tasting commences. This is the scene as the Vermont Brewers Festival begins, and although this year began much the same as previous years, 2013 introduced new breweries and beers to the thirsty visitors who were able to get their hands on completely sold-out tickets.

Burlington Brewers Tents

Burlington Brewers Tents

Tickets sold out, to all sessions, for this year’s festival in just 34 hours. The three sessions saw more than 7,000 visitors this year and for good reason. As New England’s oldest and largest beer festival, the Vermont Brewers Festival consistently showcases the best of what Vermont beer has to offer in addition to highlighting Quebec brews. This year, lines began forming early for certain breweries, quickly displaying what breweries had the beers highest in demand. Some Vermont breweries with longer lines included: the Alchemist, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Kingdom Brewing, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids. In addition, a number of Quebec breweries saw long lines including Brasserie Dunham, Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, and Micro-brasserie Le Trou du Diable.

Brewers Festival Goers Enjoying the View

Brewers Festival Goers Enjoying the View

I was most surprised by the lines that formed at Fiddlehead Brewing Company and Kingdom Brewing (whose line formed towards the end). These two breweries are lesser known outside of the Vermont community, but showed up with such great beers that became quick favorites. Fiddlehead’s stand out beer that brought forth the crowd was the ‘Hodad Vanilla, Chocolate, Coconut Porter’. It is described by Fiddlehead as “paradise in a glass” and did not disappoint. The coconut notes stuck out with a powerful chocolate porter punch that followed. Kingdom Brewing showed up with ‘Benedict Arnold’, a sour porter that hit all of the right notes in terms of sour and drinkability. It left me smacking my lips for more. Although I noticed quite a buzz about this beer, a later crowd formed for Kingdom’s ‘Addy Pearls Spice Maple Rum Ale’, an ale made with pure Vermont maple sap and stored in Thomas Tew Spiced rum barrels. I was amazed at the maple and rum tastes that hit my taste buds at full force as well as how much I ended up enjoying the combination of those tastes.

The Vermont Brewers Festival continues to deliver a different kind of beer festival in New England. It’s set in a truly idyllic location and features the best of what Vermont has to offer. The festival continues to reveal new and breakout brewers from across the region, in addition to groundbreaking and experimental beers, making it the most exciting beer festival in New England for both the visitors and the brewers.

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Overview of my Summer: 2013

Summer has come and gone, with little to no blogging accomplished. I have no excuses. I had every intention of displaying my favorite summer recipes that used all of the veggies out of my new garden, but instead gobbled most of these up before I had time to snap a couple of photos. No worries, though, I will be writing some more about the summer in the upcoming days. Then, maybe once I am all caught up, I can get back into current blogging.

Anyways, I really had another amazing summer. It was so great, that I feel fine with letting it go and welcoming Fall with open arms.

Trapp Family Lodge

Anth and I kicked Summer off with a visit from my parents. We were able to show them around some of Vermont including Burlington and Stowe and made sure they ate and drank the best of Vermont (maybe too much!). Trapp Family Lodge, pictured above, offers amazing views, delicious beer made on the premises, and a variety of luscious baked goods.

Young Garden

Before

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also started our first real garden this year. We have been wanting a garden for the longest time, but have been moving in and out of new places with little to no land over the past two and half years during summer. This year, we moved to our new place, that had some room for a small garden in May, and were quick to start planting. Considering the hard ships many gardeners and farmers had this year with too much rain, we had a bountiful year. Here, you can see our baby kale turning into more adult kale. It was convenient and fun having kale, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and parsley whenever we needed it. In addition, we had beets, zucchini, mint, hot peppers, and chives at other times.

We didn’t end up camping as much as I had hoped but did get a trip in at the beginning of summer. Our favorite place to camp in New England is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This time we ended up at a cute little campground set right behind a covered bridge.

White Mountains

White Mountains

Shortly after camping, we made our way into Portland, Maine for the “Festival“, an amazing international beer event. There, we got to chat with some of our favorite brewers from across the world, while also sampling their beer. We love Portland, so we also enjoyed the weekend eating, drinking, and basking in the sunshine around the city.

Portland

As I briefly mentioned above, cooking this summer was fantastic. I had so much to cook with from the garden, plenty from the farmer’s markets, and it seemed like everywhere we went, we were ending up with more vegetables and meal ideas. Although soup is usually thought of as a savory winter meal, whenever the garden would get too overwhelming, I would end up throwing everything together for some of the best summer vegetable soups I have ever had. One of my favorite memories of this summer, is having the door wide open, Pup laying outside in the sun, while I cook up a hearty vegetable soup.

Summer Garden Cooking

Summer Garden Cooking

Summer in Vermont is not complete without a trip to see Bread and Puppet. I have other posts on here just about Bread and Puppet, so if you have never heard of it, take a look here.

Bread and Puppet Show

Bread and Puppet Show

I continued my mentorship with Jeremy this summer and we ended up having all kinds of fun, finally getting to enjoy swimming holes and hiking. One of his favorite places ended up being Moss Glenn Falls which is located in Stowe, Vermont.

Jeremy at Moss Glenn Falls

Jeremy at Moss Glenn Falls

The Festival wasn’t the only beer festival of the year. Of course, we also enjoyed the Vermont Brewers Festival that takes place right on Lake Champlain. This year the underdog breweries were the highlight, and I will be adding an article about it shortly.

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Surprisingly, Anth, Pup, and I also took a trip outside of New England this Summer. We usually try to save those types of trips for the other seasons, but when my Mom invited us down to the Outer Banks for a few days, we just couldn’t pass it up this year. I was able to show Pup and Anth all of my favorite childhood spots, including my favorite Southern Lighthouses.

Inside of Ocracoke Lighthouse.

Inside of Ocracoke Lighthouse.

This year, I finally jumped the Ausable River Gorge, right outside of Lake Placid. We had toyed with this idea late last Summer, but were never able to figure out the logistics of it at the time. This year, though, I took the leap.

Me jumping into the Ausable River Gorge.

Me jumping into the Ausable River Gorge.

Most of our Summer was spent enjoying hikes, covered bridges, and brewpubs right in our backyard of Vermont and New Hampshire. As usual, the Vermont Summer activities did not disappoint.

Martin Covered Bridge - Marshfield, VT

Martin Covered Bridge – Marshfield, VT

Sterling Pond - hike from Smugglers Notch

Sterling Pond – hike from Smugglers Notch

Hidden New Hampshire Covered Bridge

Hidden New Hampshire Covered Bridge

Vermont’s Great Indoors: Waterbury

Blackback Pub

I’m on a constant quest to find small towns that offer all of my favorite indoor indulgences: delicious cuisine, top rate beer and wine, and friendly company. I’m on the lookout for towns I can visit that only require crossing the road to go from one great establishment to another. These towns may be far and few, but I recently found one more to add to my list: Waterbury, Vermont.  Waterbury, Vermont is the kind of town that appreciates food and drink. Known best for being the birthplace of the Alchemist Brewery (parents of the top rated beer Heady Topper), Waterbury offers a relaxed tone perfect for indoor amusements.

Mad Taco in Blackback Pub

Although the Alchemist Brewery no longer owns a brewpub in town, the Blackback Pub & Flyshop will give you exactly the atmosphere you are looking for. Located on the corner of Main and Stowe Street, Blackback is comprised of two rooms and one bar completely made out of old bowling alley flooring. Although there are a couple of televisions, the entertainment is mostly good conversation. On my last visit to the pub, there were 16 beers on tap with half of them being from local breweries and all of them being top rated craft beer. It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with a Hill Farmstead beer, and a highly recommended burrito. In addition to serving great brews, the Blackback Pub & Flyshop is also home to the Mad Taco, one of the best known burrito spots in Vermont.

Cork's SelectionsWhen you’re ready for a change in scenery, it won’t take long to find your next destination. Cork Wine Bar & Market is Blackback’s neighbor and offers a variety of wines, beer, cheese, and other delicacies such as oysters on Wednesdays. The interior is simple yet gorgeous and there is a wide, carefully selected variety of wine by the bottle for sale. There is no better way to enjoy Vermont than with a glass of local wine, a wedge of local cheese, and a spot on Cork’s patio. Fridays and Saturdays can be quite packed at this local hotspot, but it is well worth it, especially for the live music on Saturdays.

If wine isn’t your thing, then head across the street to the Reservoir Restaurant and Tap Room. With a whopping 38 draft beers, a full bar, and a pool table, you won’t be disappointed in your options. This place specializes in comfort food, but the outrageous beer list certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.  There is always something going on at the Reservoir including frequent beer promotions and live entertainment.  Cork is across from the Resevoir

You will undoubtedly visit Waterbury, Vermont because it is beer capital of Vermont, however, you are likely to come back because it offers all of the indoor amenities we value and appreciate in one place. To get to Waterbury, follow 89 North two exits past the Montpelier exit.

The Resevoir's Heady Topper Pool Table

Quick Trips: Gloucester & the Cape Ann Coastline

The Fisherman’s Memorial Statue, 1925.

Gloucester is a small, coastal town that I immediately felt a connection with the first time I visited. It is one of our favorite “quick trips” within New England, and we make sure we stop there every time we are in the Boston area. Located about a 40 minute drive north of Boston, Gloucester has both sandy, pristine beaches and rocky, wavy beaches. In and around Gloucester, you can also explore six different lighthouses and hang out at one of my favorite brew pubs.

Although part of the fun of visiting coastal Massachusetts is finding different beaches on your own, one of my favorite beaches is Wingaersheek Beach. I only recommend it in the off season, however, as it gets extremely crowded and can cost a pretty penny for parking. My favorite time to visit is in the off season, when it is freely open to everyone, and most of the visitors are locals and dogs. It can be too cold for swimming at this time, but you have the whole beach to play on, including exploring every little nook and cranny. You can’t beat the views from this beach, also, including one of Gloucester’s many lighthouses.

All over town you are likely to see the town’s logo, a captain steering a boat.

My favorite lighthouses to visit are the  Twin Lighthouses located on Thacher Island. They are also referred to as Cape Ann Light Station which is where Cape Ann Brewing (mentioned below) gets its name and logo from. Not only are these two lighthouses among some of America’s oldest (erected in 1789), but they point true North when a ship sites on both towers.

Cape Ann Brewing is the local brewpub right in town. They actually grow some of their hops on Thacher Island where the Twin Lighthouses reside. They offer a relaxing atmosphere complete with shuffle board and a deck right on the water. They also always have at least 6 beers on tap. If they happen to have their Tea Party beer on tap, make sure to check it out. It incorporates all of the teas from the Boston Tea Party that were destroyed. I’ll also personally recommend both the fish sandwich and fish tacos, but only after a game of shuffle board and a beer.

Wingaersheek Beach with a lighthouse in the distance.

Lastly, Gloucester is well known for its lobster and fishing history. If you are only able to visit Gloucester once, make sure to do you research the area so that you can experience both the history of the town and the seafood. I’d recommend this site to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. If you are lucky enough to live in New England (like me!), Gloucester is the perfect reoccurring quick trip.

New England Real Ale Exhibition – Somerville, MA

NERAX Cask Ale Festival

Not everyone has heard of cask beer or real ale. For those of you who have not, real ale is different from your everyday beer because it completes its secondary fermentation in the same container from which it’s served. So, in the case of cask beer, the top fermented beer completes its secondary fermentation in the cask and then is manually pumped out of that cask without the use of any type of gas. What you get is a less carbonated beer, with more flavor and even more texture. Surprising to many, cask beer is served at a cellar temperature of 55 degrees.

One of the many reasons I enjoy living in New England is because of the diverse options that exist when it comes to beer. Each state has its own thing going when it comes to beer and, as a beer lover in New England, you can never go bored. This weekend, the New England Real Ale Exhibition held their  16th cask festival. So, on Saturday morning, Anth, Pup, and I made our way down to Somerville, MA to check out what a 100 cask beers on tap in one room looks, smells, and tastes like.

The cask conditioned ales waiting to be tapped

Somerville is located right outside of Boston and is about four hours from our home in Elmore, Vermont. Four hours is an easy weekend drive for us, so we left Saturday morning, meeting for lunch with our friend at the Yard House, before heading to the festival’s night session. What struck me most about this festival in particular was how organized and relaxed it was. Many beer festivals can be quite chaotic, with large lines and loud music. The NERAX cask festival was much more about enjoying cask beer with other cask-minded individuals. I was also impressed with how they chose their tap list. They had two categories of beer: beer from the U.S. and beer from the U.K.. However, the beer from the U.S. was all from New England! Yes, all 50 U.S. beers hailed from the six most Northeastern States.

My favorite cask conditioned drink was actually not a beer at all, but a fermented cider. It was called the Take Two Dry Cidah and hailed from Portland, Maine. The cider actually takes reactivated cider yeast, and instead of adding carbonation to feed the yeast, they add raw Maine wildflower honey and then cask condition it. The company behind this madness is the Urban Farm Fermentory. They are doing a lot of cool stuff in and out of the cider world including fermented vegetables.

The NERAX Cask Ale Festival lived up to its expectations and offered something different in the New England beer scene. I think we will definitely be heading back for future sessions. On our way home Sunday, we made a detour in Gloucestor, MA, one of my favorite coastal New England towns, to visit the beach and local brewery. It was the perfect ending to the weekend, but that’s an entirely different post!

Heading North: the Eastern Townships

Daytime Fireworks

Fall swept through Central Vermont early this year. We started seeing the first trees changing colors around the second week of September and most of the fun was over by the first week of October. Driving to and from work at that time was like watching a fireworks show during the day. Bursts of auburn, neon yellow, and bright orange illuminated the skyline with rich evergreens glaring from the highest of the mountain tops. Towards the end of September, however, we decided to head more north for the day to the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Though southern by Canadian standards, the Eastern Townships sit just north of Vermont not far from the American/Canadian border. This French Canadian area is dotted by picturesque villages, delicious brewpubs, and more wineries and cideries than all of Vermont.

The most delicious maple beer, from Brouemont – Bromont, Quebec

We made the short day trip up to visit the towns of Dunham and Bromont in order to visit two of the best microbreweries that the area has to offer. We started in Bromont, home of the brewpub, Brouemont. This brewery lies at the base of Mount Brome which is a popular spot for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Within minutes of sitting down, I was treated to a seasonal favorite, their maple ale. Now, I have had maple inspired beers before, but none have compared to this one. It can be compared to drinking a less viscous maple syrup minus the sticky mouth feel. After spending a year and a half in Vermont, I love the taste of maple, and so I really enjoyed this beer. Brouemont has about ten beers on tap, including their delicious honey/raspberry and the red ale, a Canadian favorite.

Brouemont Micro-Brasserie (microbrewery) – Bromont, Quebec

After my fill of maple beer we set off for Brasserie Dunham. Brasserie Dunham is set in a beautiful part of town with outside seating and a little bar inside. I was lucky enough to have a special beer that they had just brewed which was an IPA infused with guava and tea. They brew a variety of different experimental beers which we could have easily enjoyed if we didn’t have to drive back to the States.

Anthony in front of the Brasserie Dunham truck – Dunham, Quebec

Throughout our short drive through the Eastern Townships, we saw cideries and wineries every few miles. That’s the great thing about the Northeast, there is always something to go back for.

Eastern Townships Wine Route, ‘there’s always tomorrow’.