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


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

IPA’s and Covered Bridges

There is a unique feeling of content you can only get from simple pleasures. As I stand outside of an unfinished barn, with a plastic cup of Society and Solitude #4 (Imperial IPA), surrounded by dirt roads, I have that precise feeling.  It comes from the fact that the dirt road I took to get here had so many horizontal bumps in a row that I could feel the vibrations run through my chest. It also comes from knowing that any wrong turn would have lead to pulling over and asking a stranger for directions because a smart phone can’t save you in Greensboro, Vermont.  Mostly, it comes from knowing that my current buzz is the result of an IPA brewed right behind me.

This is reason #1 why I loved visiting Vermont and why I now love living here. In Vermont, the simplest of pleasures are usually the result of a few small adventures. It is impossible to have an uneventful weekend in Vermont.  The brewery of choice for us this weekend was Hill Farmstead Brewery which is located in the Northeast Kingdom. It is almost impossible not to get lost on your way since not only is there no phone service to call for directions, but you can only also only get there via dirt roads. Even once you pull in, you will still feel lost as the brewery is nothing but a big barn. There is no brewpub or fancy bar but if you are looking for a good, strong IPA, then you’ve come to the right place.

Pup swimming under the bridge.

On our way home, we stopped at a covered bridge that I pass daily on the way to work. I love covered bridges and what they mean to Vermont, so I can’t believe I have never stopped before. This covered bridge, in Wolcott, VT, was the last running railroad covered bridge. I immediately felt the size and strength of the bridge, which although completely made out of wood, would have withstood the power of a locomotive day in and day out. I couldn’t help but feel that simple pleasure again, as I through a stick to Pup in the pristine clear water underneath it.