Special thanks to our friends at Travel Like a Local for including us in the top 10 best breweries to visit in Vermont!
Top 10 Breweries in Vermont to Visit in 2016
Note: The Alchemist’s new visitor center is not open yet and Lawson’s Finest Liquids is not open to the public (maybe one day? A girl can dream…). Otherwise they surely would have made this list.
Hermit Thrush Brewery, Brattleboro, Vermont
If you’re one of the believers that sours are the IPAs of the future, Hermit Thrush is surely onto something. The Brattleboro-based brewery, located just off of Main Street, makes strictly Belgian-inspired sours and is easily southern Vermont’s best brewery. If you’re in SoVT, stop in and visit with brewer Avery for a chance to sample their full flight of sours, enjoy the art gallery in the brewery and pick-up some cans of sessionable, craft sours. Brattlebeeer and Party Guy are relatively easy to find in beer stores around the state, but head directly to the brewery to try their more unique brews, like their Gin-Barrel Saison, Deep Woods—a session black ale— or Dizzy Vicar—a Belgian dubbel.
von Trapp Brewing, Stowe, Vermont
Once upon a time, you could only enjoy von Trapp’s German-style beers on premise at the von Trapp Family Lodge. Now with bottle distribution and more restaurants serving their crisp lagers, it’s easier to get your hands on their beer. If you’re in the Stowe area, the brewery, which recently went through an expansion, taking their production from 2,000 barrels to 60,000, is worth a visit. Their outdoor deck, complete with gorgeous mountain views, is a great spot to sip a beer al fresco in the summer months; rumor has it they may even have a boot or two leftover to sip from, making beer drinking even more fun.
The Top 10 Vermont Breweries to Visit in 2016
10. Burlington Beer Company, Williston, Vermont
Burlington Beer Company, with the tagline, “Where Fermentation Meets Imagination” is a brewery to watch out for in the next few years. Housed in a Williston warehouse, the brewery, is expansive with plenty of room to grow. Brewer Joe Lemnah, who started home brewing in 2006 and then went to work for Dogfish Head and Evolution, strikes a balance between “going too far and stayed rooted in tradition” that really works.
Although I sometimes find their beers to be a tad watery for my taste, I am always eager to try their new brews, like Chunky, a peanut-butter American Porter or Future Glow, a dry-hopped American table beer. As a marketer, I appreciate their clean can designs and quirky names that stick with you.
At the brewery itself, you can pick up samples, flights, growlers and bottles during special releases, as well as cold brew coffee from the Northern Bayou Cold Brew Co. As you sit and sample on couches or long tables to house a group of visitors, you can get your game fix with Connect Four, cribbage and other games. It’s the type of brewery where you want to hang out and make an afternoon of good beer and good company.
9. Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, Vermont
Prohibition Pig is well-known as one of the best beer bars in Vermont, located in the best beer town in Vermont: Waterbury. But only in late 2014 did Prohibition Pig open its own brewery and tasting room behind the main restaurant in a former schoolhouse. Brewer Nate Johnson used the same one-barrel system that John Kimmich, owner and brewer of the Alchemist, to begin brewery for Pro Pig. (ProPig was home to the Alchemist before Hurricane Irene flooded the space—a devastating time for Vermont beer lovers.) The expansion allowed for an increase in production to roughly 1,100 barrels a year and 50 additional seats for sipping his suds.
Prohibition Pig’s own beer is sold in both the brewery and the original pub, but you can still get full pours of guest brews as well in both locations. The menu in the brewery is limited to mostly Mexican-inspired fare, so if you’re looking for sinful burgers or a BBQ fix, head to the main restaurant.
ProPig does allow for full and half pours, which gives you the option of trying quite a few of their own beers. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised with the beers I’ve tried, now finding myself ordering a Bantam—an Imperial IPA, Waka Waka Lime—an American pale ale, or Downtown Piggy Brown—one of few American brown ales I really enjoy—over guests brews from Hill Farmstead or Lawson’s. After all, the brewery is the only place you can try these beers . They fill crowlers and stainless-steel mini kegs of their own brews for take-away as well. The best part? The ProPig brewery is open for lunch every day, when most restaurants in Waterbury are closed. Day drinking commence.
8. Idletyme Brewing (formerly known as Crop), Stowe, Vermont
Idletyme Brewing, located off the Mountain Road in the heart of Stowe, can be found in the original location of the Shed Brewery, which opened in 1965. Prior to Idletyme’s rebranding in November 2015 when owners of nearby Michael’s on the Hill purchased the brewery, the space was known as Crop Bistro & Brewery. Idletyme is one of the most under-rated breweries in Vermont, IMHO.
The 10-hectoliter brew house produces classic, true-to-form recipes served in proper glassware. It’s a rarity to find a whole menu of classically brewed beers, which I find refreshing now and again. Idletyme might not as creative as other breweries in the state, but every beer they produce is highly drinkable and true to the style it was intended to be. Their double IPA Doubletyme, which is up there with the Second Fiddles, Sips and Headys of Vermont, is a stand-out. Many of their Belgian-inspired brews (Maerzens, weinzens and pilsners) are perfect for a summer day at their outside bar out back of the restaurant. Idletyme also has great food (the fried pickle spears are a must) and offers a few options for diners—a rustic brew pub that’s kid-friendly and a more modern dining room for a date night or special occasion.
7. Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vermont
Otter Creek Brewing is my local watering hole and boasts some of the freshest beer and cleanest tap lines in the Middlebury area. Although few of their beers are standouts, the beauty of Otter Creek Brewing is that brewmaster Mike Gerhartt is putting out consistently quality beers under the Otter Creek and Shed brands. On any given day, I can enjoy a pint of Shed Mountain Ale, a seasonal brew like Citra Mantra or Kind Ryed or a seriously smooth Russian Imperial Stout; they’re all good (except OC’s new CaliComm Steampipe—it’s the only beer they’ve ever produced that I just can’t drink). In the fall, don’t miss Double Dose, a collaboration with Lawson’s Finest. With a new brewhouse under construction, Otter Creek Brewing will soon be the largest brewery by volume in Vermont with an output of 200,000 barrels.
Otter Creek Brewing’s brew pub (get the chili nachos and thank me later) is one of few in Vermont where you can actively watch the production line as you’re eating and sampling their beer. The visitor center is open every day from 11-6pm, making it a good lunch or happy hour stop. Located on Exchange Street in Middlebury, Otter Creek Brewing is also part of theMiddlebury Tasting Trail, located within a mile or two radius of a cidery, two distilleries, a vineyard and a kombucha factory. If you come to town to visit Otter Creek Brewing, leave time for visits to the other Exchange Street beverage companies and bring a designated driver!
6. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Burlington, Vermont
In 2015, Zero Gravity opened a second brewery location, led by brewmaster Paul Sayler, in the Burlington’s South End Arts District. The new facility has increased production and allowed for the canning of Zero Gravity’s most popular beers, while also affording brewer Destiny Saxon the opportunity continue brewing smaller batches in the original brewpub location with a 10-barrel facility at American Flatbread’s Burlington Hearth. The new space on the ever-popular Pine Street in Burlington has a 30-barrel brew house, tap room and sun-filled beer garden and produces 5,000 barrels a year. The facility also cans Conehead IPA and Green State Lager, two highly drinkable beers that have become go-tos for me for hiking or sitting by the bonfire.
The brewery is great spot to buy swag, flights, full pours and 5- and 15.5-gallon kegs of some of Zero Gravity’s harder-to-find brews. Although they have a limited menu (bottomless popcorn for $2, mmm), you can bring in food from nearby restaurants, which is a unique feature. In the summer months, they open their garage door and allow for sun and warmth to fill the space. Try the Bretthead—an IPA with brettanomyces—or Little Wolf—an American pale ale—depending on what’s on tap. Head to the location at American Flatbread where they have 18 taps and smaller batch offerings. If you do, try Destiny’s Medievel style gruit, which may be the only non-hopped beer of its kind made in Vermont regularly.
5. Foley Brothers Brewing, Brandon, Vermont
Foley Brothers, located in the quaint town of Brandon, Vermont, has given beer drinkers a reason to head south of Middlebury on self-guided beer tours of the state. The brewery and visitor center is located off a dirt-road just outside of town, in close proximity to Neshobe Golf Course, a great swimming hole in the area and the National Forest. The visitor center is an oversized barn, where you can get samples for $5, as well as growler and growlette fills and 22-ounce bottles.
Foley Brothers is a family-operated business—with family members of the brothers pouring in the visitor center—and is the most unique brewery you can visit in the state. The building is rugged and rustic with wide planked floors, beautiful exposed beams and a woodstove blasting heat in the cold months. It’s the “most Vermonty” brewery of them all with some of the friendliest bartenders you’ll meet.
For special releases and events, the brewery fires up their wood-oven for pizza. They also serve Neshobe River Winery‘s wines on site for the non-beer drinker you might be accompanying you. Indulge too much and decide to spend a night in Brandon? There’s actually an inn on the property as well: The Inn at Neshobe River, and guests receive a complimentary beer or wine tasting. If you visit Foley Brothers and Pieces of Eight is available, it’s a must and my favorite brew of theirs to date. Hit Gourmet Providence Bakery on your way out of town to pick up the best sticky bun you’ll ever have.
4. Fiddlehead Brewing, Shelburne, Vermont
I have a sweet spot for Fiddlehead Brewing since I had one of the first samples the brewery poured when they opened in 2011. At the time, I was working for EatingWell magazine just behind the brewery, which made for frequent growler fills over the years. I’ve been impressed to see how brewer Matty O’s beers have evolved over time.
His classic brews, including Fiddlehead IPA, Second Fiddle and Mastermind, are my personal favorites when I want a straightforward yet classically hoppy IPA. When you get your hands on a fresh Second Fiddle, it is on par with a Sip of Sunshine or Focal Banger and much easier to find in Chittenden County.
Fiddlehead Brewing is one of few breweries in Vermont that still offers free samples, yet it doesn’t offer full pours. You can, however, fill a growler and take it next door to Folino’s, a wood-fired pizza place with ample seating inside and out. The tasting room is incredibly small, so if you’re coming for samples or a growler fill, try to hit the brewery at an off hours (open noon to 8pm most days). If you’re coming for a special release, be sure to arrive early as a line can zig-zag through their parking hours before a release begins.
The Top Three Breweries in Vermont to Visit in 2016
3. Lost Nation Brewing, Morrisville, Vermont
Lost Nation, located in a red industrial building in Morrisville off the Route 100 bypass, offers the best food of any brewery in Vermont—and it pairs remarkably well with Lost Nation’s creative, highly drinkable and small batch craft beers. In the summer months, the beer garden is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, boasting an extensive menu of smoked meats and delicious side dishes (the homemade potato salad and pasta salads balance the richness of brisket or pork confit perfectly).
In the cooler months, the tap room is almost always packed, yet I’ve never had trouble finding an open seat at the bar. In addition to their own brews on tap (Gose, Pitch and Mosaic are my personal favorites), they have a unique rotating list with beers that are rarely seen on tap in Vermont. It’s also one of the best places to score bottles of The Wind, Fuzzy and cans of Mosaic IPA. Visit Lost Nation hungry, since even during the winter, the locally sourced menu offers great lunch and dinner options. Try the Rustic Chicken Liver Pate for an appetizer to share and the Cubano with a huge portion of perfectly cooked pork on jalapeño-dijon bread.
2. Hill Farmstead, Greensboro, Vermont
If you’re serious about craft beer, Hill Farmstead needs to be on your list of breweries in Vermont to visit. Located in Greensboro Bend in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Hill Farmstead really is a pilgrimage site for beer geeks. I could gush for hours with reasons to visit Hill Farmstead: the opportunity to score limited release bottles of truly phenomenal beers (Flora, Juicy, Anna, Everett); fresh growlers of some of the best hoppy brews I’ve ever had (Double Galaxy, Susan, Double Citra); the feeling of being surrounded by equally passionate beer drinkers and enjoying one of the best beers you’ll ever have with stunning views of the Green Mountains.
Hill Farmstead’s out-of-the-way location in a way forces visitors to spend more time on site; once I arrive, I have a hard time leaving and not just because the beer is so good. The lack of a strong cell phone signal lends itself to good conversations with interesting people while waiting in line or enjoying a full pour. Hill Farmstead is becoming easier to find throughout the state as distribution increases, so if you simply can’t fit it into your Vermont brewery itinerary, you can still get your hands on some of Hill’s liquid gold in beer bars around the state. Read my in-depth tips for visiting RateBeer’s 2015 best brewery in the world here, if you’re planning a visit this year. If you’re making a day of it, visit Willey’s General Store in Greensboro where Hill Farmstead is often available on the shelf and venture out to West Glover for some of the best pizza you’ll ever have at Parker Pie.
1. Four Quarters, Winooski, Vermont
Last summer was the first time I walked into Four Quarters, and I was quickly seduced by the juiciness of Four Quarters’ Sun Dog—a double IPA—and Herbie—a refreshing watermelon wheat beer. And as they say, the rest is history… Four Quarters Brewing may come as a surprise as my number one brewery in Vermont to visit in 2016. The brewery located off the circle in Winooski is celebrating its second birthday soon and is steadily gaining popularity—and for good reason.
Brewer Brian Eckert is creating inventive brews that are some of the very best I’ve had in Vermont. With relatively limited distribution, you actually need to visit Four Quarters brewing to sample all of their unique craft beers. Eckert’s creativity is the reason I come back again and again. From a Sumac Sour to a wine-barrel aged Marquette Saison to a beer reminiscent of a mojito, 4 Quarterez, to pickle juice, brewed with honeydew, cucumbers and dill, Eckert is ballsy, and he’s onto something really special.
Although they usually have a few standards on draft like Opus Dei—a Belgian-style Patersbier—and Great Bear—a lightly smoked oatmeal brown ale—the tap list rotates frequently, making it a regular destination for me to see what’s new. Eckert’s sours—often barrel-aged—are most notable in my opinion. I would argue that some of his sours, such as Fleur de Cassis, are on par with beers coming out of De Garde or Cantillon, truly stiff competition. The brewery is tiny and nothing fancy with maybe five bar stools, yet Eckert has mastered the ability to draw people in. Whether through casks, events like Vermont’s Firkin Festival, beer dinners (or breakfasts even with coffee beers) or collaboration brews with unexpected local restaurants, Four Quarters always has something unique going on that’s worth a visit. I highly recommend you put it on your list for a unique beer experience.