A beer guide for when you go to Vermont (and you should)

by DGO Web Administrator

If you’re in Vermont, they don’t call their IPAs “Vermont IPAs,” much in the way that if you order a salad in Italy, you wouldn’t ask for “Italian Dressing.” If you go to Vermont looking for that lazy, hazy beer, you don’t have to look hard, but there are many other amazing beers to try first. Don’t just go straight to The Alchemist for a Heady Topper.

Every bar, restaurant, liquor store, grocery store, and gas station has an amazing selection of craft beer. It’s super easy to get overwhelmed by choice in Vermont, which has the highest number of craft breweries per capita in the country (9.4 per 100,000 people in 2015, according to the Brewer’s Association). In the face of that overwhelming choice, start with a Switchback Ale. Similar to how a trip to Texas wouldn’t be complete without a Lonestar, a trip to Vermont without a Switchback wouldn’t be right. It’s everywhere, and is pretty cheap. Switchback Ale is a naturally-conditioned amber ale, one of the most balanced beers I’ve ever had, and at 5 percent ABV, it’s an excellent session beer. The natural carbonation is super soft, which accentuates the wonderful malt character and there’s just enough hops to make themselves known. It’ll be everywhere and go with all kinds of food, so if you’re ever having trouble making up your mind, ask for a Switchback.

The main hub of culture and the largest city in Vermont is Burlington, where you’ll find some really rad beer, rad breweries, and just plain gorgeous views of Lake Champlain. Though not allowed to serve full pints, the Magic Hat Brewery is a pretty cool spot to get samples of their beers and tour the brewery. There’s also a crazy cool rocket ship/clock tower outside and you can climb a spiral staircase to the top. Waterfront Park offers amazing views of Lake Champlain and is super close to Foam Brewers, a taproom and brewpub that has an amazing selection of beer. Yes, they have your juicey hazy IPAs, but they also some really awesome sour and mixed fermentation beers, a much needed change from all the IPAs. Not far from the waterfront is the smaller production brewery, Zero Gravity. Yes, they make several hazy beers (Vermont Haze, a session IPA that is 4.2 percent and comes in a nice Rastafarian can, is a standout hazy beer). But the highlight is their Bretthead, an IPA fermented with brettanomyces that really pops with hop aroma and flavor and compliments the funky and fruity brett character.

When you start venturing out, make sure you go through Middlebury. This small town has some really amazing beer. At Drop-In Brewing, a small teaching brewery that hosts students from the American Brewers Guild, has some super tasty beer in a more English style, reflecting Brewmaster Steve Parkes’ heritage and brewing roots. There’s also Otter Creek Brewing, a regional production brewery similar in size to Ska, that has a ton of variety in style and an awesome setting. The taproom is a sort of reverse goldfish bowl, with big windows and a view of the brewery on most sides. There’s also two or three cider houses in Middlebury, including Woodchuck, one of the biggest craft cider houses in the country.

At this point, I’d say skip The Alchemist, but then you’d consider skipping Stowe, Vermont. Stowe is interesting because it was on Outdoor Magazine list of best mountain towns that included Durango, though they were on opposing side: Stowe was an unaffordable mountain town; Durango was on the affordable list. Still, Stowe definitely doesn’t have the same vibe as Aspen, Telluride, or Vail. It’s a pretty rad little town with all the ski town accoutrement: bike/board shops, tourist shops, and really, really good beer. Yes there is The Alchemist, spreading the cult of hazy bullshit, but there is also von Trapp Brewing, which specializes in making lager beer, and it is some of the best lager beer in the world.

So yeah, go to Vermont and drink a Heady Topper, but please, drink as much of the other beer as you can.


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