By Lee Salawitch
A friend and I were planning a long weekend getaway to Vermont. When looking at the list of places we wanted to cover and the Rand McNally, I realized we would be very close to several craft breweries! Since beer is my passion, I knew I wanted to check out a couple, take tours, sample beers, and try beer not readily available in the mid-Atlantic.
Right across the river from Cornish, NH, via a typical New England covered bridge, is the Vermont location of Harpoon Brewery in Windsor. Either the website was wrong or I misread/misremembered the tour time, but we got there around 2:45 pm and the first Friday tour is at 4:00 pm.
Oh well, maybe next time! There is a very brief self-guided tour area, a restaurant/bar, and beer garden. As it’s almost fall, so I had a pint of the Harpoon Octoberfest. Good taste, nice dark color, though it lacked a “wow” factor. Jen sampled several beers and we agreed that the UFO Hefeweizen was our favorite. This is a very light, golden colored brew with hints of citrus and a smooth finish.
While walking around and taking pictures, a “local” asked if I wanted him to snap one of me. “I hate to be such a tourist,” I said, “but I don’t know when I’ll be back.” He was holding a recently filled growler, said that Harpoon was his favorite beer, and that he takes “dozens of tourists’ pictures every year.” That’s a ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one!
Our next stop was the Long Trail Brewing Company in nearby Bridgewater
The next afternoon we headed to the Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington. This is definitely the most colorful brewery we’ve ever visited. Loud music, flashing lights, and many 20-somethings filled the gift shop and sampling bar. One had to be pretty aggressive to obtain samples that Saturday afternoon. The pre-tour movie is very inspirational and demonstrates the love of craft beer that many of us share.
The tour was wall to wall, over 50 people were present, and it was difficult to hear the guide. That didn’t matter so much to me, I’ve toured dozens of breweries, but if one wants to hear the guide, stand right by him or her.
My first taste of Magic Hat was the Wacko I had at the Mount Hope, PA BeerFest in May. Perhaps it’s me, but I still haven’t found one of their beers that I love. The beers have interesting tastes, but seem a little off the mark. A friend who is twenty years younger loves the Magic Hat #9. Maybe it’s a generational thing…
We had dinner and a beer at the Vermont Pub and Brewery in downtown Burlington. I was anxious to try one and only one beer type, as this establishment lays claim to inventing it. Plus, I had a great version the week before at the Stoudt’s Micro Fest. Yup, the Black IPA (BIPA). The Stone Brewery’s Double Black IPA had a very hoppy, sweet, bitter taste with a hint of grapefruit. Sweet and bitter at the same time, yes that is possible.
The VPB version was quite drinkable, but not as complex as Stone’s. The restaurant was very crowded and the food was pretty decent, too. I’d go back to sample the Handsome Mick’s Irish Stout and for another apple cobbler with melted cheddar cheese. Their logo of a pint glass with the foam forming an outline of the state is creative, so props for that.
For a small state, Vermont has quite a few breweries and brewpubs; twenty one, in fact, are members of the Vermont Brewer’s Association. We’ll be back to visit the other seventeen! Enjoy some more pictures in the gallery below!