Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Burlington VT – Craft Beer Mecca

“Hon, what kind of car is that behind us?” asks my wife Doreen. We had been making our way up the scenic back roads of eastern Vermont toward Burlington enjoying the views of cows, wide open pastures and the Adirondack Mountains in the distance.  I had just ducked my head into a bag of food we packed to find a snack.  When I looked up into the side view mirror an unmarked white sedan was following close behind us.  “I think it’s a cop car”, I replied.    We pulled over, the cop walked up to our car and said “Do you know how fast you were going through that town back there?"   There was a 50 MPH sign directly in front of us, but apparently the speed limit dropped to 30 somewhere in the last mile or so. 
While the cop was back in his car with Doreen’s documents checking to see if she was wanted in some other state, she was trying to understand how she could be getting her first speeding ticket ever here in Vermont.  “I didn’t even see a town, much less a 30 MPH sign back there.”  Agreeing, I said, “My head was only down for a minute and I missed that “town”.”
Our car was new and the temporary inspection sticker taped to the windshield was expired, so we did not voice any of our concerns to the police officer.  He seemed more nervous than we were as he gave us our $42 violation and warned us about the small town up the road that can "really come up quick if you are not looking for it".  As we drove away, we had some laughs about just how small this town must be if we didn’t even notice his town.  Thus, started our President’s Day weekend in Vermont.

Luckily, we were only about 40 minutes out of Burlington and we had two days of spa treatments, great meals and, of course, lots of craft beers to look forward to.  Vermont has more breweries and brew pubs per capita than any other state and most of them are found in and around Burlington its biggest city.  Our spirits improved drastically as we drove by Magic Hat Brewery on our way into town.  We found free public parking and walked to Church Street, which is closed for to vehicles and has some of Burlington's best shops and eateries. This pedestrian mall is the entertainment hub of the city and has a New Orleans feel to it.  There are granite boulders jutting out from the road to sit on, statues to pose next to for a picture and street performers who will sing your favorite song for a dollar. 
We were famished from the 5 hour drive, so we had lunch at Halverson’s and I ordered my first beer of the weekend: a Magic Hat #9.  Significantly, #9 was the first real craft beer I ever tried and it’s what got me hooked on good beer.  As always, the fruity aftertaste shines through in this “Not so quite Pale Ale” and it made me anxious to visit the brewery which we planned to do with BurlingtonBrew Tours on day 2 of our stay.  The toasted ham and Swiss melt was delicious and it gave me a reason to order a second local beer.  Fiddlehead IPA is brewed about 5 minutes from where I was eating in Shelburne, VT.  This beer was a little too hoppy for the time of day and the weather – winter brings out the dark beer lover in me – but it primed me nicely for my massage at Jirvana Spa across the street. 

An hour long deep tissue massage later and my body felt like warm butter. Doreen had booked a facial after her massage so I had some time to kill.  A guy I met at the bar in Halverson’s told me that the place with the best craft beer list in town was The Farm House Tap andGrill.  So I walked the 20 or so steps and entered a packed Manhattan style bistro.  The vibe was not for me but the beer list was impressive.  They had micro beers from all over the US as well as many Germans and Belgians.  I opted for a Black Moon from Rock Art Brewing Co. in Morrisville, VT.  This black IPA had a nice smokiness that mellowed any bite from the hops.  The 10% ABV was not detectable in the taste or by Doreen when I returned to the spa. 

We were staying in a cottage behind One of a Kind B & B about half a mile north of Church Street. When we got there, Maggie the owner was not around but a note on the front door told us to make ourselves at home.  And we did.  This little cottage perched on the high banks of Lake Champlain was one of the best all-around accommodations we’ve found.  The place was small but had everything we needed: bed, bathroom and kitchen.  At $150 per night it would have been a great value even without the killer views across the lake to the snow covered Adirondacks about 50 miles away. 

To be continued . . .


  1. You missed out on The Alchemist's Heady Topper. It's only distributed in Vermont and its arguably the best IPA I've ever had.

    1. @Sean, We passed the Alchemist's cannery in Waterbury on the way to Ben & Jerry's. Unfortunately, at that point I was fixated on getting the best ice cream in the land and didn't stop. We did see a pub by the same name under construction in downtown Waterbury. Maybe a future roadtrip?

  2. LOL. You can try the 2 or 3 beers in the state that I didn't get to.