Maine is now in my rearview mirror. Ahead, the Green Mountains of Vermont provide a picturesque carrot on a stick. This jaunt through the hills is majestically scenic. The vibrant green trees and the gray and brown rock create a marvelous backdrop for my travel to Burlington, Vermont. I arrive at my Airbnb, a spacious hobby farm in Williston, Vermont. The buzz of insects and the trickle of the water fountain are the only sounds I hear as I get my bags out of the car. After a brief hello with my hosts, I am ready to explore Burlington, Vermont.
Farmhouse Tap & Grill
The Farmhouse Tap and Grill ranks among the top 100 craft beer bars in America according to Draftmag.com. After seeing the array of fantastic tap handles, I concur with their appraisal of this bar. I grab a seat out on the patio which is the only seating available due to the huge crowd of people here. There is not service out on the patio so I head up to the bar to place my order. Lots of great things on tap and I see Sip of Sunshine IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids, a great Vermont brewery.
Since I know that a cheeseburger is in order, the Sip of Sunshine is the perfect pairing. The beer has a great amber color and looks delicious in the goblet it comes in. The hoppiness in this beer give it a smoothness. You would never guess that this IPA is 8% ABV! The burger comes and has a great Vermont white cheddar that envelopes the juicy burger patty like a gooey flavor poncho. This burger is living up to the $16.00 price tag. The hoppiness in the beer cuts through the fat of the meat and cheese. The rich and nutty cheese is a perfect compliment to the grass fed beef. The brightness of the beer balances the heaviness of the burger. I am relaxing and really enjoying the moments of peace on the patio. The crowd is enjoying all sorts of other craft beers and the mood is quite festive. However, three hours in the car have made me sleepy and so I head back to get a good night’s rest.
On a bright and sunny day in Burlington, Vermont, I awake with a spring in my step and a hunger in my belly. The Airbnb provides farm fresh eggs and coffee in the morning and for that I am thankful. With a good breakfast in me, I spend a few hours writing on the porch while I watch the owners tend to the bees, turkey, ducks, and chickens. It is time to head out the door and embark on my first full day in this fun college town. The weather gods are with me as there is a slight breeze and the sun is shining.
My first Vermont brewery stop is Foam Brewers down on the waterfront of Lake Champlain. This brewery is the epitome of cool. The space is artsy and hip, with dark wooden timbers that mingle with exposed brick walls. The brewing equipment is wide open for all to see.
While Foam Brewers does not offer flights, you can get half pours if you want to try several things at once. This is disappointing to me as I want to try all their offerings. I decide to start with a Pilsner, figuring that will be a good barometer for what they can do with a difficult style to brew. The Pils is effervescent and crisp with lots of biscuit malt and a deft hop bite at the finish. Next, it is the Lupi Fresh, an IPA. This is a cloudy golden yellow color that really looks fantastic as I hold it up to the light. A nice fluffy head gives off a tremendous aroma of piney, grassy, and citrusy hop aromas. It drinks smooth with a seemingly miniscule malt character to let the juicy citrus hops do the talking.
For being open for only two and a half months, these beers are
tremendous. The building used to be a Japanese restaurant, and was designed by a man named Russ Bennett. There is a constant theme of foam everywhere from the tap handles to the bar. The brewery gets its name for having a perfect head of foam on their beer. If the IPA and Pilsner are any indication, the namesake fits perfectly. Tod
d Haire, the Head Brewer learned his craft at Magic Hat Brewing Company (13 years) and Switchback Brewing Company (5 years) before starting Foam Brewers. The team of five people started a project on their own and they are off to a great start. The brewing acumen
shows up strongly in the beer and the space is incredibly comfortable.
Burlington Beer Company
My second stop of the day is Burlington Beer Company. A stark contrast to Foam Brewers, this brewery is in Williston, Vermont. This space is large and cavernous with a lot of large tanks and packaging area. They have a great selection of craft beers and I picked 4 of the 10 to try in a flight.
The Chasing Rabbits is a hoppy wheat ale. It drinks refreshing and citrusy with a great hoppy punch. The Light in the Window is a Rye IPA. This has huge spice and nuttiness from the rye. If you are a fan of rye, the Light in the Window is a must try.
The two beers jumping out at me the most are the variations of peanut butter beers. One is called Chunky and is a Robust Peanut Butter Porter clocking in at 12% ABV. Because of breweries like Dangerous Man and Empyrean, I have come to love Peanut Butter Porters. Chunky is good because it has incredible roasted peanut aroma in the nose, however, the high level of booziness overwhelms any nuance in flavor. The Chunky and Jelly, is the Chunky beer with raspberries and cherries. The Chunky and Jelly is much more balanced than Chunky. I think the fact that this iteration is lower in ABV by a bit (10%) allows some of the other flavors to stand out. I have one last brewery to hit before I call it a day, so I pay my tab and head for Zero Gravity Craft Brewery.
Zero Gravity Craft Brewery
The late afternoon sun signals my last stop of the day illuminating the signage at Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. This brewery is a juxtaposition in aesthetics from Burlington Beer Company. The taps emerge from a sleek white subway tile in a zigzag formation. Vibrant colors are everywhere, culminating in a breath-taking chickadee mural on the wall. There are many happy craft beer drinkers enjoying pints and flights. I think that I am in for a treat.
The beer list is an wide array of styles and tastes. For the purist, they have the Green State Lager. This fantastic Pilsner is crisp, spicy, and a little sweet from the malt. The hop bite rounds out the sip and finishes dry. I could drink a lot of this beer and continue to be impressed with the Pilsners that I have found on my trip.
Given the election year, I have to try the Bernie Weisse
(Burlington, VT is Bernie Sanders’ hometown). This is a delicious Berliner Weisse with a great tart taste. The effervescence in the Bernie Weisse is pleasing and refreshing. The Conehead IPA is a golden and hazy sip of deliciousness. Conehead bursts with hoppiness thanks to the incredible amount of juicy and citrusy hops in the beer. The Bobolink Belgian Saison has a lovely and profound yeast character in it, in addition, it is also bright and refreshing. The Barrel-Aged Côte de Champlain has a lot of wood aroma as I hold it up to my nose. The woodiness of the beer balances out from the herbaceousness of the hops and yeast esters.
The sun is lower in the sky now and I my eyes are getting heavy. Today has been a wonderful day of craft beer exploration. My time is winding down, however, I still have some great things ahead in Vermont. Prost!
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