Monday started off with our first hike of the trip. To get to the Stowe Mountain Resort, we took a beautiful drive along a curvy, tree-shrouded road. The scenery was amazing, with the lush green forests being broken up only by the occasional homestead and craggy boulders.
Our hike originated at the Midway ski lift and followed up the steep ski runs. Of course the point of downhill skiing is to go down. So it made sense that I felt like we just kept going up and up without any flat reprieves. At the top, the view of the wide valley was breathtaking. However, the bug population obviously liked the view as well and their numbers seemed to increase exponentially the higher we ventured. After a few inhaled bugs, we decided to make our way back. The black diamond run called Hayride was a tad too vertical, so we made our way down and around the slightly less steep intermediate runs.
Several hours of heart-pumping hiking certainly deserved a reward. While one of our favorite things to do is hike in the Alps and reward ourselves with beer afterwards, in Vermont we did the next best thing; have a post-hike beer at the Trapp Family Brewery.
The Trapp Family resort is operated by the von Trapp family, whose earlier generations were the inspiration for the movie The Sound of Music. Not surprising, the brewery produced German-style beers. Their line-up included a Vienna Lager and Dunkel, in addition to a dry-hopped unfiltered beer. Our favorite, however, was the Helles, which paired nicely with our meat and cheese board served with fresh homemade bread.
The brewery, located down the mountain from the main lodge, was quaint, with cozy seating inside and a deck out back. Unfortunately, they were remodeling and rather than the sound of music, we heard the sound of power tools. Even so, the whole thing was reminiscent of our Alpine hiking adventures, which made us very happy inside. Also located at the brewery is the bakery, which had some decadent looking chocolatey things. We resisted the desserts, however, and waited for Vermont’s must-do attraction: the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
Chris scoffed as I insisted on partaking in the most Disneyland-like of Vermont activities. But I knew he wanted to go, too. We arrived to find a school bus-load of middle schoolers who had just finished a factory tour. I patiently waited in line for 25 minutes as the pre-teens flitted about excitedly. I noticed that most rejected their free small ice cream included with the tour for monstrosities like the Vermonster, a 13-scoop sundae served in a plastic bucket.
I enjoyed my share of Scoop Shop exclusives Chocolate Therapy (chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie chunks and ribbons of chocolate pudding) and Sweet Cream and Cookies, while Chris opted for the Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream (vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone bits and swirls of caramel). In the midst of this most pleasurable of activities, the rain began to fall causing people to run for cover. We remained at our outside picnic table under the protection of a large umbrella finishing our treats and watching the confusion.
We still had a few more breweries on our agenda for the day, so as soon as the last spoonful of ice cream was eaten, we were off to The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury. With its dark interior and unusual artwork, The Alchemist has the feel of being in an eccentric mad scientist’s laboratory. The frequently changing eclectic range of beers add to the experimental feel. While we were encouraged to order 12 ounce samples, we opted for a slightly smaller taste of several beers.
Like beakers in the scientist’s lab, our tasters included beers of all colors, tastes, and aromas. Chris went straight for the hoppy Holy Cow, a session IPA at just over 5% ABV. He followed this with Wild Child, a sour that the brewery says is not for the “weak of heart.” I started with the Celia Saison, which I didn’t realize was gluten-free when I ordered it. Made with sorghum and dry-hopped with Amarillo hops, it was a bit on the band-aid side. They brew dark beers as well, including Pappy’s Porter, a roasty American porter, and Mortal Sin, an India Dark Ale. In the end, however, our favorite was Shut The Hell Up, an American mild brewed with Simcoe hops. STHU was a true session beer at 3.3% ABV. This beer proves that bold character can still be achieved without a high alcohol content. Lew Bryson would be so proud.
The next morning we hit the road for New Hampshire, but we had one more stop to make before leaving Vermont: Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville. This small brewery in a small Vermont town became famous when Monster energy drink went after them for trademark infringement on a beer they named Vermonster. (Funny that they didn’t go after Ben & Jerry’s who has a sundae named the Vermonster) Admittedly, this controversy heightened our anticipation, as we wanted to see what all the fuss had been about.
Only a week old, the brewery’s brand new digs were easily located on a main road (That is if the navigator is paying attention). Inside, the tasting room smelled of fresh paint and the last remnants of construction mess were getting wiped clean. Renee was a gracious and chatty host as she served us four brews, including their flagship beer Ridge Runner, a mild barleywine. Vermonster was not available for tasting but we couldn’t resist buying a bottle to take home. Renee not only gave us good conversation and tasty beer, she also gave us a suggestion that proved to be a Vermont bonus. She encouraged us to stop at Hill Farmstead brewing, even though they were not open for tasting on Tuesdays.
With a name to drop when we arrived, we happily drove to the remote Hill Farmstead in rural Greensboro Bend. We passed a colorful field of yellow flowers and multiple farm houses on our drive down the bumpy dirt country road. While we found it without problem, their website advises visitors to look at Google maps, as “you *will* get lost.” With some trepidation, we approached the barn where a guy was moving kegs. While he started out by saying that he didn’t really have the time to do a full tasting with us, our gift of Pliny and Blind Pig helped to change his mind. Not wanting to disrupt his work too much, we concluded our visit within twenty minutes, including tasting several beers like Edward (American pale ale), Florence (wheat saison), and Abner (imperial IPA), and purchasing a few bottles to take home. At Hill Farmstead the beer was phenomenal and the hospitality welcoming. Many thanks to Renee for encouraging us to stop by and Owen who took time out of his busy work day. Hill Farmstead was definitely the crowning jewel of our Vermont beer tour.
We left Vermont having added nine breweries to The List. For our first ever visit to the state, we were impressed with not only the people and the scenery, but also the beer. While we found out about it too late, we encourage you to discovery your own beer adventures by checking out the Vermont Brewery Challenge. In the meantime, I’ll be pitching a new motto for the Vermont Brewers Association. Vermont: where the hills are alive with the sound (and smell) of beer