Vermont is a small state. It’s ranks 45th in size among the 50 United States. And yet, Vermont has the most microbreweries per capita of any state. That’s all my friend and I really needed to know. Since we weren’t going to ski, sampling the finest brews Vermont had to offer just made good sense.
I’d love to describe all the different microbreweries and all the different beers we tasted, but I won’t. I will, however, mention that we did travel all the way across the state to sample the Hill Farmstead brews. They’d come highly recommended by people we’d talked to in other bars and we learned that this family-owned business was rated ‘The Best Brewer in the World’ in 2016 for the second year in a row. The WORLD!
Shaun Hill, the brewer, credits his unique flavors to his passion for brewing and the family farm’s well water he uses. We’d heard that you have to get there early or they might run out. We’d heard about some of the more popular barrel-aged brews that we could buy by the growler. What we didn’t hear was how out-of-the-way and hard-to-find it could be.
You’d expect that a place so popular and world-renowned would be follow a well-traveled trail, but more than once on the way, we wondered whether we’d made a wrong turn somewhere, or missed the place altogether. Even when we turned on Hill Road, we saw a farm, but no cars. Until we crested the hill, that is, and saw cars parked in two parking lots and along the gravelly road. There was a line out the door for retail sales and an even longer line for sample glasses inside the taproom. Like many places it was basically standing room only, and patrons could only have 2 glasses.
It was worth the wait.
What we discovered along our statewide microbrewery crawl was that many places only offered samples to customers as they stood. We learned that this was because they were considered manufacturers and couldn’t serve alcohol, really; only sell it. So we could sample the different varieties, but if we wanted to drink the beers, we needed to buy a growler and could then take it into the adjoining restaurant (often pizzerias) that were BYOB and didn’t have liquor licenses. Interesting.
Another law unique to Vermont (in my experience) is that bars cannot offer Happy Hour drink specials. They can only offer drink specials for the whole day. It’s the state’s attempt to discourage binge drinking. Or their way of keeping people “happy” longer than an hour.
It’s a small state, but it’s got tremendous flavor. I’ve already mentioned the farm-to-table tastes and now all the microbreweries and craft beers. There’s a lot to love about Vermont. And I didn’t even begin to touch on all the maple! Yes, I found maple beer as we traversed the state. And yes – I loved it!
Does the microbrewery facet of Vermont surprise you?
Sounds like a brewery that I would be very happy to visit, Juliann! Our area has a number of good ones as well, as well as many up and coming wineries. So much to sample and so little time. 🙂 –Curt
I love the way that craft beers and microbreweries have continued growing. So many good flavors!
Which place had the longer line: Ben &Jerry’s or Hill Farmstead?
Good question, David. I’m not sure I can answer that, but I can say that I would wait in line for Hill Farmstead beers, but not for ice cream. 🙂
It’s great how the US has embraced craft brewing. (The sampling areas remind me a bit of French micro-wine producers who are happy for you to try before you buy.) I still shudder at the awful keg stuff we were forced to drink in the UK before the Real Ale revolution. Happy Hours have been pretty much banned in the UK and Channel Islands now.
I still shudder at what passed for beer when I was younger, too. It’s nice to be able to enjoy this evolution of good craft beer.