In today’s craft beer world Vermont is best known as the birthplace of the “New England IPA” or as you may see it called on Instagram: the hazy boy. The Alchemist, HIll Farmstead, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids are at the top of many a beer-centric pilgrims list when they visit the state searching for the perfect Hazy IPA. But with curbside pick up, social distancing, and shutdowns hurting local businesses, I decided to steer clear of the “big names” and most of the haze to check out some of the lesser-known but still superb offerings of northern Vermont.
Lost Nation Brewing
I stayed deep in the forest outside of Hardwick (I really needed a break!) so this brewery in Morrisville was the closest to my little cabin. Lost Nation was my first time dining inside since March and not only was everyone warm and friendly everything was sparkling clean and there was plenty of hand sanitizer to go around!
I tried several of the small four ounce pours and every single beer I had was exactly as described on the menu, not an off flavor or out-of-place aroma anywhere. I liked the session IPA but the Saision with Blood Orange was skillfully balanced between the tang of the citrus and the slight tart of mixed fermentation without leaning totally sour. There is a knowledgeable team manning that brewhouse.
The food here is excellent. I am SO thankful I picked Lost Nation for my first time dining out since the pandemic began, I won’t soon forget it.
Von Trapp Brewery
This is the brewery I can’t stop thinking about from my weeks in Vermont. A German-lager heaven tucked in the mountainside side of Stowe. The bottom line: If you’re in Stowe, or even within an hour of Stowe, don’t miss it!
For all the details like yes, it is *that* Von Trapp family read my full write up!
Stowe Public House
This is a little beer-geek paradise modestly sitting on the main street of downtown Stowe. If you can only stop at one place and want to try the full expanse of what Vermont beer has to offer, this is your place. They have a bottle shop with a massive selection including The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and rarer options from Lawson’s Finest but also lesser-known VT Brewers like Fiddlehead, Switchback, and all the breweries listed above.
Beyond their local selections there are rare bottles from all over the country including brewers like Lost Abbey and a handful of options I’ve never seen outside of Germany. Plus for sour heads the options of Belgian lambics, Krieks, and Geuze is one of the best I’ve seen.
They also have some offerings you can enjoy in their outdoor area with a Vermont cheese plate. I grabbed a Kolsch and a flatbread and read outside for an afternoon, perfect place to relax downtown!
While it’s not the most original brewery/taproom I’ve ever seen, Foam is a must-visit if you’re making a stop in Burlington.
Right on the waterfront, the original Foam Brewers location looks similar to a lot of modern taprooms. A nice outdoor space with plenty of plants and even more room for social distancing looks indistinguishable from other brewery patios but once you get inside there is a bit more character. Stainless fermenters line the exposed brick walls and art hangs from the ceiling above the metal-crafted bar. The interior definitely reflects the funky, whimsical feel of their can art. The IPAs were…..hazy IPAs but the real standout was the mixed fermentation beers. The “red panda” was Foam’s take on a Flanders Red and it was a great example all the way down to the red-brown color.
They serve food from a restaurant next door and I had one of the best vegetarian breakfast sandwiches of my life! If you’re hungry, definitely order something.
Zero Gravity Brewing
Zero Gravity has two locations in Burlington the brewery and a taproom that is combined with an American Flatbread restaurant. I went to the American Flatbread because it is one of my favorite restaurants in the state (I have been to the location outside of Sugar Bush before).
They have a huge variety on their taplist, I mean how often do you see a brown mild on a menu?! They’re known for the Cone Head IPA but I would skip it if you visit the brewery in favor of some of the lesser-known styles and creative beers. I also thoroughly enjoyed my pint of spiced stout even in the 80 degree heat!
I don’t think you can go wrong with a single pizza here but the Power to the People is my fave.
Idletyme Brewing Company
Another brewery in Stowe, Idletyme has a perfect set up with plenty of outdoor space, and even a hop garden! If you’re staying in or near Stowe it would be worth a stop to hangout in the back garden (bring bug spray!) with some quality beer. The cheese fritters are their most popular appetizer and there is a REASON, yumm and an ideal partner for most beers on the list.
I found the lower alcohol beers to be better made and we especially like the hefe.
I couldn’t leave VT without visiting a quirky spot, so I picked Zen Barn.
This was probably the best food I had on the trip. Everything is very thoughtful and well seasoned. Order the five-spiced dumplings!! Plus they have a stellar beer selection from local breweries. It was my first time having Hill Farmstead from a plastic cup, ha!
If you feel like getting creative with your drink selection don’t miss the “Gin & Chronic” that is infused with CBD. Not my thing but the people I was with were big fans. And obviously, it’s a barn so there is plenty of room to spread out both inside and out for a safely social distanced meal.
Shanty on the Shore
It’s hard to be on the coast of a lake as giant as lake Champlain without craving some seafood. This place has a big deck with views of the water and a good selection of VT beer (I had a Switchback brown ale!). I can highly recommend sharing a plate of perfectly cold, briney, plump oysters but beyond that you’re on your own. The fried seafood was….ok.
What to Look Out for on Menus
Whenever I’m visiting a new place, I try to look for local beers on restaurant and bar menus as well as visiting breweries. To try the best of what VT has to offer look for Hill Farmstead, Switchback brewing, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Zero Gravity Brewing, Foam Brewing, Lost Nation, Rock Art Brewery, Folley Brothers Brewing, Otter Creak Brewing, Four Quarters Brewing. You may also see some out of state, but close by favorites on restaurant menus like Bissell Brothers, Oxbox Brewing, and from Canada: Dieu du Ciel!