Category Archives: Beer Travel

Weekly Updates

Well it has been a while since I posted but life has been crazy. Family and work take up most of my time and the blog has taken back seat, but I am back and plan to change things up a bit. Rather than reviewing every beer that I drink I am going to post weekly updates of places I visited, beers I enjoyed and add a fun new feature where I poll my visitors to determine what beer I should pull out of my cellar to drink the following week.

Beer Purchases

I travel a lot for work and I often stop at out of the way beer stores hoping to find some forgotten treasures. This week I was fortunate to find 4 bottles of 3 Fonteinen. The first two; Oude Geuze and Oude Geuze Cuvee Armand & Gaston came from a local shop – The Vault – in Lewiston (thanks Keith) and then I found a 750 and a 375 of Intense Red sitting on shelf in Southwest Harbor. These beers were expensive but I am sure they will be worth it.

I also purchased the first two canned offerings from One Eye Open Brewing a very small brewery that recently opened in Portland. As of now they do not have a tap/tasting room and are only open for retail sales occasionally. Check their website and social media pages for more info as well as places you can find their beer on draft and see below for a couple of pics and brief review of each. 

Brewery Visits

Relatively slow week for visiting breweries as I was out of the office the week before so spent most of the week getting caught up on emails and paperwork. Friday I did escape the office and ventured up to Bar Harbor to check out the construction progress for Atlantic Brewing Company’s new facility at 52 Cottage St. Doug showed me around the space pointing out where various items will be; a small batch brewhouse, roof top seating, retail area, etc. The space will be great and you can follow the progress by liking the Facebook page for 52 Cottage. This is going to be a very popular spot when it opens and I can’t wait to go back and enjoy a beer. 

Beer Reviews

Rather than posting a full review of each beer I drink I will highlight a few beers that I enjoyed either at home or at a local bar/restaurant. 

Liquid Riot – It’s Another Barrel Aged Saison – Rating 4.25/5

Had this beer at Blaze in Bangor on Friday and it was great. Liquid Riot has really stepped up their game and is making some of the best beer out there right now. If you haven’t tried their beer before or in a while give them a shot.  
Liquid Riot / Orono Brewing Collab – Shaka Zulu – Rating 4 / 5

Didn’t take photo of this one but enjoyed this at Marche in Lewiston. Described as a Nordic Blonde this was a tasty beer. 

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Foundation Brewing – Prototype 4 – Rating 4 / 5

Another beer enjoyed at Marche in Lewiston. This is a 6.5% experimental IPA with Galaxy, Amarillo & Azacca hops. Lots of lemon, grass, super aromatic and bright. Slightly bitter finish which leaves you wanting more. Great beer and one I would drink many times over if it became a regular offering. 

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One Eye Open Brewing – In Clover – Rating 4 / 5 

This is their single IPA and the first beer I had from them at the Freshman Orientation event back in November. Really enjoyed it then and it was just as good in a can. 

One Eye Open Brewing – Anything & Everything – Rating 3.5 / 5

Double IPA from OEO clocks in at 8% ABV and I had high hopes since I enjoyed In Clover a lot. Overall pretty solid start but it was a tad malty, had a huge head when poured into a glass and the alcohol was apparent. Hoping this one improves as they refine thier processes. 

Deciduous Brewing – Morphology – Rating 4 / 5

Another beer enjoyed at Blaze in Bangor. This was super clear just like almost all of David’s beers. Only complaint was a fair amount of alcohol burn. Not surprising for an 8% DIPA. 

Weekly Cellar Poll

Hopefully you made it through this rather long post so you can help decide which bottle from my cellar I will open next week. This week I decided to pull out a few Cantillon bottles, whichever one gets the most votes I will open at some point this week and review in next weeks update. Vote below:

[yop_poll id=”1″]

773. Asheville Brewing Company Shiva IPA

Asheville Brewing ShivaFirst beer from Asheville Brewing Company in North Carolina.

Huge flufffy head with very large bubbles. Took me multiple pours to fill the glass. Aroma was very weak with light floral hops but not much else. Starts with sweet malts, followed by some floral grassy hops. Finish is slightly bitter and very dry.

Average beer at best.

Alcohol Content: 6.0% ABV
IBU (Bitterness): 69
Brewers Website: Asheville Brewing
Brewers Description: A crisp, citrusy India Pale Ale with a light color, Shiva will destroy all your preconceptions of an I.P.A. A transcendentally simple malt bill accents a generous helping of Columbus hops, lending an intense floral aroma with hints of grapefruit and a pleasant bittering quality. Your palette will be lifted to higher planes of consciousness with a bittersweet finish.

Bottle Releases & Craft Beer Pricing

There is no question I buy a lot of beer and attend a lot of bottle releases. Just take a look at the list of beer currently waiting to be consumed (link here) and you will get an idea of the depth of my beer buying problem.

AnnThis morning I awoke and checked in with Facebook and Twitter as I do most mornings. There were several posts with lots of comments about the lottery style release of Ann a barrel aged saison from Hill Farmstead. I have been waiting for months to learn the details of this release as it is one of the few Hill Farmstead beers I have never tried. I believe the first and only release of Ann was in 2012 and somewhere around 180 bottles were released making this more rare than even Double Barrel Damon.

The details of the release can be found on Hill Farmstead’s website (link here) basically you register in a lottery, if your name is drawn you get to purchase a bottle for that given day. You can register once for each day of the release and the total cost is around $55 between the bottle, tax and fee for the lottery site. If you do not win you pay nothing, the small fee for entering is returned to you.

If you have ever been to Hill Farmstead, especially one of their bottle releases like the release of Damon, Double Barrel Damon, Flora and Flora Satsuma on 9/26/2013 you know how crowded it can get and the crazy lines that form. My post of that release can be seen here. In an effort not to replicate the crazy lines of that day Shaun decided to do the lottery style release for Ann which I think is great even at $50+ per bottle and here is why.

My time is worth something. I have a very busy job, three kids, a wife and all the duties that come with homeownership. If I can enter into a lottery style event, be chosen for a bottle and know that on February 4th I can show up at 11:00, grab my bottle and leave that is a much better solution than driving to Vermont to arrive at 9:00 or earlier and stand in line for many hours for the chance of getting a bottle. I am sure there were many in September that waited for many hours to have the final bottles sold to the people in front of them.

GashDon’t get me wrong I have waited in line for beer and I will again. Each brewery has its own style and bottle/can releases are no different. Allagash has an event coming up that I will go to, wait in line to get in and then wait again to grab a couple bottles of their new release Emotional Honey and bottles of some older beers that are making another appearance; Old HLT, FV13 and Tiarna.

Allagash does a tremendous job with their bottle releases with lots of games, food and samples. Combine this with lots of friendly craft beer drinkers and you have the makings of a nice Saturday morning. The difference is Allagash has the space to accommodate hundreds of people and while parking is not the best between the parking lot and on road parking everyone will have a safe place to park. Allagash also has many more employees to handle the crowds and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Hill Farmstead does not have the space or parking for such an event and  when they do have an event they rely heavily on volunteers. Coordinating all of this for a weekday bottle release would be nearly impossible.

AlchemistThen there is The Alchemist and their truck load sales. Similar to Hill Farmstead they do not have a space to accommodate a large scale release so they do it in a public space in Waterbury. I have only been to one but it was lots of fun and you can read more about the trip here. I was in line at 6:40 for a sale that started at 9:00. There was a food truck, a band and again lots of great craft beer drinkers to chat with and pass the time.

There is no perfect way to release a beer. You have the retail version with the Bourbon County craziness on Black Friday, the draft only version with Pliny the Younger at Russian River and select bars, the brewfest version that almost ended in a riot at Cigar City’s Hunahpu Day in Florda and countless other beer events across the country with demand that far outweighs the availability of the beer.

In the end breweries have to do what works best for them. For Hill Farmstead, at least with Ann, that is a lottery system and for others it means lines of craft beer fans waiting and hoping the beer lasts long enough for them to score a bottle.

If the beer is good than I want to try it. If the beer has taken years to craft; brewed, aged, blended, bottled, aged again than I will pay more for it. I have yet to be disappointed by a beer from Hill Farmstead or Allagash or The Alchemist and when you have a reputation of creating exceptional beer the beer buying public will pay. I don’t think any of these breweries are pricing their beer artificially high or limiting production to increase profits. Space and time are expensive which causes beer to be expensive. Yes there are plenty of great craft beverages out there that are less expensive but you are not going to be drinking $50 bottles of Ann or $15 – 375 ml bottles of Allagash’s Coolship beers everyday. It is a luxury item, a special treat and one that I am happy to pay for.

Is the beer worth $50+, I don’t know but I hope to find out. I will be submitting a lottery pick for each day, if I am chosen for a bottle then I will gladly pay the $50+ drive to Vermont and pick up my bottle of Ann. If the planets, stars and cosmos align and I am lucky enough to have my name drawn for more than one day than I will make multiple trips and tuck one away in the cellar for a special occasion. I will also be at the Allagash Wild Beer Round Up waiting in line on a cold January morning in Maine and if my schedule and time allows I will attend future truck load sales at The Alchemist. Chances are better that you will find me at one of the many other breweries that are making exceptional beer in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts.

Cheers to all and feel free to share your comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

706. Beara Irish Brewing Pale Ale

Beara Irish Brewery Pale AleI often review beers from new breweries as soon as they are released. This often results in reviews that include comments like; “it is difficult brewing on a new system”, “I think (insert brewers name) beers will improve as he/she dials things in”, etc. This has been proven true on subsequent visits to new breweries where I find the overall quality has improved and the beer I thought was OK months prior is now much better.

Beara Irish Brewing is a very new brewery that opened in Portsmouth. I tried some of Michael’s homebrews prior to him opening and was impressed with the beer. I found a bottle of the Irish Pale Ale in Top Shelf Brews in Hampton and grabbed it. I mentioned to Michael that I had a bottle and he told me there may be carbonation problems with the beer as it was his his batch on the new system. When I opened it the beer was in fact nearly flat. If you have ever tried a flat beer you know this messes with almost every aspect of the beer; the aroma is almost gone, taste is muted and the entire beer suffers.

I checked into the beer on Untappd and noted that it was flat. Almost immediately I received a message from Michael saying he would replace the beer with a newer batch when I stopped by the brewery next. While my first official beer from Beara Irish Brewing was a disappointment Michael’s willingness to make things right and his attention to sites like Untappd and other social media outlets tells me he cares about the quality of his beers, the brewery and the people drinking his beer.

I will certainly give this one another shot when it comes around again and will update this review accordingly. In the meantime if you find yourself in Portsmouth, make your way out to Beara Irish Brewing and say hi to Michael.
Cons: Flat
Alcohol Content: ??% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Brewers Website: Beara Irish Brewing
Brewers Description: Irish malt base with Munich/Vienna/etc. grain additions. We use three different hops during the boil and dry hop with Citra. Aroma and taste are great. IPA style but why not substitute “Irish” for “India” on the label to honor the core of this brew!

Vermont Trip August 15-16 2014

When Hill Farmstead announced Festival of Farmhouse Ales (FoFA) was going to be held at the brewery on August 16th I started making plans. Fortunately I got tickets through the lottery and we finalized the plans for a short overnight trip to Vermont with my wife, her sister and my brother in law. The week prior to FoFA The Alchemist announced a tent sales for that Saturday morning. Every time they have had a tent sale I had other plans so this was my first chance to experience the craziness of an Alchemist tent sale.

IMG_20140815_124455We left on Friday the 15th and made our way to Vermont via Littleton, NH so we could have lunch at Schilling Beer. We sat on their deck that overlooks the Ammonoosuc River and enjoyed a couple flights of beer and some great brick oven pizza. The favorite beer was Clervaux although they were all very good and the pizzas were both excellent. My brother in law bought one of their double walled stainless steel growlers full of Clervaux for the first beer purchase of the weekend.

After lunch we finished the trip to Vermont and arrived in Montpelier just as Hunger Mountain Coop was releasing Heady Topper and bottles of Double Sunshine from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. We knew the weekend was going to involve standing in many long lines so we decided to skip the lines at the Coop and just headed to the hotel. Capitol Plaza Hotel is located right in the heart of Montpelier and is walking distance to most shops including Three Penny Taproom. Rooms were affordable, up to date and it worked well for our overnight stay.

That evening we walked the streets of Montpelier visiting the local shops and eventually made our way to Three Penny Taproom for drinks and dinner. The food there was great and my brother in law and I enjoyed several beers including; Hill Farmstead Abner and Edward, Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, Otter Creek Overgrown Pale Ale, Zero Gravity Sim City, while our wives enjoyed some cocktails. All around a great time was had by all and Three Penny should be on your list of places to visit if you ever find yourself in Montpelier.

Line 640Our initial plan was to arrive at the tent sale in Waterbury at 7:00 however we were up and ready to go earlier so we arrived around 6:40. The line was only about 35 people when we arrived, there was plenty of parking and everyone was just hanging out in the parking lot. By 7:00 the line was close to 100 and by the time they moved us to the area the sale takes place at 7:40 there were easily 200 people in line. We grabbed some crepes from the Skinny Pancake food truck and waited as the line grew. There was a band to keep people entertained and lots of talking with the others in line. Around 8:40 John Kimmich thanked everyone for coming and explained that all money from the sale of merchandise was being donated to a school in Rwanda. He also announced they would start selling beer a bit early.

CoolerFortunately we were near the front of the line and we had our beer and were heading out by 9:00. The sale was very well organized and I would recommend anyone interested in The Alchemist beers make the trip to Waterbury to experience the event and buy some great beer.

Due to the early exit from Waterbury we had some extra time between the truck load sale and leaving for FoFA so we hit the farmer’s market in Montpelier, made another trip to the Coop for some snacks and then eventually made our way to Greensboro for the start of FoFA.

Upon arrival at Hill Farmstead we found another extremely well run Fieldevent. A tent was setup to check in with your required designated driver and grab your Hill Farmstead branded tasting glass. The lines had already formed for Flora from Hill Farmstead and Paraguesia2 from Tired Hands. I opted for the Flora line and that was the last line I waited in all day. The remainder of the festival was walk up, grab a beer and drink. There were a couple of times when Hill Farmstead started pouring La Sarrasin and a couple of others that the lines swelled to 20+ people but it went quickly and plenty of great beer was consumed.

FoFAI got to talk to Shaun, Phil, Bob as well as Dan Suarez formerly of Hill Farmstead and currently working towards opening Suarez Family Brewery in New York. The weather could have been better but it did not take away from a great day for a great event.

Based on the success of both the tent sale and the new setup for events at Hill Farmstead; no camping, required designated driver, etc I hope both breweries continue to hold these events as I will certainly be back.

The final haul from the weekend included;

– 2 mixed cases from The Alchemist; four 4-packs of Focal Banger and a 4-pack of Rapture and Crusher
– four 4-packs of Heady Topper
– 8 bottles of Vera Mae and 4 bottles of Florence

Unfortunately we missed out on Lawson’s as we did not want to wait in line at the Coop on Friday but we still came home with plenty of beer.

Hill Farmstead Bottle Release 9/26

On September 26th Hill Farmstead had a bottle release including 4 beers; Damon, Double Barrel Damon, Flora and Flora Satsuma Mandarin. I decided to take the day off work and make the trip to Vermont. I took two friends with me and we planned to make a day of it. The bottle release was to start at 11:00 and bottles were limited to 300 of each for everything but Double Barrel Damon which had approximately 190 bottles total. Hoping to get bottles of each we met in Fryeburg Maine at 7:30 and planned to arrive at Hill Farmstead a full hour before the release started at 11:00.

hf line
The line from our spot an hour before the release time

Our timing was perfect and we pulled up to Hill Farmstead at 10:00 AM. The only problem being the line was extremely long even 1:00 before the release was to start. After standing in line for about 45 minutes we determined we were not even within the first 300 people and no way were we included in the first 190 that would get Double Barrel Damon so we made the tough decision to get out of the bottle line and start the growler line. This ended up being a wise decision as best I can tell from the BeerAdvocate thread you would have had to arrive around 9:30 to get any bottles and by 8:45 to even have a chance at the Double Barrel Damon. The lines were much longer than most people anticipated including the employees and volunteers at Hill Farmstead.

We got our growlers and were on our way around noon. The bottle line had barely moved at that point and we headed out to the rest of our stops. Lost Nation in Morristown was our next stop and we had a great Gose there. I grabbed a growler and a glass that you will see reviewed shortly. Then off to Waterbury to stop at The Alchemist, the one case limit was still in affect so not a lot of extra Heady made it back. No where close to the 13 cases I brought home in March. We then had lunch at Blackback which included drafts from Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s and Zero Gravity. Excellent beer and plenty of other people that had gone to Hill Farmstead for the bottle release.

Next stop was the Warren Store for some Lawson’s Finest Liquids and then back to Hunger Mountain Coop to see what other goodies we could find. Ended up with a couple bottles from Prairie that we cannot get in Maine as well as some Crooked Stave. Then the long journey back to Maine. We arrived in Fryeburg around 7:30 and each of us had about another hour from there.

We were initially disappointed to miss out on the bottles at Hill Farmstead but at the end of the day it is just beer and we brought home plenty of great beer to drink. Much fun was had and we will certainly be making this trip again although it probably will not be on a Hill Farmstead bottle release day as we may never see another announced release like that.

Hill Farmstead Harvest Festival VIP Session

Well the weekend I have been waiting for since July finally arrived. On Friday I headed out to Vermont with my brother-in-law for Hill Farmstead’s Harvest Festival. I was one of the fortunate few that was able to purchase VIP tickets for this event as it sold out in about 60 seconds. The ticket price was $100 per for the VIP session but what I have learned from prior events is brewers really make sure you get your monies worth and Shaun from Hill Farmstead certainly did that.

We arrived at the brewery around 12:30 on Friday to get bottles and growlers filled before the event. With 500 tickets sold for the Saturday (non-VIP) portion of the event the lines were going to be long so getting most of our beer on Friday was a great idea. I ended up with 2 full sized growlers (Edward and Society & Solitude #5) and brought home another 15 – 750 ml bottles for myself and other beer lovers in Maine. The line was only 2-3 deep when we arrived but most people (including me) were filling 10+ bottles so it did take some time. In addition to the growlers and 750s I purchased 5 bottles of beer – 4 from Hill Farmstead and one from Grassroots Brewing. All will be reviewed here in the coming weeks as they are now at the top of my list of beers to drink.

After getting our fill of bottles we headed South to the Hunger
Mountain Co-op to find some Heady Topper and whatever Lawson’s Finest Liquids we could find.  The Co-op had a two 4-pack limit for Heady and the only Lawson’s was a 40th Anniversary Ale made specifically for the Hunger Mountain Co-op so I grabbed a bottle. We also grabbed some lunch at the Co-op and if you have never been you must go as they have some amazing sandwiches, a salad bar and even do growler fills. I wish there was something similar available in Maine.

After the co-op we headed back to Hill Farmstead and arrived around 4:00 with a few hours to kill before the event  which was scheduled to start at 7:00. After a bit of rest we ended up on a picnic table with a growler of Hill Farmstead Holger Danske and a couple of people from New York / New Jersey. This was their first time visiting Hill Farmstead and they had not tried any beer from Hill Farmstead until then. We ended up finishing the growler before the event even started but it was a great way to start the night.

As 7:00 approached the crowd started to arrive and the food from Mad Taco was cooking. Everything smelled amazing and was being prepared right there with fresh onions being chopped, multiple charcoal grills cooking the meat and lots of great bread. Also the music started and the beer started to flow. There were 2 taps that initially were dedicated to Hill Farmstead beer and at least 2 that were pouring beer from other brewers including a cider from Chicago.

My beer drinking for the night included;

  • Abner without Principle (blend)
  • Ephraim, Society and Solitude (blend)
  • Civil Disobedience 4.5 (blend of this summer’s saisons)
  • Simcoe Single Hop
  • Brasserie Cantillon – Rose de Gambrinus
  • The Alchemist – Heady Topper
  • Cigar City Brewing – Dirac

The beer was amazing and there were no tickets or other limits, basically as fast as you could make it through the line you could get refills. I had very little food but what I had was excellent and the remainder smelled excellent. While the event was going I met some people that follow my blog which is always a lot of fun. Some time after 10:00 they stopped pouring but many people continued to hang out talking beer and enjoying the evening.

Eventually we made our way back to the tent feeling good and full of plenty of great beer. Our plan was to make it out before the masses arrived on Saturday so we woke early, tore down the tent, packed up the car and had some breakfast on one of the picnic tables. They were selling 750s of Ephraim on Saturday which was the one beer we could not get on Friday so we expected to hang around until the bottle filling started at 11:00 for the VIP ticket holders. Around 9:30 the door to the brewery opened and we went in to chat with some of the employees/volunteers that we met the previous evening. Eventually Ephraim made it to the tap and we got our bottles filled around 10:00 just before they kicked everyone out of the fill area.

The ride home should have been about three hours however shortly after getting on Highway 91 in Vermont we had an issue with a tire and had to stop to change over to the spare and eventually found a tire shop in St Johnsbury to get a replacement. This delayed our return home by at least 90 minutes but we still made it home mid-afternoon on Saturday with plenty of great beer in the coolers and a day of rest before heading back to work on Monday.

I believe the next Hill Farmstead event is May of 2013 so keep an eye on their website and/or Facebook page for details. Provided I can score some tickets I will certainly be out there again and would love to meet up with more followers of my blog. In the meantime if you have the opportunity to go to Vermont be sure to plan a trip to Hill Farmstead or if you are bored on a Saturday and want to take a day trip it is only 3-4 hours from most of Central / Southern Maine. It is well worth the trip but be sure to bring cash as they do not accept credit/debit cards or checks. And if you go let me know as I may want to place an order.

All the people that I met at the event; Hill Farmstead employees, volunteers, other beer drinkers, etc were great and everyone I encountered was there to have  a good time and enjoy some World class beer. I posted some more photos to my Facebook page if you are interested click here.

Vermont Beercation 7/4/2012

Last week I headed to Vermont for a 3-day trip with my wife, her sister and her husband. I spent a couple of days looking at reviews of places to visit and getting input from my Twitter and FB followers on places not to miss. After spending 3 days visiting 6 breweries and eating tons of great food I have to say the trip was as good as I have had.

We left Maine shortly after noon on July 4th and hit a micro burst just west of St Johnsbury. This was some of the worst weather I have ever driven in with huge amounts of rain, street flooding and multiple trees down. We had to detour several times and ended up many miles north before finally making our way back through Stowe to Waterbury. See photos and notes about the storm here.

After making it to Waterbury we were ready for supper and stopped at The Reservoir for dinner and drinks. At this point I had been driving for 4+ hours and needed a beer. Fortunately they had a great tap list as well as some great burgers. I had a Hill Farmstead Edward, then an Abner and ended with a Celia Saison from The Alchemist.

My brother in law opted for a sampler including; Lawson’s Knockout Blonde, Fiddlehead IPA, Harpoon Ginger Wheat and Hill Farmstead’s Abner. I tried each of these in addition to my 3 beers and enjoyed them all. I have reviewed Edward previously and will be reviewing Lawson’s Knockout Blonde in the near future. The others will have to wait for a future trip to Vermont as I did not take good pics or notes while drinking them. I can say the Celia Saison was different than anything I have had before. It is a Gluten free beer which may appeal to some people but for me the taste was a little too funky. The food was amazing with great chicken wings, sweet potato fries and burgers. After this stop we made our way to our hotel in Burlington for the night. It was a long drive and we needed our rest for the next three days.

On Thursday our first stop was The Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, VT just north or Burlington. They had a huge selection of beer, wine, glassware and pretty much anything else you would need. We ended up with 3 cases of Heady Topper, bottles from Dogfish Head, Founders (Double Trouble) and much more that we cannot get in Maine as well as some Lawson’s Finest Liquids glasses. They did not have a limit on the amount of Heady Topper which was great as I needed to bring home a bunch for my Maine beer drinking friends. After this we made our way back to Burlington and spent some time on Church Street for some shopping. This is a great little marketplace that has something for everyone. We came back to Church Street on Friday and I will post some info on the restaurant we went to shortly.

For lunch we made our way to American Flatbread which is within walking distance of Church Street and they have their own brewery. The food there was amazing with my wife and her sister getting a very nice salad and then splitting a couple of pizzas. The small pizza was enough for two people to share even though the waitstaff encouraged us to get a large. We also had several beers from their tap list and since they serve halfs we were able to enjoy a bunch of different styles without drinking too much at lunch. We also ended up taking home a growler from Zero Gravity (their in house brewery) which I will review soon. (Read more after the break)

After American Flatbread we did a little more shopping before heading to Magic Hat for a tour, tasting and the experience of visiting “The Artifactory”. The brewery had a great setup with a nice retail/tasting area however it was a little too touristy for me. I prefer the small breweries where you actually get to go out on the brewery floor and see the process. Magic Hat has a video for the history of the company (lame) and a loft that you can look down on brewery floor but you get no where near the actual process. Tastings were nice and I got to try a Honey Wheat IPA which is only available at the brewery. Not terribly impressed with this beer so don’t feel like you are missing something by not trying it. Also tried their Imperial Pilsner which was not too exciting. Of course I do not like pilsners so that should not be a surprise.

If you like brewery tours I have to say that Allagash in Portland probably has the best tour of all the breweries I have visited.

Unfortunately we missed Switchback Brewery as they close at 5:00 but that evening we went to Vermont Pub & Brewery for dinner. After a short wait we were seated outside on a beautiful evening and enjoyed some great food. I had the pulled pork sandwich, wife had a steak sandwich and we also got sweet potato fries and wings. You might start to see a pattern regarding the fries and wings by the end of this post. The beer was good but not excellent and again they had samples, halfs and full pints available so we sampled many beers. A few that stood out are the Green Tea Beer and Forbidden Fruit. Both were excellent and different than most other beers out there. I like it when brewers test the limits of beer and both of these certainly do.

Overall this was a great place for dinner and drinks and if you find yourself in Burlington you should definitely go there for lunch or dinner.

On Friday we started the day by visiting the Warren Store in Warren, VT in search of Lawson’s Double Sunshine. They had 2 bottles left so I bought both as well as a couple of bottles of Knockout Blonde, reviews on each coming soon. We also had lunch there which was great, homemade bread and top quality turkey. The store is certainly out of the way but worth a visit. They also have lots of clothing which is very expensive but great quality.

After the Warren Store we headed back to Waterbury with the intention of taking a tour at Ben & Jerry’s. We arrived at a very busy Ben & Jerry’s facility with more people than any of us could stand. Also the tours that were supposed to start every 30 minutes were not going to start for 45 minutes. We quickly left Ben & Jerry’s and headed just down the road to The Alchemist Brewery. The retail store was small but offered samples, t-shirts, stickers and glassware. There really was not a tour but you can enter a small viewing area near the fermentation tanks to look around. Not a lot going on the day we were there other than some bubbles in buckets from happy yeast. Unlike Ben & Jerry’s the brewery was almost empty which was a nice change after the mob scene down the road.

At this point it was Friday afternoon and our short vacation was more than half over.

We needed a place for supper so I polled my FB and Twitter friends and received many suggestions. We opted to head back to Church Street and see what we could find. Ended up at Sweetwaters which was excellent. Enjoyed a Switchback Ale and a Mountain Ale by Shed Brewing. Both were excellent and went well the wings, sandwiches and sweet potato fries. More great food and beer. After supper the wives went off to do some shopping and my brother in law and I headed back to American Flatbread for another beer. Tried their London Calling which is a very low ABV session beer. The place was packed and we never actually made it to the bar or table before finishing our beer, meeting up with our wives and heading home for the night.

Saturday morning we went to the Burlington Farmer’s Market which was excellent. Lots of vendors with fresh fruit and produce and several places selling wine and spirits. We found lots of stuff to buy and then headed out to Montpelier to visit the Hunger Mountain Co-op in search of more Lawson’s Double Sunshine. We arrived shortly before lunch and found a great selection of beer including all the Double Sunshine we could buy as there was a 2 bottle per person limit. We also ended up buying lunch and a few other things from the co-op. This is a great place and I wish there was something similar in my area. At this point the car was overloaded with luggage, purchases and lots and lots of beer but we headed north to Hill Farmstead.

This was a bit of a drive but so worth it. The brewery is about 3 miles down a dirt road in the middle of no where Vermont. However since I live in the middle of no where Maine we found it quite easily. The brewery was quite busy with cars from New York, Mass, Maine and other states. They had a small tasting area setup outside – any of the beers on tap – tasting for $1 and 2 of them you could buy a cup for $5. I went right into the brewery as I knew I was buying a bit of everything. Line was about 4 deep when we entered and remained at least that busy the entire time we were there. I ended up with 8 – 750 ml bottles and 3 stem glasses. Shaun (owner/brewer) and another employee were filling bottles as fast as the taps would allow. Everyone agreed that Hill Farmstead was the best beer of the trip and the total haul was 12 – 750 ml and a 2 liter growler.

You would think at this point we would be done as this was brewery #5 in 3 days and huge amounts of beer purchased and consumed but I had a gift card from Woodstock Inn & Brewery in Woodstock NH so off we went for one last stop. Again we ordered pub appetizers; wings, nachos, onion rings and some stuffed mushroom thing. We also had a sampler of beer and some pints but after our stop at Hill Farmstead the beer here seemed a bit of a let down. After our time at the bar we purchased a couple of growlers of beer, bombers of their 4000’er IPA and a couple of growlers of root beer for the kids. This was a neat little addition that I had never seen before and something fun to bring home for the kids we left behind with grandma.

That was our final stop of our beercation and we headed back to Maine via the scenic Kancamagus Highway. The car was so loaded down at this point the hills were rather difficult to climb. Total beer haul for the trip;

  • The Alchemist – Heady Topper – 72 (3 cases) / 16 oz cans
  • Hill Farmstead – Various – 12 / 750 ml bottles & 1 / 2 liter growler
  • Lawson’s Finest – 10 bottles of Double Sunshine & 2 bottles of Knockout Blonde
  • Magic Hat – 2 growlers
  • Zero Gravity – 2 growlers
  • Vermont Pub & Brewery – 2 growlers
  • Woodstock Inn & Brewery – 2 growlers and 2 bombers (plus 2 growlers of root beer)
  • Founders – 2 / 4 packs of Double Trouble
  • 5 other bombers and about a few 12 oz bottles

This was an amazing 3-day voyage hitting 6 breweries/brew pubs as well as a few restaurants with amazing tap lists. We had some great food and spent lots of quality time with my wife. Will certainly be heading to Vermont again soon. If you are planning a trip to Vermont you may be able to find a few places we did not hit in our three days but if you follow our path you will not be disappointed.