All Who Wander: New Hampshire and Vermont Brewery Edition
One of my favorite parts of traveling is finding local breweries to check out. When my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip to New Hampshire and Vermont this past weekend, we agreed to skip the pretext of sight-seeing and just get right to the good stuff: we decided to take a beer road trip. We've done this in the past (we try to head up to Vermont once a year to stock up on beer we can't get in Philly), but this time we were more aggressive about it. Like "13 breweries in three days" aggressive.
13 breweries in three days probably sounds like a lot, and that's because it is. This trip was not for the faint of heart (or anyone concerned about their weight or general health). But a week of temperance and salads is a small price to pay for a trip that left us with four four-packs of Heady Topper, two Fiddlehead growlers, 10 bottles of Hill Farmstead, two cases of Citizen Cider and a six pack of Zero Gravity (in addition to countless flights and pints).
So maybe we went a little overboard. I regret nothing.
Please note: I'm not a beer connoisseur; I'm not here to tell you if something has a "grassy finish" or a "pleasant mouthfeel." But I do drink a lot of beer and I know what I like. So, if you happen to find yourself in New England, here are my beer recommendations.
Okay, so it's not some tiny, hip brewery you can brag about discovering to your friends. But with a free tour and $4 flights, Smuttynose is worth a visit.
Drink this: DIPA #4 (Double IPA)
This is the brewery I'm most excited to recommend to people. It's relatively new (2016) and a little off the beaten path (it's in an old plumbing supply warehouse), but this tiny brewery is serving up one of the best saisons I've ever had. Plus, the bartenders are incredibly nice.
Drink this: Sapsucker (Saison)
Great Rhythm is directly across from Liar's Bench...if you're willing to walk across the train tracks and through some plants that may or may not make your skin break out. Worth it, honestly. The taproom sits on the North Hill Pond and offers up a beautiful view, along with some decent IPAs.
Drink this: Hi-Fi (IPA)
I like a funky beer. Like, really funky. Think "what am I drinking, do I even like this" funky. Though Earth Eagle offers up some standards for the less adventurous drinkers, I go for the gruits. Basically, these are beers that use a herbal mixture to flavor beer rather than hops. They're weird and kind of sour and I'm sure I'm not making them sound appealing, but I swear they're worth a try. Good luck finding the brewery though; it's technically right in the middle of downtown Portsmouth, but you'll likely need to ask a local to point you in the right direction.
Drink this: Sweepy McGhee (Gruit); Capital X (Smoked Ale)
We planned our entire trip around being able to get Portsmouth Brewery's Bluebeery, a fruit beer made with 200 pounds of Maine blueberries that my boyfriend had once and still dreams about. Unfortunately, it was only on tap for a matter of weeks before they ran out, well before we got there. Oh well. Maybe next year, right?
Drink this: Black Cat Stout
I once got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive an hour and wait in line IN THE SNOW to buy a case of Heady Topper from a co-op. Now that their brewery and visitors center is open in Stowe, my life is a lot easier. You'll only be able to buy two four-packs of Heady Topper at a time (they can three additional beers that also have restrictions on how many you can buy at once) and you should be prepared to wait, but isn't it worth it for one of the most famous beers in the world?
Drink this: Heady Topper (American Double IPA)
Admittedly, I really only wanted to drink at the von Trapp Brewery for the Sound of Music connection (yes, it's part of the von Trapp lodge, which is owned by THOSE von Trapps), but the brewery is worth a visit. The beers are decent if not particularly noteworthy, though the pilsner is a cut above the rest. If you need some snacks to soak up the beer, check out the cheese platter and the sauerkraut mashed potatoes.
Drink this: Bohemian Pilsner
People joke that visiting Hill Farmstead is like visiting the Mecca of craft breweries, mostly because it isn't exactly the easiest place to get to. I can personally attest to this: it's in the middle of fucking nowhere. And honestly, I don't think their beers on tap are anything to write home about (plus, you can get them at a few bars around Burlington). So why make the trip? The bottles. Hill Farmstead's bottles can only be bought at the brewery and are far more interesting than their standard drafts, so if you really want to cement your place as your local craft beer snob, you're going to have to make the trip.
Drink this: Anna (Saison/Farmhouse Ale)
Go for the BBQ, stay for the beer. A few friends had raved about the food at Prohibition Pig, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. The fact that they also brew their own beer? Even better. If you don't see anything that catches your eye on their house menu, check out their more-than-decent guest taps. Oh, and make sure you order the pulled pork and the cheddar grits.
Drink this: Two-A-Days (Kettle Sour)
Foam only opened in 2016 on the Burlington waterfront, but they already have a cult following (if the huge line and numerous people who recommended it to us are any indication). Plus, they brew a sour named after a Smiths album, so they obviously know the way to my heart.
Drink this: Hatful of Hollow (American Wild Ale)
You can check out Zero Gravity's original location inside Flatbread Brewpub in downtown Burlington (and pick up some pizza while you're at it), but I personally prefer their newer brewery just a few miles away. Though I hadn't planned on stopping by this trip, I was drawn in by their Citizen Zero, a collaboration with Citizen Cider. If cider beers aren't your thing, you can't go wrong with their lager. Make sure you check their website before visiting though, because they serve different beers at each of their locations.
Drink this: Citizen Zero (Cider Beer); Green State Lager
I'm picky about my ciders. My first exposure to hard ciders was when I lived in the UK, and ever since then I've found it hard to stomach sickly sweet American ciders (looking at you, Angry Orchard). I can say, hands down, that Citizen Cider is my favorite hard cider in the world. Crisp and not too sweet (a few are even made with hops), this is cider for people who don't like cider. Careful though; the ABV on these are higher than you'd expect.
Drink this: The Dirty Mayor (Lemon Ginger Cider)
Fiddlehead Brewing Company
Another brewery that shares a space with a pizza shop, Fiddlehead offers cans, growler fills and plenty of free (yes, free!) samples. Oh, and everyone who works there is incredibly nice. If you can, try to get one of their beers made with Brettanomyces yeast (there's a whole "Brett" series).
Drink this: Brett on the Dancefloor (Fermented with Brettanomyces and then dry hopped)