Maple syrup not your style? Go best tasting in Vermont! Image by Paige Trubatch.
While Vermont may be know for flannel, those two ice cream guys, and the good maple syrup, any travel-wise beer geek will find that this small state packs a bubbly punch. Over a few short trips, I’ve begun to love the Green Mountain State for its kind and generous residents, eclectic tastes, and DIY sensibility. And, of course, for its craft beer scene.
Though I could write a whole post on the cult obsession surrounding Vermont’s Heady Topper Double IPA by The Alchemist (It’s rationed, I tell you!), my three-day trip to Burlington and Plymouth were rich in other flavors I wish to share.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of a northern beer-cation without breaking the bank.
Where to Sleep
The Burlington Hostel is one of the most comfortable and cozy hostels I’ve stayed in in a long time. At $40/per night, it’s affordable for a short stay, as well as clean. The common area feels open and light, with windows facing onto Main Street.
The simplest perks are sometimes the most appreciated. The complimentary coffee and Belgian waffle maker are perfect in the morning to rouse your senses before you explore the small city.
Airbnb is fantastic option as well, particularly in a state with plenty of pricier inns and hotels. I stayed with a warm and welcoming couple in their tucked-away farmhouse style home (which they built themselves with recycled barn wood) during my first visit, and was promptly put to work driving up the mountain to collect spring water in a jug.
I also indulged in homemade raspberry jam and bread with (raspberry) iced tea in the mornings before setting off to explore. Having run their own bed & breakfast on the same property in Stowe for over 20 years, where my host’s father built her childhood home-turned-seasonal inn in the 1940s, the couple were well-versed in guiding me to the best trails and sharing local history.
Photo Credit: The Burlington Hostel at 53 Main Street, Burlington, VT.
Mingle with the Locals
I love to check local listings for upcoming events or festivals in the area where I’ll be traveling. I find it’s a great way to stay on-budget more often than not, and it’s a chance experience the various subcultures or niche interest groups where like-minded folks gather in your new, temporary locale. Firkin Monday, a tasting event in honor of speciality cask-conditioned “Real Ale,” at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, was a great excuse to get out of the hostel as a solo traveler. With my ticket in hand, I braved the crowd to dive right in and indulge my love of beer education and adorable sea creatures.
The event hosted only regional breweries from Vermont and Maine, which added to the sense of being firmly rooted in my trip. One brew that I most enjoyed was from none other than the Trapp Family Brewery (yes, of “The hills are alive” Von Trapps in Stowe). Their Trapp Dunkel tasted rich, smooth, and a little toasty — a fitting compliment to the waterfront sunset.
Free Tours and Tastings
Day two of your mini beer-cation begins at the Magic Hat Brewery and Artifactory located in South Burlington, the funkiest and most whimsical brewery I’ve yet to check off my wishlist. Visitors may take their time admiring the local artwork and past Magic Hat bottle collections, in addition to viewing a vintage-style video detailing the brewing process, all on the self-guided tour.
After overlooking the production process, make your way back downstairs for four free samples and to chat with the friendly folks behind the bar. Hop Drip IPA, brewed in collaboration with the local Speeder and Earl’s, comes out on top as my taste test winner. Breakfast beer, indeed! Even the tap handle is designed like a to-go coffee cup, a very clever touch.
Further south in our journey, Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners feels more like your neighborhood watering hole, complete with a standout collection of fresh beers on tap. The horseshoe-shaped bar adds to the social aspect of the space, and flights of four samples are served in a muffin pan. This was such a simple yet brilliant presentation and is the kind of thing to make all of your Pinterest followers collectively swoon. Needless to say, cold beer must be accompanied by flavorful snacks, and we were soon on our way to our indulgent final destination.
Eat Local with a Side of History
Plymouth Artisan Cheese at the Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth is a living, breathing, fermenting piece of rich Americana as one of the oldest cheese-making operations in the country, at over 124 years old. Started by John Coolidge, President Calvin Coolidge’s father, the factory and shop today are a true treat for those who know where to look.
History nerds will rejoice at the extensive collection of antique farm equipment on display in the barns, as well as the church, gardens, and apple trees that bring the homestead to life. The highlight of my trip: I experienced a real slice of Vermont hospitality, topped off with a hearty sampling of several flavors and a box of crackers for a campfire picnic.
When in Vermont, all you need is good company, crisp drinks, and the scent of fresh-fallen pine needles as you improvise a cracker grilled cheese with a pocketknife and forked twig. This is the good life, if you ask me. I’ll be back soon.