Jim's Blog Ramblings about novels, comics, programming, and other geek topics


Hill Farmstead Brewery

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Part 10 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

Hill Farmstead Brewery is located in Greensboro in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Hill Farmstead was our original destination for driving this day, which we stopped at Rock Art Brewery on the way. I had never been to Hill Farmstead and based on beer snobs enthusiasts, the brewery is a required pilgrimage for all beer connoisseurs. Shaun Hill, head brewmaster and founder, was featured in Vanity Fair last month and has been called the best brewer in America by several organizations and articles. While many of their beers are ranked in the top 1% of both US and World beers (by style), I've only sampled the few available on tap in Burlington (Edward, Abner, Anna).


Rock Art Brewery

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Part 9 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

Rock Art Brewery is located in Morrisville, just north of Stowe. We picked up a pair of free tasting coupons after donating some money towards the UVM Extension's Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS) Retrofit charity drive. Along with the free tastings, we got a free tour of the brewery, two glasses, and two beer cozies.


Homebrewing and Vermont Beer

My Vermont Brewery tours were delayed a bit due to spending most of our weekends doing home improvement projects and yard work. Also, during the last few months I did get a chance to launch http://www.vtbeer.org and develop a WordPress plug-in using RateBeer API. Finally, I got the chance to make another small batch (1 gallon) of beer.


Vermont Pub & Brewery

Part 8 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

To most, the Vermont Pub & Brewery is the heart of the Vermont craft beer establishment. The founder established the brew pub after lobbying the Vermont legislature for three years in an effort legalize brewpubs. He also wrote several books and articles on brewing. His brew pub became a place where he could experiment with different concepts in small batches that help kick start and energize the craft beer business in Vermont.

I've visited the brewpub a couple times before, but that was before I knew about the Vermont Brewery Challenge, so I decided to stop by, have a beer, and get my Vermont Brewer's Passport Card stamped.

A few days before my visit, the first batch of beer brewed exclusively with Vermont raised hops (part of the University of Vermont's All Vermont-Grains and Hops Project). The first beer was a Rye IPA and I was looking forward to trying it out, but when I arrived they informed me that it sold out within two days and that the next batch will be arriving soon, so I ordered a Bombay Grab IPA.


Switchback Brewing Company

Part 7 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

The Switchback Ale was another of my first Vermont beers. One thing that's nice about taking the Vermont Brewery Challenge is that it gives you a better understanding of both the local aspect of the breweries and the beer itself while allowing you to taste a few beers that you might have already had before.

The Switchback Brewing Company building looks like a big warehouse. There's a tiny parking lot and the entrance to the retail store and tasting area is on the side of the building and obscured from the street. Follow the small signs that say "Main Office" to find the entrance. The warehouse area and parking lot felt a bit strange, since most breweries have the office/store facing the parking lot with bigger signs indicating you're at the right place.


The Alchemist

Part 6 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

The Alchemist was the first brewery in Vermont that I visited. I found the The Alchemist Brewery & Pub during our (May 2011) wedding, and we wanted to stop by and try a few of their beers. However, we never got a chance to stop by before we left the region.

A few months later, we were in the process of moving to Vermont and the Alchemist Pub & Brewery was the first restaurant/brewery that I wanted to visit once we arrived. I arrived in Vermont two days prior to Hurricane Irene and I thought that I'll visit the brewery after the storm passes and that I'll just spend my first days in Vermont buying supplies and unpacking. However, Hurricane Irene (in September 2011) flooded the basement of the brewery where all of the tanks were stored and nearly destroyed everything.

Alchemist Heady Topper - Four PackLuckily for all of us, the owner (John Kimmich) decided not to give up after having his brewery nearly destroyed. Instead, he moved all of his operations to the Alchemist Cannery (about 1/2 mile away from Pub) which had been under development at the time of the hurricane. A few weeks after Hurricane Irene passed through, the Alchemist held a special event in their flood damaged building during the Waterbury Harvest Festival where we quickly picked up a few bottles of Heretic and Luscious and a "Hell or High Water" t-shirt to help the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund. You can read more about the Alchemist in their blog archives. The Luscious won the silver medal in the British-Style Imperial Stout beer style category at the 2012 World Beer Cup.


Brewery at Trapp Family Lodge

Part 5 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

The next brewery I visited was the Brewery at Trapp Family Lodge. We visited Stowe for some hiking, but we found the trails to be closed. So after our scenic drive over Smuggler's Notch, we decided to explore a bit. We had never been to the Trapp Family Lodge, and I was completely surprised when we arrived.

The Family Lodge has incredible views, a disc golf course, tons of trails, and lots of activities. I didn't realize the lodge was so large.


Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Part 4 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

Lawson's Finest Liquids seems to be one of the more elusive Vermont brews. In fact, the Vermont Brewery Challenge even gives you a free stamp for this brewery! Just a few days prior to our search for the beer, Lawson's Maple Triple just won the Silver Medal in the 2012 World Beer Cup.

A select few hand picked Vermont restaurants each serve a different Lawson's Finest brew and you might be able to find the brewer at a local farmer's market. There's also a few other stores to find these highly sought after beers. The store with the best inventory and selection is the local general store in Warren which offers a rotating line-up of bottles that varies each week.

Lawson's Finest Liquids were also just featured on NPR's All Things Considered in the story title Vermont Beer Makers Bring Back Old-Time Maple Sap Brews. I didn't see the Sap Beer at the general store, but I'll definitely be looking for it.


Otter Creek Brewing Company

Part 3 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

Otter Creek Brewing is one of the larger brewing companies within Vermont. This brewery purchased The Shed Brewery from Stowe, VT and Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales (USDA Certified Organic). Wolaver's was based out of California and the brand sold very well within Vermont, so in 1997 the two companies merged. Now, Wolaver's is produced alongside other Otter Creek beer keeping the tradition of using local and organic ingredients.

Otter Creek Brewing CompanyI had purchased Otter Creek variety pack at a grocery store when we first moved to Vermont. At that time, I was seeking out local breweries and it was available in nearly every store. I had also previously purchased a six-pack of Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales, but at that time, I didn't know it was owned/operated by Otter Creek.

Since The Shed Brewery & Restaurant is now closed (purchased by Otter Creek), we received both The Shed Brewery and Otter Creek stamps here. At this point in the challenge, we have 4 stamps (5 counting the free stamp for Lawson's), so we qualify for a free "Drink Vermont Beer" bottle opener magnet. However, both of us have our sights set upon more than the bottle opener!


Fiddlehead Brewing Company

Part 2 of many. View the start of my Vermont Brewery Challenge here.

I first discovered Fiddlehead IPA at a local restaurant and by the end of my meal the IPA had became one of my favorite IPAs. I've wanted to visit this brewery since I first tasted their IPA. Of all of the beer that I tasted on my first day on the Vermont Brewery Challenge, this one was on the top of my list of wanting to visit. This brewery is also one of the newer Vermont breweries, so it's logo isn't on the older Vermont Brewery Challenge Passport cards. The Fiddlehead Brewing Company has a stack of the new Passport cards located on their serving bar, so we picked up a newer version of the card.

Fiddlehead Brewing Company The brewery is located on Route 7, just south of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and across the street from the Shelburne Winery. They have a large parking lot and additional parking across the street at the Shelburne Winery.

When we arrived, the brewery was empty except for "Matty O" working behind the large glass window and the server at the bar. My wife and I were treated to three samples of their brews: IPA, Hef-You Hefeweizen, and Blonde. I'm a big fan of hoppy IPAs, so I'm very pleased we got free samples of all three beers. Otherwise, I would have ordered a glass or sample of their IPA, but since they offered multiple beer to sample, I was able to taste two Fiddlehead brews that I hadn't tasted before.