Destinations

15 Best Beer Bars in Vermont

I spend way more time in bars in Vermont than I would like to—or should probably— admit. But, let’s face it, my waistline and bank account don’t lie. The many pubs, taverns and beer bars across the state are pouring some serious Green Mountain liquid gold right now that is simply hard to resist. Whether it’s snowing and I want to curl up with a porter in a cozy basement bar or a summer afternoon where sipping juicy suds al fresco reminds me why I choose to live in Vermont, there are countless watering holes in Vermont to get your craft-beer drink on.

Since I often get the question, “Where do you drink?” or “Where do you recommend I stop to find X, Y, or Z Vermont beer on tap?”, I’ve compiled my top 15 beer bars in Vermont. Here I introduce to you my Vermont beer bar bible with an in-depth look at my favorite beer bars throughout the state. What would you add to the list?

Top 15 Beer Bars in Vermont from Travel Like a Local: Vermont

15. Doc’s Tavern, Rochester, Vermont.
Rochester is a charming town but—to many—a pass through rather than a destination. Doc’s Tavern, located at the Huntington House, is a local’s bar, and it boasts a tremendous tap list with over 15 mostly Vermont drafts, including Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Otter Creek, Foley Brothers, and Bent Hill. It’s one of the three townie bars in the area (The Clear River Tavern in Pittsfield and D’s Doghouse in Granville are the others) and a great place to people watch. Make a night of it with sleeping quarters just next door and morning treats at Sandy’s Books and Bakery (the bagels are the best in the state, IMO).

14. The Windsor Station Restaurant & Barroom, Windsor, Vermont
The Windsor Station is relatively new to the Vermont bar scene after a remodel in 2013 that gave new life to the historic railway location. There’s always a good mixture of Vermont beers on tap (Zero Gravity, 14th Star, Burlington Beer, Hermit Thrush, Otter Creek, Fiddlehead and nearby Harpoon) and favorites from away, including Ballast Point, Victory, Oskar Blues, and Alesmith. If you’re in the area, come for the beer and stay for the live music, happening four days a week.

13. Bar Antidote, Vergennes, Vermont
Bar Antidote in Vergennes—the smallest and oldest city in Vermont—has been one of my local watering holes for years now. I don’t just go to the bar to see Clark Kent (but seriously, the bartender Christian looks just like him, ladies!) or for the burgers or the side cars that accompany all of their martinis. They bring in out-of-state beers—Two Roads, Dogfish Head, Stone—but also have a good selection of Vermont beers and ciders. Don’t visit just for the beer… the food is some of the best in Addison Country, and the Maple Crème Brûlée is outstanding.

12. Manhattan Pizza, Burlington, Vermont
If you’re looking for craft beer in Burlington and don’t want to stop by one of the breweries downtown, Manhattan Pizza is a solid option that is easy on the wallet as well. Yes, you can get Heady and Focal and a variety of Hill Farmstead beers, along with pours from Long Trail, Harpoon, Switchback, Otter Creek, Hermit Thrush, etc. The space is a little dingy but on warm summer days, you can sit in the window and take in the sights and sounds of the Queen City. If you’re hung over, the Tater-Totchos (think nachos with tater tots) are a must.

11. The Bench, Stowe, Vermont
The Bench, which is the sister restaurant to the Reservoir in Waterbury, is a comfort food and craft beer mecca that boasts a warm and welcoming ambiance. The draft list is extensive and draws attention to breweries nearby, like Rock Art, Lost Nation, Stowe Cider and Von Trapp Brewing, among other Vermont favorites. There is a large pub space that fills quickly for après ski, but the bartenders are some of the best of the best and are impressively quick and attentive.

10. The Reservoir, Waterbury, Vermont
I have a fond memory of one of my first visits to the Reservoir in the craft beer hub that is Waterbury. I sipped The Bruery’s Or Xata on a late summer day, and I longed for more of that deliciousness for weeks. The Res is the largest of the three main watering holes in Waterbury, making it relatively easy to find a seat at the bar or grab a table. The portions are huge, and the poutine is some of the best in Vermont. The Reservoir is a great place for larger parties, especially in the summer months when their deck overlooking main street is open.

9. Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, Vermont
Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, VermontFor years I avoided Farmhouse Tap & Grill, just a half block off Church Street in downtown Burlington, because 1) it’s easily the most-talked-about Vermont beer bar for craft beer lovers and, therefore, always packed and 2) it’s pricier than it should be—I can barely escape from a lunch for two for under $75. But, I have come to really enjoy their $20 burgers, and they do win the prize for the very best fries in Vermont. The beer selection is killer as well, comprised of 24 taps. The usual Vermont suspects always make an appearance along with some obscure imports, like Unibroue from Quebec and Kazematten from Belgium. They offer half pours to allow you to taste even more craft beers.

8. Three Penny Taproom, Montpelier, Vermont
Three Penny Taproom is a sister property to Mule Bar in Winooski and has a rugged, friendly vibe to it. My first experience at Three Penny made a lasting impression on me, and it’s wasn’t just the sign on the wall that proudly proclaims that they don’t sell any Anheuser Busch products. It was the bartenders that made an impression… They were knowledgeable; they kidded around; they never let my glass become empty. Three Penny Tap Room is easily Montpelier’s friendliest pub with a winning combo of great food, great servers and a great beer selection. They also play a huge role in the community as a sponsor for many events and host many fundraisers at the tap room—just another reason to visit our capital city and Three Penny.

7. Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, Vermont
Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, VermontI have a love-hate relationship with Prohibition Pig, as I long for the days of the Alchemist in the same location pre-Hurricane Irene. It’s often challenging to get a seat without a wait at ProPig, but lucky for us beer drinkers, they opened up their own brewery in the back of the building this summer. In addition to their own beers, they also serve their full draught list in both locations and have crowlers and growlers of their own brews for takeaway. Another plus: the brewery is open for lunch every day, filling the void for a quality lunch option in Waterbury during the week. Half pours are available if you want to try a variety of samples. Don’t skip over their house-made beer… It always impresses me.

6. Doc Ponds, Stowe, Vermont
I am a big fan of Eric Warnstedt, owner of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and Burlington, and most recently, Doc Ponds in Stowe. As opposed to the fine dining found at Hen, Doc Ponds really is a beer bar (yes, they have spirits and wine—boozy milkshakes even). Eric brings in the best of the best when it comes to Vermont beer and runs specials regularly, like $4 cans of Zero Gravity on Tuesdays, as well as special casks on occasion. You can also get a burger for $7 and bottles of the elusive Backacre sour golden ale, which are reasons enough to stop into one of the best beer bars in Vermont.

And you’ve made it to… The Top 5 Beer Bars in Vermont from Travel Like a Local: Vermont

5. Worthy Burger, South Royalton, Vermont
Worthy Burger, South Royalton, VermontThe ambiance of the Worthy Burger is what first lured me in, and the open-flame burgers and impressive beer list have kept me road tripping back. It’s the perfect destination on a rainy Sunday when you don’t have any real agenda. Try to snag a seat at the bar. I’ve had some of the best conversations with strangers at Worthy Burger; everyone is happy and eager to share stories about beer.

The Worthy Burger often has tap takeovers (from Lagunitas to Hill Farmstead to Founders to Lawson’s) and tends to have a beer selection unlike other beer bars in the state. On a recent visit, I enjoyed Prairie Hop, Two Roads’ Roadsmary’s Baby, Peanut Butter & Jelly Barrel-Aged Framinghammer from Jack’s Abby and Cherry Short Weisse from Smuttlabs—quite the line-up. Don’t miss the beef tallow fries, the perfect complement to their seriously fine craft beer offerings.

4. Parker Pie, West Glover, Vermont
Parker Pie, West Glover, VermontSean Lawson is to the Warren Store, as Shaun Hill is to Parker Pie (an analogy for true beer nerds…) Parker Pie is a must when you’re visiting  Hill Farmstead Brewery. Located about 20 minutes from Hill Farmstead, it’s the only a popular spot in West Glover built into the back of a general store.

Parker Pie’s draft list is kick-ass with hard-to-find Hill Farmstead and Grassroots beers (Madness and Solitude and Abner; Convivial Suarez and Brother Soigne). They often do special events when something is going on at Hill Farmstead like the Festival of Farmhouse Ales, Zwanze Day or have a guest brewery in town. It’s the only place in Vermont I’ve ever found Cantillon bottles as well. There’s a big deck and picnic tables outside for leisurely day drinking in the summer, and the interior with fiery pizza ovens is quite a cozy place to curl up when the snow is falling. There are many Airbnb’s in the area if you want to make a night of it.

3. Mad Taco, Waitsfield, Vermont
Mad Taco, Waitsfield, VermontThe Mad Taco might not look like much when you pull into its “strip mall” setting in Waitsfield… And it might not look like much either when you walk into the very best Mexican restaurant in Vermont. (Didn’t your parents teach you not to judge a book by its cover?) The Taco’s relaxed appearance is part of the charm.

Mad Taco really has become one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Vermont, whether for lunch after the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market or during a cold snap in the winter when I know a Chili ColoradoBig Daddy Fatty will warm me up. Besides the awesome Mexican fare, the Mad Taco serves only the best of the best when it comes to beer. Sean Lawson often delivers his kegs himself and sends along rare batches too (like JST Saison and Reverse Migration just this weekend). They always have some Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead on tap but also bring in a wide variety of out-of-state brews to diversify. Did I mention $5 Heady’s and $6 Focal Bangers? Get there. You’ll soon understand its unique appeal.

2. Mule Bar, Winooski, Vermont
Mule Bar, Winooski, VermontI refer to Mule Bar as “my bar” even though it’s 45 minutes from home; it’s that special to me. Located on the circle in Winooski in the same block as Our House Bistro, Sneakers and Tiny Thai, it’s a great bar outside of Burlington to get your drink on. Be forewarned that there’s only one TV that’s usually showing black-and-white movies, so you’ll actually need to converse with your companions. Mule Bar always has your standard Vermont breweries, but it’s also a great bar to find Four Quarters’ beer from down the street or Hermit Thrush’s sours from southern Vermont. They tend to have good representation from Maine too with Allagash and Maine Beer Co. Founders and Ballast Point make regular appearances as well.

One of the best things about Mule Bar—other than the soy wings and BBQ burger they sometimes have as specials—are the tap takeovers. One of my favorites this year was Dogfish Head, when they randalled beer with gummy bears, coffee beans, pineapple, coconut, and more fun ingredients. They always have great bottles and cans too from Evil Twin, Crooked Stave, the Alchemist, Prairie, Jack’s Abby, The Bruery, etc. Don’t neglect their house-made cocktails either; they go so far as to make their own quinine and bitters Ask about their “Cereal Killer” cocktail if you’ve had enough beer for the night…

1. Blackback Pub, Waterbury, Vermont
Blackback Pub, Waterbury, VermontI am ashamed to admit I was hesitant to try Blackback Pub for almost a year. I never heard anyone talk about Blackback… truly not a peep until an out-of-state friend let me in on a little secret. Little did I know then that Blackback completes the holy trinity of beer bars in Waterbury. It has quickly became my number one watering hole in Vermont, and I can’t fully describe why.

There’s something so satisfying about pulling up to a barstool, being greeted promptly by the owner Dave with a big, genuine smile, and then having the hard decision of what you’ll drink. A handful of Hill Farmstead brews, small batches of Lawson’s Finest, Foley Brothers’ Pieces of Eight, 14th Star Maple Breakfast Stout on Nitro…must I continue?

The Blackback Pub has also introduced me to new breweries like Schilling based in Littleton, New Hampshire and gave me the opportunity to try Rodenbach on tap for the first time. It’s a small space with an even smaller porch for drinking outside, but that’s part of its charm for me. It literally feels like you’re drinking alongside friends. Whether you’re there to watch a game with friends, for date night, or just passing through on an epic beer tour of Vermont, I hope Blackback gives you the same welcome-home, fuzzy feeling it gives me.

What beer bars in Vermont would you add to the list? Share your recommendations below to keep the conversation going.

21 replies »

  1. Erin – my wife Lynn and l are so appreciative, words can’t match the fun and love we feel from our customers and friends from all over the beer community. We can’t wait to see you soon. Cheers. The Blackback Pub.

  2. Blackback pub is definitely my all time favorite. Very happy to see it on the list. My boyfriend and I visit Vermont frequently (we’re from Connecticut) and this is our go-to place. They open early, which makes it a great place to go after a long hike during the day. The beer list is rare and exceptional and the staff makes you feel like you’ve been coming there everyday for years. To top it all off the food is awesome and creative (trying the daily specials is a must).
    Cheers!

  3. The Monkey House- next to Mule! Currently on draft: 5 Maine Beers, Lawsons, Founders, Citizen, always Focal and Heady. 22 draft lines and two Rookies Sodas – I Work at the Monkey, so I am biased 🙂 all these other bars are great and I still need to try a few

  4. Living in NH, I gravitate to Maine and Vermont to find my beer fix. I can say with authority, Mike’s Tiki Bar in East Burks is worthy of the list. Where else can you find an outdoor venue in a dirt parking lot ( used for Kingdom Trails Mountain Biking ), have a food truck, thirty taps with mixed concoctions ( “The Salad” is a mix of citrus, pomegranate beers with a hard cider that is delicious ), in site of three other eating establishments, three lit sand volley ball courts and ground zero for the best mountain biking in the East.

    • I’ve never heard of it, John! Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to check it out. Sounds like my kind of place!

  5. I agree with almost all of your picks and even the order they are in – but DAMMIT, Erin – did you have to make Blackback even more crowded than it already is by publishing this and letting people know? (Insert winking emoticon here) Cheers!

    • Ha, Carl, agreed! I just think Dave and Lynn are great and they deserve even more attention – who knows, maybe they’ll be open for lunch and day drinking more days? And those Pub Nachos… DAMN!

  6. As a frequent visitor to VT I can attest to 5 of these (Res, Pig, 3 Penny, Farmhouse and Mad Taco (my fav)) being of excellent quality, and only wish I could import them to NJ 😉 I’m gonna have fun next visit hitting the other 10 and the additional suggestions from commenters.

  7. Vermont Pub and Brewery was a glaring omission. Greg Noonan (RIP) worked tirelessly with the state legislature until it was finally legal for brewpubs to operate. Heady Topper, for one, would not exist if it wasn’t for Greg and the VPB.

    • Hi Rick – Agreed. This post was for beer bars, rather than breweries. That’ll be another post coming soon!

  8. When I was at Saint Michael’s College, Mule Bar was Kell & Mahoney’s with $1 Bud pints and Sneakers next door had the closest thing to craft beer with Catamount and Bass on draught for $2.75. I was back there in June 2015 for our 25th anniversary and we all loved Mule Bar and spent some time there. I agree that the Farmhouse bar is overpriced and my $17.50 burger was mediocre at best. I would not go there again.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll add it to my personal list. So many great places in Vermont to explore.

    • Hi Charlie – Agreed with you with Lost Nation! It’s one of my favorite breweries in the state. It will be included in a different post that’s exclusively about Vermont breweries to visit in 2016. The cubano there is outstanding alongside a Mosaic. Mmmm.

  9. Erin: A brilliant list and a real service that will inspire who knows how many trips to Vermont. What a job you have. Thanks. David