Around the end of January, RateBeer announces their awards for best new brewers, best beers in the world, best beers by style, best beer destinations, and so on. Every year, Vermont is being recognized more extensively for the seriously good craft beer being produced throughout our great state.
In 2017, a whole slew of Vermont breweries, brewers, and brews were recognized by RateBeer. Some of the most notable awards included Foam Brewers being named in the sixth spot for Best New Brewers in the World and Hill Farmstead’s Shaun Hill being recognized as the very Best Brewer in the World. No surprise there, right?
By subregion, some of Vermont’s best restaurants, bars, and bottle shops were recognized, including:
- American Flatbread Burlington Hearth / Zero Gravity for best brewpub
- Prohibition Pig for best restaurant
- Hill Farmstead for best brewer tap room
- Craft Beer Cellar – Waterbury for best bottle shop
- Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier for best grocery
- Blackback Pub in Waterbury for best bar in Vermont
RateBeer’s beer critics are certainly accomplished. 11 of their members have over 20,000 completed reviews and 406 master beer tasters have over 4,000 reviews. But what does a local who frequents Vermont’s best bars and bottle shops, and drinks plenty of Vermont craft beer, think of these rankings?
Find my choices below for the best beer destinations in Vermont. Book your trip this summer to sip some of the finest suds in the country (and really, the world)! P.S. If you need a custom beer itinerary based on your palette and preferences, shoot me a note!
Travel Like a Local: Vermont’s 2017 Picks for the Best Beer Destinations in Vermont
Best Brewery in Vermont:
I’ve written extensively about the best breweries in Vermont, and it’s hard for me to pick favorites since so many of them are worth a visit. With that said, here are my top three picks for 2017 and the reasons why:
Hill Farmstead – For a road trip adventure, to say you’ve been to the “best brewery in the world” and to slay some serious whales from their ever-rotating onsite offerings.
Foam Brewers – For some of the best IPAs in the state right now and the best charcuterie platter you’ll ever have… with a funky, industrial setting inside and awesome views of Lake Champlain outside.
Four Quarters – For inventive brews, a low-key vibe, and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re drinking unique brews in your buddy’s basement or garage.
Best Vermont Beer Bar:
Blackback Pub, Waterbury, Vermont
I agree with RateBeer wholeheartedly that Blackback Pub is the best bar in the state with the most extensive tap list full of sought-after brews. They regularly have four or five beers from Hill Farmstead, a few from Lawson’s Finest Liquids, including rare beers that are hard to find in the area, along with beers from breweries you don’t see as often in Vermont: Siren, St. Bernardus, Four Quarters, River Roost, Boneyard, Frost, etc. Owners Dave and Lynn are an attraction themselves and easily some of the friendliest, most attentive, and most passionate bar owners in Vermont. To compliment the beer, don’t miss the Pub Nachos (bacon, blue cheese, and a chipotle-maple glaze!) – my favorite appetizer in Vermont.
Interested in finding some other watering holes? Find my list of my favorite beer bars in Vermont here.
Best Brewpub in Vermont:
Lost Nation, Morrisville, Vermont
Lost Nation stands out as the best brewpub in Vermont based on just how delicious their food is… it would be one of my favorite go-to restaurants for lunch in Vermont even without the beer. In the summer, the smoker in their beer garden puts out some seriously flavorful meats. The food is inventive and something you wouldn’t necessarily think you’d find at a brewery. From Buffalo Cauliflower to Gouda and Gose Fondue as appetizers, to a Roasted Lamb Pita and Pork Confit Cubano as main meals, everything on the menu is flavor-packed and pushing the boundary of what a traditional brewpub offers.
Runner up: Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vermont
Vermont Restaurant With the Best Beer Selection:
Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Burlington, Vermont
I was tempted to give the Vermont restaurant with the best beer selection to Hen of the Wood – Waterbury, as where else in the state can you find Heady on tap and Backacre readily available in bottles? But Farmhouse Tap and Grill in Burlington takes it. Pair a pint of one of their 30 beers on tap with one of the best burgers in the state, and you have a seriously winning combo. There’s always a wide variety of local brews on tap, along with a wide selection from breweries on the left coast and overseas, including Stone, Verhaeghe, North Coast, De Dolle, Rodenbach, etc.
Best Bottle Shop in Vermont:
Craft Beer Cellar, Waterbury, Vermont
I also agree with RateBeer that CBC in Waterbury has the best selection and most knowledgeable staff of any beer store in Vermont. They have a ton of brews to choose from, and unlike some other bottle shops in Vermont, their beers are largely fresh and not covered in dust (a huge plus for this girl). There are almost never lines, so you’re not going to be fighting over a single can or a four pack of a limited release, which is often the case at another popular bottle shop in Vermont. It’s an enjoyable browsing experience with an awesome selection… what more do you need? It’s always worth a stop when you’re in “Waterbeery” to scout the shelves and pick up a brew or two you’ve never tried.
Runner up: I’m hard pressed to name one. We need a few more good options in the state!
Most Impressive Brewery in Vermont:
The Alchemist, Stowe, Vermont
The Alchemist’s new facility in Stowe, Vermont, is a stunning sight for a beer connoisseur. It might not be the biggest brewery in Vermont, but it is incredibly expansive with rows and rows of stainless tanks. While sipping on a few tasters in the line for cans, you can watch some of the action, if they happen to be brewing when you’re visiting. I also dig the artwork inside and out by Vermont’s very own Jess Graham, who is the staff artist for The Alchemist, and a big part of their anti-marketing mission.
Runner up: Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vermont
Best Gas Station for Beer:
Jolley, Jericho, Vermont
Growing up in New Jersey (which I still hate to admit…), we could never buy beer at a gas station. When I came to Vermont for college, imagine my delight when you could pull up to almost any gas station and find a good selection of locally made craft beers. Whenever I’m road tripping around the state and stop at a gas station, I take a look at their beer selection. It’s often better than you might suspect. The Jolley in Jericho stands out for their beer cave. Rumor has it the owner is a big beer guy, so you can often find some harder-to-find, speciality bottles on the shelves… They do growlers fills as well, although the beers aren’t as impressive as what’s in the cooler typically.
Runner up: Essex Discount Beverage
Best Convenience Store You’ve Never Heard of For Beer:
Dick Mazza’s General Store, Colchester, Vermont
Located right off Lake Champlain in Colchester, Dick Mazza’s has a killer selection of bottles and cans at very reasonable prices. You would never expect to walk in and to find fresh, rare beers from Foley Brothers and Frost, along with some other New England beers that don’t often make their way onto shelves in Vermont.
What are you favorite beer destinations in the state? Share in the comments below to spread the craft beer love!