It’s fall 2017. The Vermont craft beer scene is thriving. In fact, there are over 50 breweries in Vermont making craft beer. There’s more beer in Vermont per capita than any other state. Tourists are still flocking to Vermont to get their hands on Heady Topper and Sip of Sunshine. Breweries like Foam on the waterfront in Burlington and Fiddlehead in Shelburne and expanding, gaining in popularity, and quickly becoming favorite Vermont beer destinations as well.
I am all for drinking beer from the Vermont greats (ahem, Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, Lawson’s Finest). You can usually find beer from all three in our beer fridge. But, I also applaud the little guys… the ones that don’t have automated systems and do most everything by hand. The brewers that are bottling and canning by hand. You know, the breweries that are putting out amazing brews that fly under the radar. Some microbreweries in Vermont use their size to their advantage and create unique flavor combos in small batches (tomato-basil anyone? Rum and coconut?), while others are determined to make beers that are faithful to the style they’re crafted to be (marzens and English porters and traditional lagers).
With so many breweries in Vermont, how do you decide who to choose? Here are my picks for my favorite Vermont breweries you probably have never heard of… and if you’ve heard of them, you likely haven’t visited yet (but should).
The Best Vermont Breweries You’ve Never Heard Of
Upper Pass Beer Co, Tunbridge, Vermont
I first discovered Upper Pass last year at SIPtemberfest (the best beer festival in Vermont, if you’re never been). I literally had never heard of them… Looking back, I remember being impressed with what I tasted and then forgot about them. That is, until I grabbed a four pack of Cloud Drop IPA at my local meat and seafood store (that also happens to be a great beer and wine stop – Vermont Meat & Seafood in Williston). I dig the art on the can (us marketers can judge a book by its cover, okay!?), and it quickly became one of my go-to beers this summer.
The brewery itself, which now has a one-barrel pilot system and plans to expand to a twin ten-barrel system, was once a building for washing wool. Their core beers plan to highlight one main ingredient, whether a hop, malt, yeast, etc. They also roast their own coffee beans… Keep an eye out for their upcoming announcement of when their tasting room and coffee shop will open in 2017!
Four Quarters Brewing, Winooski, Vermont
Four Quarters is my watering hole of choice nowadays… You can typically find me there having some samples of the newest beers on draft Saturday evenings. Brian Eckert is one of the most adventurous brewers in the state right now, always coming up with innovative flavor combos. Try RUMbrellas, a sour with coconut and pineapple aged in Caribbean Rum barrels, Smores Stout, a heavenly stout with graham crackers and marshmallow, or Sumac Sour, a non-poisonous, fruity sour made from sumac. Visiting the brewery itself is a fun experience. There are always great people hanging out in the intimate, industrial-warehouse setting where you’ll always be surprised and delighted with what’s on tap.
150 West Canal Street | Winooski, Vermont
Good Measure Brewing Co, Northfield, Vermont
Good Measure is one of the newest breweries in Vermont and gaining popularity quite quickly. Andrew Leichthammer, the brewer behind Good Measure in Northfield, Vermont, came from Mule Bar, a craft beer destination in Winooski. The brewery and tasting room in Northfield offers a variety of their brews on tap, along with growler fills and occasionally special bottle releases. Good Measure’s intention is to “give you something that doesn’t overload the palette, but rather gives you space for a range of tastes, textures, and experiences.” It’s true that in each of their beers, you’ll find something familiar yet something that’s different and new too. Check out their Early Riser, my favorite American Cream Ale in Vermont right now.
17 East Street | Northfield, Vermont
River Roost Brewery, White River Junction, Vermont
River Roost Brewery is the gem of Southern Vermont beer, IMHO. They’re located in White River Junction and next to a Big Fatty’s BBQ, which makes it even more worth a visit. Mostly hoppy, River Roost’s beers are highly drinkable and have the juiciness we want in a New England-style IPA. Try Idaho 7, Mas Verde and Front Porch Pickin’ for some standout IPAs.
230 S Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont
Foley Brothers, Brandon, Vermont
Foley Brothers is off the beaten path in Brandon, Vermont, literally down a dirt road close to the Neshobe Golf Course. Only five years old with a seven-barrel setup, Foley Brothers’ beer can be found in bombers across the state (and beyond now). But the brewery is worth a visit as well. The barn, which houses the tasting room, is quintessential Vermont. Their brews are historically mostly IPAs (Pieces of Eight, Skeleton Crew, Fair Maiden), but they are branching out into sours and stouts as well. Draft pours and 22 ounce bottles are available for carry away from the brewery as well. Have a wine drinker in your party? Bob Foley, the brothers’ father and Director of Operations for the brewery, also makes wine. Keep an eye out for cans!
79 Stone Mill Dam Road | Brandon, Vermont
Idletyme Brewing, Stowe, Vermont
Idletyme Brewing is probably my most recommended brewery to out-of-staters who ask me for input on their Vermont beer itineraries. Why? It’s literally across the road from The Alchemist and is often overlooked. You won’t find an over abundance of Vermont hops, but you will find craft beers that are classically created and faithful to the style they’re created in. There’s a biergarten with a bar outside for al fresco day drinking, and the food is quite good as well. Try the Double Bock, Maerzen, and Danube. If you’re into VT hops, the Doubletyme is a solid dry-hopped double IPA.
1859 Mountain Road | Stowe, Vermont
What’s your favorite small brewery in Vermont that others might not have heard of? Share in the comments below to keep the conversation going.