Maple syrup. Skiing. Craft beer… All three are part and parcel of the Vermont brand. But did you know that the craft beer industry in Vermont has actually surpassed the ski and maple syrup industries with its economic impact on the state? It’s true! In 2016, the craft beer industry in Vermont totaled nearly $378M, including beer tourism. Vermont also ranks number one for the most breweries per capita.
Every year, it’s amazing to look back and see the shifts in the beer industry: new trends in beer styles, innovation with ingredients, a broadening of the consumers’ palettes beyond the IPA craze. With buy-outs happening regularly now in the beer world, Vermont breweries are largely holding on and still embracing the shop-small, buy-local mantra that permeates Vermont. Now, the little guys—nano breweries in Vermont—are producing seriously high-quality products. Breweries across the state are rivaling the three breweries that originally defined the Vermont beer industry: Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Hill Farmstead Brewing, and The Alchemist.
What is helping make Vermont the Napa Valley of beer? Quality and innovation—that’s what it boils down to. 2017 was an interesting year in the beer world in Vermont and beyond. Sure, Vermont breweries are still outputting juicy IPAs, and Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s, and The Alchemist are still beer destinations in and of themselves. But I would argue the caliber of craft beer across the state is increasing dramatically… Perhaps its competition driving quality or perhaps it’s passion, or a healthy combination of the two. I had better beers from a wider range of breweries across the state than ever before in 2017.
So here’s my list of the Best Vermont Beers of 2017. What were the best Vermont beers you tried in 2017?
Disclaimer: No, I didn’t try every single beer produced in Vermont last year. This list is in no way exhaustive of the beers I enjoyed in 2017. And, yes, everyone has different preferences and palettes. If we didn’t, there would be far less innovation and the quality we’ve grown accustomed to in Vermont wouldn’t exist. These were my favorite beers of the year. Many Vermont craft beers and breweries deserve to be celebrated and sought out in the new year. Cheers to more beer releases and even more great beer in 2018.
What were your favorite Vermont beers of 2017? Share in the comments below to keep the conversation going!
The Best Vermont Beers of 2017
12. Mo’rilla, River Roost Brewing
In 2016, Beer Advoate ranked River Roost Brewing, based in White River Junction, as one of the best new beer-markers in the US. And River Roost is continuing to create their beer following in Vermont. Largely consisting of IPAs, their offerings are all seriously tasty. Mo’rilla, a 6.7% American IPA with a blend of Mosaic and Amarillo hops, was a highly drinkable, hazy and citrusy, hop bomb without being overly bitter that was my favorite pour from this fall’s SIPtemberfest.
11. Prospect, Foley Brothers
I was pumped to see Foley Brothers was finally canning late this year, especially Prospect, a 9.0% Double IPA that is a perennial favorite among hop fans in Vermont. With hints of citrus, peach, pineapple, Prospect is an easy drinker for a nine percenter and a well-done classic Vermont IPA. With Foley, you always know you’ll be getting quality as they are one of the most consistent breweries in Vermont.
The Top 10 Best Vermont Beers of 2017
10. Lush, Frost Beer Works
I’ve always been a fan of Frost’s beers—largely IPAs—but regularly started buying them in cans in 2017. Lush, an 8% ABV, 80 IBU Double IPA, is a one of Frost’s best offerings and part of their suite of similarly named offerings: Hush, Slush, Blush, and Shush. It’s rich, smooth to the taste and floral to the nose with just the right hop punch.
9. Wild Child, The Alchemist
Wild Child was the very first Alchemist beer I had years ago in their downtown Waterbury brewpub, and it was awesome to see this 5% ABV American Wild Ale brought back in special release bottles. Tart without being overly sour, this barrel-aged version of Wild Child was one of my best beer scores of the year with only 1,000 bottles released.
8. You Can’t Get There From Here (Prickly Pear and Guava), Burlington Beer Company
Burlington Beer Company in Williston, Vermont, is one of the more innovative breweries in Vermont. Brewer Joe Lemnah excels with playing with unique flavor pairings. The 4.5% Wild Ale, You Can’t Get There From Here with Prickly Pear and Guava, was my favorite beer of the summer. It had a milky fuschia color and a fruity tartness to match. Sour, tart, and subtly sweet, this beer was exactly what an American Wild Ale should be. I also wish more breweries would experiment with prickly pear for its unique flavor (think bubble gum + watermelon + subtle citrus).
7. Marie, Hill Farmstead
2017 was the year I finally learned to truly appreciate the pilsner. In fact, the pilsner became my go-to beer style for the majority of the year (okay, and thick stouts). Hill Farmstead’s Marie, a 5% unfiltered Helles lager, has the perfect amount of sweet and wheat, accompanied by a round and soft mouthfeel. It was a perfect, refreshing beer for adventuring this summer and fall. Of course, Hill Farmstead continues to release a number of amazing beers. But for me, it was fun to see the brewery master a less-appreciated style of beer—flawlessly.
6. Yankee Ingenuity, Good Measure Brewing Co
Good Measure, located in Northfield, just celebrated their first anniversary in December. The brewery is making a name for itself quickly. Good Measure’s Yankee Ingenuity, a 9.7% imperial dark saison with grilled orange, aged in bourbon barrels, was a serious favorite this year. Brewer Andrew Leichthammer said the beer was “designed to showcase the interplay between citrus, sugar and yeast.” Yankee Ingenuity utilized their housemade dark candi sugar and over 10 pounds of Valencia oranges. Oaky, figgy, roasty. This beer was a highlight of the year for its uniqueness and balance.
5. Apple Brandy Fayston, Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ big news of 2017 was embarking on a new brewhouse in the Mad River Valley. In 2018, I hope this new facility will bring Lawson’s beer back to where it once was before it exploded in popularity and Sip of Sunshine’s production moved to Connecticut. Lawson’s small-batch beers, however, remain phenomenal. Their Apple Brandy Barrel-Aged Fayston Maple Imperial Stout is one of the best barrel-aged stouts I’ve had from any brewery. The 11% stout with a hints of apple brandy, maple, cocoa, malt and vanilla is simply an excellent beer. Get your hands on some, if you can trade for it…
4. Sour Golden Ale Batch 8, Backacre Beermakers
Backacre, despite producing arguably the best sour in Vermont, still operates under the radar from its location in Weston. The brewery only makes one style of beer, a sour golden ale that matures for over a year in oak barrels and is blended for the perfect mixture of “tarty, fruity, and earthy elements.” I was able to get my hands on a bottle of Batch 8 for my birthday beer in November from Doc Pond’s in Stowe. At 7.2%, Backacre is delicate with the perfect amount of sourness—causing you to pucker just slightly. Stone fruits, like apricot and peach, are on the forefront of this remarkable beer that you can’t beat pairing with a charcuterie platter.
3. Galaxie 500, Foam Brewers
Foam Brewers released perhaps the most amount of new beer in Vermont in 2017 and also underwent a large expansion in Hinesburg to produce more beer and can in. Although a lot of Foam’s beer stood out to me, including Noise Ordinance, which was a top stout for me this year, Galaxie 500 was the most remarkable, especially in an IPA-saturated market. The 9% American Double IPA was single hopped with Galaxy and epic in its crushability and simplicity. Pineapple, grapefruit, and orange peel shined through this hazy DIPA with a smooth mouthfeel, perfectly bitter finish.
2. Strawberry-Rhubarb Fleur de Lis, Four Quarters Brewing
Four Quarters in Winooski underwent a large expansion in 2017, which will mean more can and bottle releases in 2018 and more experimental beer. Brewer Brian Eckert is seriously innovative, such as with his cocktail-inspired beers. Tequila Sunrise, anyone? One of my favorite beers of the year Four Quarters served up at the Beer Advocate Microbrew Invitational in Boston. Brian took his signature Fleur de Lis, a 4.4% tart saison aged in red wine barrels and added the perfect flavor combination of strawberry and rhubarb. He also made a version with tomato and basil, another unique flavor bomb. Strawberry-Rhubarb Fleur de Lis was special—perfectly balanced between sweet and tart and perfectly drinkable. I couldn’t get enough and can’t wait for the spring season for Brian to bring this back.
1. Cloud Drop, Upper Pass Beer Co
Upper Pass’s Cloud Drop was the beer I was most excited to find throughout 2017. And I drank my fair share of this smooth and perfectly hoppy 8% Double IPA. The beer was originally brewed at Upper Pass’s tiny facility in Tunbridge, Vermont, but now is contract-brewed at Stowe’s von Trapp Brewery. Cloud Drop was the most well-rounded IPA I drank this year, with some sweetness, a lot of hop, and just the right amount of bitterness on the finish. Mango, grapefruit, orange zest rounded out this juicy DIPA. Watch out for Upper Pass in 2018… as this now tiny brewery is about to explode (and you can quote on me this one…)