Tag Archives: Burlington

Best Beer Town in New England…

Portland, ME… at least according to Andy Crouch, author of The Good Beer Guide to New England.  While I have never been to Portland, I won’t disagree with him.  The sheer number of breweries in and around that small city makes it a pretty easy call, but competition in this beer-oriented corner of the country is tough.

Here in New England, several cities vie for the title of Best Beer Drinking City in the region. While listing my top cities, I think its important to do some geographic arithmetic. Of the top cities, the Massachusetts nominees include Boston (including Brookline), Cambridge (including Somerville, i.e. the near North of the River communities), and Northampton and Amherst. Maine offers Portland. New Hampshire offers Portsmouth. Rhode Island offers Providence. Vermont offers Burlington. Connecticut doesn’t really have a competitive offering but I’ll be polite and suggest New Haven.

He gave Burlington, VT second, listing the 3 brewpubs in a 3 block area a main reason.  I’ll take that though.  Burlington is a great city with tons of great beer.  Heck, even the whole state of Vermont is into good beer.  In all the restaurants we visited, I don’t remember seeing much Budweiser, Coors, or Miller.  The same goes for the liquor stores and convenience stores.  However, there was a lot more Labatt’s Blue than I normally see in southern New England (the French-Canadian population there could be the explanation).  Regardless, Vermont tends to be very proud and supportive of Vermont products and smaller more homegrown companies.

Surprisingly, Boston came in third.  The only beer destinations in the Boston area that I have visited are Cambridge Brewing Company (aka CBC) and Sunset Grill.  However, for all the bars in Boston, Andy has it right.  They’re all pretty similar and nothing special when it comes to beer selection.  I do have to get up to the Publick House in Brookline sometime.  Perhaps I can coax my Boston friends to go out to dinner there some night.

Anyway, the article is worth a read.  He makes some great points about all the great New England beer towns.

Honeymoon Day 5: Hiking, Rock Art, Culinary Classic

Day 5 was Friday.  We spent the day doing everything else that we had wanted to do.  We started the day with a light hike to see the falls.  It ended up turning into a serious descent down a bunch of tiny stone steps, but it was worth it.  The water was unbelievably clean and clear (I wanted to drink it).  The falls were beautiful and the way the water cut into the rocks was just awesome.  Unfortunately, and I didn’t realize this until we started walking, it was all downhill… meaning the return was all uphill.  Who would’ve thought that a hike in the mountains would start downhill.

After the hike, we went back and changed because we were now hotter than we had planned.  Then we headed to Morrisville to visit Rock Art Brewery.  Luckily, Fridays are tour days at Rock Art, not that there’s a big planned out tour.  We were the only ones there aside from the 3 employees cleaning the tanks (Friday is also clean up day).  One of them gave us a nice tour, which didn’t involve a lot of walking because the brewery is small.  However, it was the best brewery visit I’ve had out of the 4 breweries I’ve visited (Long Trail and Magic Hat on this trip and Victory when Susan was living in Philly).  The woman who gave us the tour knew her stuff, and she was really fun to chat with at the end in their “store”.  Unfortunately, their tasting room hadn’t been completed and we didn’t get to try anything.  We did buy a ton of beer from them and so far it’s awesome.

Following Rock Art, we decided to try to find their one beer that’s 10% ABV, The Vermonster.  Now, just recently, VT passed a law that allows the sale of beer up to 16% ABV.  Previously, the cap was at 8% and anything above that had to be sold as liquor in a liquor store.  The new law, however, does not take effect until July 1.  We ended up grabbing a sandwich and heading back to Stowe after not having any luck in the nearby liquor store.

Before our trip up, Susan had read about the Vermont Culinary Classic.  They had a kick off event on Friday night at the Stowe Country Club.  It was advertised as a local food and craft beer tasting.  We decided to check it out since we’re suckers for craft beer tastings.  Unfortunately, the only craft beer was on tap at the bar and you had to pay extra for it.  The food was excellent, especially the strawberry crepes, but the poor advertising had me expecting more.

It was a great trip.  I fell in love with Burlington and maybe someday we’ll move, though being that far from our family and friends might be a bit difficult.  I want to go back there again.  I love Vermont and all it has to offer.  It’s really one of that best states in the country.

Honeymoon Day 3: Burlington!

On the third day of our honeymoon, we decided it would be a good day to spend in Burlington, the largest city in VT.  There were a few things we wanted to do there, so we headed in.  Upon arrival, we decided to walk around downtown for a little while.  Little did we know there was an outdoor shopping area, Church Street Marketplace, that was full of people on a random Wednesday morning.  It was full of shops that were open and little restaurants and cafes that were putting out their outdoor dining for the day.  It was clean and beautiful.  It’s what Westminster Street in Providence should be, but doesn’t even come close to (there are still signs for the Westminster Mall, which doesn’t exist anymore).

After wandering around for a little while, we wanted lunch.  There were a couple places recommended to me for beer – American Flatbread, Three Needs, and Vermont Pub & Brewery.  We wanted pizza for dinner, so we skipped American Flatbread.  Three Needs wasn’t open, so we ended up at VT Pub & Brewery.  I ordered their Flemish Sour Red.  I was immediately impressed.  It was perfect.  Susan got their Smoked Stout, which was both on cask and regular draft.  She got a sample of each to do a little side by side comparison.  That was also an awesome beer.  For lunch I had the Ploughman’s Lunch, a small loaf of fresh bread, a hunk of VT cheddar and a hunk of smoked cheddar, an apple chutney and a honey mustard.  The food was amazing.

Following lunch, we headed to Lake Champlain Chocolates to get a little tour and some chocolate.  The chocolate was amazing.  We ended up buying a ton of it, but mostly their “seconds” – chocolate not perfect enough to be called “Lake Champlain Chocolate” (mainly because it doesn’t look right, but the quality is the same).  The cool thing about the company is it was started by a restaurant owner.  Basically, the story is that he had a very popular Sunday brunch, but the cooks were bored with the chocolates he served.  He told them to make something better.  The cook made a truffle that everyone absolutely loved.  People started coming only for the truffles.  Lake Champlain Chocolates was born.

After leaving there, we headed to Magic Hat, which supposedly still had self-guided tours.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t true.  They had a small store area open with a tasting bar.  I tried most of their stuff, but was impressed only by their Odd Notion wild ale brewed with grapefruit and Lucky Kat, an IPA with Amarillo hops.  Their other beers were pretty mediocre (Hocus Pocus, Circus Boy, #9).  They also had their organic Orlio Common Ale, a steam beer, which was pretty good, but nothing special.  I wish they had a touring area, but with all the construction, I could understand why they didn’t.

We then wanted to make a boat tour of the lake and headed to the waterfront.  The lake is absolutely beautiful.  On one side are the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  On the other side are the Green Mountains of Vermont.  There was a nice history of the lake and the area playing as we cruised around.  The views were just fantastic.

After the cruise we wandered around the Church Street shops and their mall, which actually opens up to the Church Street Marketplace, to build up our appetite.  Once hungry, we headed to American Flatbread.  After a brief wait when one of the employees brought me over a copy of Beer Advocate magazine because I was wearing my BA shirt, we were seated.  We ordered a couple samples and then I got their IPA (which was awesome).  The samples I tried were their Gruit and a Bock, which was not what I expected.  It was strong and very pale, but still tasty.  The Gruit was also very tasty.

After dinner we decided to take a little walk on the waterfront.  Along the boardwalk, they have a series of porch-style swings.  It’s really cute and we just sat there and watched the sunset.  It was absolutely beautiful.  It was a perfect end to a perfect day in a perfect city.  After that day, we both said to each other, “I could live here”.  If we ever move out of Providence, it’ll likely be Burlington.  It’s close to all the stuff we love… good beer, an awesome lake, and great skiing.  To top it all off, the city is full of awesome people who are friendly and know how to drive (there’s nothing like seeing a 4 way stop move like clockwork).  The city is one of the cleanest I have seen in the Northeast.  There’s a pretty extensive bus system and a free shuttle that runs up and down College Street (the central artery between the waterfront and the University of Vermont, going through downtown).

That concluded the third day of our honeymoon.  I’ll continue with Day 4 tomorrow.