Maple syrup and cheese are what most people think of when someone mentions Vermont, but in the craft beer subculture the state holds several distinct honors and is a very popular “beercation” destination. First, Vermont has thirty operating breweries (including brewpubs) which earn Vermont the distinction of having the most breweries per capita of any state. Second, the 2013 Rate Beer’s “Best Brewery in the World” title was awarded to Hill Farmstead Brewery of Greensboro Bend. Next, Waterbury’s Alchemist Brewery’s Heady Topper continues to dominate the craft beer world with perfect 100 scores on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer earning the title of “Best Beer in the World.”
Over the last two years, new beer started brewing at a dozen newly opened breweries and brewpubs. The demand for Vermont beer is quite evident with the 2013 Vermont Brewers Festival tickets selling out in less than thirty-six hours. Since many of the Vermont beers are not exported out of state and some aren’t even bottled or have very limited number of bottles produced, those interested in sampling local beers must visit tasting rooms or selected restaurants or pubs that offer the beer on draught.
Chittenden County currently hosts five breweries and brewpubs including Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Magic Hat Brewing Company, Switchback Brewing Company, Vermont Pub & Brewery, and Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. By the end of 2013, two new breweries are expected to open in Burlington and Williston.
The county’s newest operating brewery is Fiddlehead Brewing Company located in Shelburne. Matt Cohen, founder, aims to serve a new recipe of beer every two to four weeks and then retire the recipe – never to be brewed again. These limited time beers can be sampled at the brewery and you can take home a growler of any of the draught beers. Fiddlehead also hosts the Frog Run Sap Beer Festival where Sap Beer is brewed using the last sap from local Vermont maple trees. The Sap Beer is only available once a year during June and July with proceeds benefiting the Vermont Folklife Center.
Queen City Brewery is currently finalizing construction and legal permits for their Pine Street brewery in Burlington’s South End. With ample parking, they plan to host numerous events such as Oktoberfest and provide four year-round beers and two additional seasonal beers on draught in their tasting room. While the brewery space is currently being renovated, Paul Hale, founder, hopes to open in time to celebrate Oktoberfest. One of his goals is to brew unusual specialty beer styles such as Steinbier, which is only commercially produced by a handful of breweries in the world. Their proposed initial offerings include an ESB (Extra Special/Strong Beer), Helles, Dunkel, and Rauchbier beer styles.
Another brewery slated to open before the end of the year is Burlington Beer Company. Joe Lemnah, founder, expects the brewery to provide a tasting room and offer lots of room for barrel aging of beers, experimental beers, growler filling, and bottle beers. Their initial offerings include an IPA, Mild Ale, and a Saison/Belgian White hybrid styles. Their bottle beers will provide a diverse range of barrel aged beers such as barrel fermented Belgian style beers and bourbon barrel aged beers. They will also restart the Community Supported Brewery (CSB) program later this year as the brewery draws closer to opening.
Most of the local breweries can be found at the July 19-20 Vermont Brewers Festival at Burlington’s Waterfront Park. If you didn’t get a chance to buy tickets for this year’s event, you can find many of the local beers at other Vermont beer festivals such as Midd Summer Festival in Middlebury, Hops in the Hills Brew Fest at Okemo, Mount Snow Brewers Festival, and SIPtemberfest at Mad River Glen. For more local event listings and the most up-to-date news on local breweries, visit vtbeer.org.
This article appeared in the July 2013 issue of South Burlington Life, a hibu community magazine covering South Burlington and Chittenden County, Vermont. You can view the digital version of South Burlington Life at http://emagazines.hibu.com/sburln/20130701?BookPageIndex=19
VtBeer Note: Due the magazine’s word count layout requirements, some of the content had to be removed or shortened. For future articles, we’ll post the extra content that didn’t make it into the articles along with the published articles.
UPDATE: Since this article was written, Burlington Beer Company’s loan has been approved and lease has been signed. Joe is moving forward with his Williston-based brewery which will be located off South Brownell Rd (near The Edge and Gardener’s Supply).