By Mike Dunphy
Few places have embraced the craft beer revolution more than Vermont. In fact, the Green Mountain State claims the most breweries per capita in the U.S. Dubbed the “Napa Valley of beer,” Vermont now welcomes caravans of beer lovers from around the country – and world – and it’s no uncommon sight to see lines of pilgrims idling outside shops in hopes of securing coveted cans of brews such as Heady Topper, Sip of Sunshine, and Edward before they run out. Happily, Virtuoso’s three hotels in Vermont – The Pitcher Inn, Stowe Mountain Lodge, and Twin Farms – are located close to the sources, starting with these five breweries and taprooms of world renown.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids | Waitsfield
One of the most revered brewers in the state, Sean Lawson found huge fame with Sip of Sunshine, a lupulin-laden IPA that both appears and tastes like its name. This past October, he put a permanent stamp on his Mad River Valley home with the opening of a brewery, tap room, and retail store. The success of Lawson’s Finest is largely thanks to Sip of Sunshine, a lupulin-laden IPA that both appears and tastes like its name. Drawing water from a mountain aquifer, the brewery produces a host of delicious beers, including Fayston Maple Imperial Stout, Double Sunshine, Triple Sunshine, Knockout Blonde ale, and Maple Nipple amber. The timber-framed, grand hall of a taproom promotes a cozy communal atmosphere with wrap-around windows, picnic benches down its center, and a huge stone fireplace – the perfect spot to kick back during the fall and winter months.
Foam Brewers | Burlington
Some of Vermont’s most experimental brews are poured on the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington’s Waterfront Park. One of the “it” breweries nowadays, Foam rose to fame with double IPAs, farmhouse saisons, fruited sour ales, and dynamic lagers, often named after ’90s bands or classic films. The bar also distributes drafts from cofounder and brewmaster Todd Haire’s side project, the House of Fermentology, which specializes in “wild ales,” fermented and aged in oak barrels with additions such as roasted oranges, elderberries, chamomile, and the like. Note that you can only buy Foam’s beers on site at its curvaceous, industrial-chic bar designed by Russ Bennett, who also creates visuals for Phish and the Bonnaroo Festival.
Alchemist Brewery & Visitors Center | Stowe
In what might be the purest example of a silver lining, the Alchemist switched to canning after its namesake restaurant with beer on tap was flooded and destroyed in 2011. Soon after, owners John and Jennifer Kimmich cranked up production of their Heady Topper, which blew open Vermont’s beer scene and established the double IPA as the state’s flagship style. Perhaps it’s the unique English yeast strain (Conan) that they use, or the can’s layer of CO2, which sits above the liquid and preserves the carbonation, that makes drinking it so enjoyable, but massive success quickly followed. The result is a shiny new brewery and visitors center in Stowe, which opened in 2016, and welcomes a steady stream of fans for tasting, retail sales, and peeks onto the production floor.
Long Trail Brewing Co. | Bridgewater Corners
Born in the first wave of craft breweries in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Long Trail remains one of Vermont’s most respected, with its flagship Long Trail Ale, a German altbier, established as an unofficial yardstick for state brewers, and its Hibernator that keeps locals warm and cozy during the winter. Up with the trends, Long Trail has also released a line of double IPAs, sour ales, goses, and stouts – the last aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The pub and restaurant, inspired by the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, sits so close to the Ottauquechee River that visitors can (season permitting) dip their toes in the water while enjoying the beer and go with the flow.
Hill Farmstead Brewery | Greensboro
Tiny Greensboro (population 710) carries one of the biggest reputations for beer, thanks to Hill Farmstead, rated the best brewery in the world four years running by RateBeer, a leading beer review website. The kudos go to brewer Shaun Hill’s seemingly magic touch, which transforms each pale ale, IPA, double IPA, stout/porter, pilsner, and saison he produces into liquid silk on the palate. His practice of naming almost every brew after a family member has made international celebrities of relatives Mary, Edward, Susan, Arthur, Ephraim, and Harlan. At the brewery, sample several in the tap room while nibbling on cheese and olive plates or fill 25- and 68-ounce growlers to go.