Beer Touring in Burlington, Vermont

When people think craft beer, it might be Colorado or Oregon springing to mind. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s Vermont that has the distinction of having the most craft breweries per capita.

Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, is a student town with a hippie vibe. The downtown is extremely walkable, particularly the pedestrian-only Church Street Marketplace, lined with shops and twinkle lights, the big white church steeple overlooking it all. The sun sets over Lake Champlain. And the craft beer culture is hopping.

THE BREWERIES

In a brief trip to Vermont, we visited 10 breweries in and around Burlington. Due to our short timeline, we had to miss some great breweries around the state. But we’ll just have to save them for another trip.  Here are our top 5 of the ones we made it to:

  1. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, 115 St Paul St, Burlington

Downtown, but hard to spot – it’s inside American Flatbread, a wood-fired pizza restaurant. It has an extensive beer list, inspired by all sorts of Old World styles. There was a special push for IPAs, though there was enough beyond that for the non-IPA-lovers. We went home with a growler of Whole Lotta Lov, a cream stout. And by the way, the pizza is outrageously good.

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Lake Champlain Waterfront in Downtown Burlington, VT
  1. Fiddlehead Brewing, 6305 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne

They had just two brews on tap: their flagship Fiddlehead IPA, and our favourite, Hodad, a porter with chocolate, toasted coconut, and vanilla bean. You can actually taste each flavour in the porter, and we both fell in love with it. We didn’t stop by the attached pizzeria, but it smelled delicious.

  1. Citizen Cider, 316 Pine St, Burlington

A hip little bar with food and a friendly buzz. Jess was in cider heaven, as she’s a fruit fiend. We ended up trucking three ciders home with us: Unified Press (their flagship, quite dry), The Dirty Mayor (a ginger cider, named for the mayor of Fort Ethan Allen), and Americran (a cran-apple).

Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
  1. Burlington Beer Co., 25 Omega Dr, Williston

It’s in the back of a loading dock, with mis-matched couches, ping pong tables, and a bar. And it was overflowing with patrons. We’d hang out there too if we lived nearby! Beer styles – and names – are creative, and it was good stuff. We ended up with Mason Jar Mild (brown ale), Chasing Rabbits (American pale wheat ale), and Barista (coffee porter).

  1. Queen City Brewery, 703B Pine St, Burlington

There’s a pub-style atmosphere where you can see right into the brew works, and a beer list that focuses on English and German styles. We went home with one of their English bitters – 7 Oaks, plus a smoky Rauchbier, and the Munich Dunkel (classic Bavarian-style dark lager).

MORE DRINKING IN BURLINGTON, VT

There’s Drink, an aptly named place on St Paul in downtown Burlington, with excellent cheap pint deals and in-shop infused liquors. Small and simple, but exactly what you’re looking for in a casual bar.

And there’s Three Needs Tap Room’s “Duff Hour” weekdays at 4pm, where they open their doors and there’s $1 pints of some mysterious light beer until the keg is kicked, then $1 pizza slices for an hour. We made sure to be there at 3:50, and stood in line with a bunch of university students, feeling like we were in on a local secret.

EATING IN BURLINGTON

Penny Cluse Cafe was our breakfast winner, using fresh, local ingredients to make themed breakfast plates from across the United States. These ranged from  Cajun (the “Zydeco breakfast”),  huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and New England-style sourdough French toast with Vermont maple syrup

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill was Josh’s favourite dinner spot, with farm-to-table fine dining in a casual setting, and a giant beer list with a comfortable beer garden out back.

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Skinny Pancake was Jess’s winner, a creperie right on the waterfront to satisfy all crepe cravings. Sweet crepes. Savory crepes. All the crepes. Holy crepe!

We were thrilled with how the craft beer culture was so integrated into Vermont society. And we intend to go back as soon as we can, to visit all those breweries we missed!

A Visit to Beau’s Brewery

Beau’s Brewery is just outside the little town of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, which is about an hour from Ottawa and even closer to the Quebec border.

It was one of our further afield brewery visits, so we were excited to have the chance to wander in during our travels. It wasn’t until we saw the place that the significance of Beau’s tractor logo quite dawned on us – this is a country brewery.

THE PLACE

Beau’s brand is totally countrified, and they aren’t shy about it. From the tractor on each bottle of Lug Tread, to the rustic wooden accents in their tasting room/shop, even to the corrugated metal dividers in the washroom, this is a fully themed experience.

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THE TOUR

The tour was free; brief but satisfying. We took a few steps into the brewing area, got a run-down of their process, a look at their beer going out for sale, and some info about their machinery, like the big, shiny “RE-BIER” machine for re-bottling empties. It ended in a session where we could check out the extra ingredients they add to their varied beers – like sweet gale and yarrow for the Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale – most of which are locally sourced.

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THE BEER

Beau’s had a solid selection of 10 beers on tap, with free samples and $5 pints. However, they’re also really good at distributing their beers to the LCBO, so we’d already had most of them, like the Tom Green Beer (a Milk Stout and one of our favourites). We went for the new-to-us brews:

  • Festivale is a decent summer seasonal in the style of a German Altbier.
  • Channel Ocho was a special “back from the vault” Winter Ale, rich and deep with festive flavour notes. We’d have bought some of that if we could!
  • The Beaver River I. P. Eh is,as you may have guessed, an IPA. Josh thought the hoppiness and maltiness were well balanced, though Jessica avoided it because she’s not usually an IPA fan.

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THE EXTRAS

Beau’s has a nice selection of their beers, including the special members-only row we drooled over. And they’ve got a great little gift shop, including a whole bunch of items that match their countrified brand, ranging from the ordinary to the quirky. We decided to take home a Beau’s Mason jar glass and a handful of Ontario Craft Beer buttons.

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Out front, there’s a rustic, wooden, hop bine-covered patio with a bar and a few things on the food menu. And, of course, the trademark tractor is out front! It would be a nice place to spend a few afternoon hours.

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Visit Date: June 21, 2015

Why? Because Beer!

Until very recently, Hamilton wasn’t a craft beer city. Even the Lakeport plant shut down over 5 years ago.

That’s changed, and the craft breweries sprouting up aren’t the only evidence. The second annual Because Beer (July 10-11, 2015) is one of the new local beer festivals. It’s organized by Sonic Unyon – better known as the Supercrawl people. We knew from year one that it would be well put together.

A Collective Arts-y lineup

And yes, the event was a solid performance. We got lucky with the warm, sunny weather two years in a row. But everything else – from the bayfront location at Pier 4, to the shade tents, to the short lines, to the clean and plentiful port-a-potties (a dirty topic, but vital) – were prime examples of good planning.

Muddy York Brewing’s branded burlap

BECAUSE… WHAT? BEER!

In 2015, there were 30 breweries, up from last year’s 23. The signature glass steins are already on our keeper shelf, and since they match last year’s, we’ve got a nice little set. The entry fee also included 4 sample tokens, with the opportunity to buy more as the day progressed. Each sample was 4 oz, but many breweries were giving a little extra – great for those coming for a few samples, but making it nearly impossible for those trying to fill out their “beer passports”.

Because Beer steins 2015

 

Standout Beers of the Event

Our winner was, strangely, a combination of two of Flying Monkeys beers (yes, actually mixed together), recommended by the guy behind the taps. Those were 12 Minutes to Destiny – a hibiscus/raspberry lager, and Chocolate Manifesto Stout – a sweet-and-bitter triple chocolate milk stout. “Like a Viva Puff,” he said. We agreed! They’re both good on their own, but even better together. Like us.

The navigable crowd, early in the day

 

Garden Brewers is one of Hamilton’s new craft breweries. We’ve been following them since last year’s Because Beer, so we knew we had to try their new Petal Pusher, an elderflower lager. Josh described it as one of the best lagers he’s ever had, and the elderflower gives it a floral, vaguely fruity, kind of citrusy…almost indefinable taste. Pure summer. We tried both cask and draught versions, finding the cask stronger but more mellow, with the draught version having more carbonation and a sharp tang at the end.

Yeah, we did pretty well.

 

We were into the ginger flavours going on this year. Jessica particularly liked Mill Street’s Ginger Cat, a Belgian Witbier that would make the ideal, flavourful session beer: candied ginger! Orange peel! Unfiltered hazy deliciousness!

Josh’s ginger pick was Double Trouble’s Revenge of the Ginger – Kickin’ Ginger Red IPA (oddly described as an Australian Pale Ale on Untappd). The Double Trouble guys described it to Josh as a gingerbread IPA. He found it had the kick of ginger without the extreme hoppiness found in some IPAs. Even Jessica enjoyed her sip, and she’s not one for the ultra-hoppy brews.

THE FOOD

The Hamilton food truck scene is no slouch, and they were out in full force, in great variety, many with beer-matching menus or beer puns, which delighted us (though our many beer samples may have helped).

Good one, Southern Smoke truck

All in all? We’ll be back next year!