Sampling suds in Vermont breweries

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

With 32 breweries and growing, Vermont brewers are emerging as the most innovative and visionary on the American bar scene. The expansive website by the Vermont Brewers Association attributes the magic of Vermont brewers to “maybe something in the water…or air…or up here in the mountains.”

We picked up our Official Passport, a fun marketing ploy to sample crafts in exchange for a free t-shirt, at breweries aligned with our travels after crossing the Rouses Point bridge and driving south into Bennington, Vermont. Juggling a few nascent hours to hike, eat and sleep, we squeezed in six stops along our journey. Our search got a whole lot easier with the help of Kim Werner’s new guide book called FarmPlate.

14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans was first on our list but a lousy AT&T connection on my cell phone’s GPS left me without directions. We continued onto Winooski for better coverage.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

For lunch, we dined like messy children on steaming hot griddles of homemade mac and cheese at Our House Bistro in Winooski. Surrounded by vintage lunch boxes and retro decor, we sat next to the front window people watching as our favorite comfort food arrived. The Nutty New England mac drizzled with fresh maple syrup was yummy beyond satisfaction but too sweet for George’s liking. He enjoyed extra napkins with his Three Little Pigs Sandwich topped with a fried egg.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

With enough food in our stomachs to soak up ABV, we headed to Four Quarters Brewery, a 4-minute walk from the eatery. Formerly, a bio-diesel garage, owners Brian and Jennifer Eckert opened the business less than a year ago and have already overgrown the space.

A scruffy-looking sample bartender, moonlighting from his teaching profession at UVM, was flipping vinyl when we pushed up to the tasting bar. The intimacy allowed us to, literally, turn around and watch the brewing process in progress at the front of the garage. The brewer was experimenting with getting the a watermelon consistency for a pending batch.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

Students were returning to area colleges so finding an overnight accommodation was rough.  We skipped over busy Burlington for the woodsy creature comforts of East Middlebury at a historical find called The Waybury Inn. Even better is the connection the beloved Inn has to comedian Bob Newhart. The opening credits of the 80’s sitcom Newhart has a shot of the Waybury Inn portrayed as the Stratford Inn that fictional character Bob Dick Loudon operates with his wife Joanna, played by Mary Frann. I can almost hear the lovely little ditty they used as the music bed in that opening sequence….

Waybury Inn, E. Middlebury, Vermont

Other breweries enjoyed during our 24-hour adventure include Fiddlehead, Otter Creek, Drop-In, Foley Brothers and Madison Brewing. More on those in another blog entry later on this week.