Every year my boyfriend Jim and I take a long weekend exploring Vermont, and its numerous breweries. We have been diligently working on completing their beer passport for three years now. The beer passport is ever evolving, as more and more breweries open each year. We have discovered some favorite breweries that we now visit every year, but we also try to add a few new ones into the mix each time. This year we took off for 4 days to celebrate my birthday and stopped in Middlebury, Burlington, Stowe, Waterbury and a few other towns along the way.
This year our first stop was at Foley Brothers in Brandon, Vermont. This brewery is pretty far off the beaten path and the trip takes you through some winding back country roads, a single lane covered bridge, and some dirt roads that were quite slick considering the rainy weather. When we made our first trip to Foley Brothers last year, we were sure we were at the wrong place as we pulled into the driveway of someone’s home. However, when you turn the corner you will find a beautiful tasting room and will most likely see the brewers hard at work in a small shed across from the tasting room. While this brewery may not look like much at first glance, they are putting out some seriously amazing beers. In fact, in a recent blind DIPA tasting by Paste Magazine, their beer ‘Prospect’ came in at number 5, beating out some serious competitors including Treehouse, Trillium, Lawsons, and the Alchemist. During our visit this year, we had the opportunity to sample ‘Prospect’ and this beer impressed me just as much as the folks over at Paste. This DIPA is packed with Galaxy and Citra hops and is juicy, smooth, and dangerously crushable for a 9% ABV beer. Several other beers were also available for tasting and growler fills, and we opted to try 5 samples for $7. We also tried the ‘Jolly Hopper’, another DIPA, that was quite bitter and piney. While this was not my personal favorite, my boyfriend raved about this one and even preferred it over ‘Prospect’. We also tried ‘Triple Maiden’; an imperial version of their IPA ‘Fair Maiden’. This beer pours a golden haze and brought the booze at 10% and you could definitely taste the alcohol. However, this beer was still pleasant to drink with a nice citrus hop profile cutting through the burn. Foley Brothers also had several non-IPA beers for sampling and we decided to try the ‘Double Maple Brown’ and the ‘Loco Moco’. While I know I’m in the minority, I’m a sucker for a good brown ale and I may have a new favorite with the ‘Double Maple Brown’. This beer was smooth and brought just the right amount of maple sweetness to match the roasty, nutty flavors of a traditional brown. While a bit higher in alcohol at 7.9%, the body remained light and easy to drink. The ‘Loco Moco’, an imperial stout brewed with molasses was also impressive. The slightly sticky sweetness of molasses comes through with classic roasted and chocolate stout flavors with no hints at all that this beer clocks in at over 10% ABV. Overall, we were happy we made the trek through the rain to our favorite hidden brewery and walked away with a growler of ‘Double Maple Brown’, a bottle of ‘Triple Maiden’, and two 4-packs of their IPAs. Of Note, Foley Brothers is also a winery but we have not yet done tastings of their wines. I highly recommend checking this place out while it’s still somewhat unknown, this is the secret gem of Vermont that I’m sure will be blowing up soon.
Traditionally, every year we stop in Middlebury, VT for lunch and to check out some breweries. The past three years we have stopped in at Otter Creek and while their food is delicious, the brewery has lost the charm it once had and has become very commercialized. So this year we decided to get lunch next door to Drop In brewery at the Grapevine Grille. The brewery is now offering some small plates from this restaurant next door, and I’m sure if they asked we would have been able to bring over the cheesesteaks we got there and eaten them in the brewery. The cheesesteaks we got were delicious and had hysterical names like the ‘Swisstine Aguilera’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Cheesesteak’. The brewery itself has evolved over the years and features a wall of cans/bottles from local and not so local breweries. They have games like ‘Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots’ and ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ to enjoy while sipping on some of their tasty brews. One thing I really enjoyed about this brewery is that each beer has a fact sheet with information on its malt and hop bill, flavor profiles, and even suggested food pairings. We sampled all 7 beers that were currently on tap. First off were the brewery’s 3 year-round offerings: ‘Sunshine and Hoppiness’, ‘Heart of Lothian’, and ‘Red Dwarf’. ‘Sunshine and Hoppiness’ is a unique take on a Belgian ale using German malt and American hops to create a crisp, dry, and spicy beer great while still maintaining that great Belgian yeast flavor. ‘Heart of Lothian’ is one of our favorites, a Scottish 90 shilling ale that is malty, nutty and pairs well with brisket (a further selling point for my barbecuing boyfriend). ‘Red Dwarf’ is one beer that left us wanting a little more, this American Amber ale wasn’t super memorable amongst this brewery’s other delicious brews. ‘Kitten Death Star’ on the other hand, an imperial red, was unique and left an impression. Not your typical red ale, this beer had a hoppy bite and a lot of lemon and citrus flavors. We also tried ‘Supernova XX’, an IPA dry hopped with 30 lbs of hops, a solid classic Porter simply named ‘Porter’, and ‘Dude, are you ok?’ an imperial IPA that uses a fining technique rather than filtering. We left with a 4-pack of our old favorite ‘Heart of Lothian’ and a “squealer” (32oz. growler) of our newest discovery ‘Kitten Death Star’. This brewery has a warm vibe with welcoming staff and with the new addition of lunch available next door, I can see us making this our yearly half-way point on the way to Burlington.
As we near Burlington, we pass through the town of Shelburne and always have to make a stop at Fiddlehead Brewery. The brewery is small with no real place to sit, but the tastings are free and the beer is delicious. Plus they have lots of cool swag, including my boyfriend’s favorite hat. We have been to Fiddlehead on every trip that we have made but have never been able to snag the elusive Second Fiddle. Recently, Fiddlehead has amped up their canning and we were lucky enough to snag some 4-packs of it as well as their new IPA Mastermind. While there we also did a tasting of the three beers on tap. Up first was the signature Fiddlehead IPA, a solid IPA that’s crisp, clean, and citrusy. Next was Hodad, one of my all-time favorites, a Coconut Porter that the server described as a candy bar in a glass. While it is chocolaty and sweet, its well balanced and has a light body that makes for easy drinking. Next up was Ruby Claire, a hoppy red ale that is bursting with tropical fruit flavors. We grabbed a growler of Hodad to go as well as our cans and said goodbye to some new tasting buddies we had met along with their gorgeous (and humongous) pitbull, Rocco. After we returned home I was able to taste the Second Fiddle and Mastermind and was happy I bought extras. Second Fiddle is pleasantly piney but balanced out with a significant caramel malt presence making this IPA unique from all the hop-bombs out there. Mastermind is another delectable IPA that brings in those tropical, juicy flavors and leaves a nice lingering bitterness at the end. I’m happy to say that Second Fiddle lived up to its hype and this brewery keeps on impressing me.
Okay let me start off this section with a disclaimer. I have heard so much hype about this brewery that I may have gone in with unreasonable expectations. I haven’t made my final verdict on this brewery and really want to go back and give them my full undivided attention. The night we came to Foam they were crazy busy and we packed ourselves in at the bar. I got a full pour of their IPA Kubrick and while I started off impressed, the more I drank of it the more I found myself struggling to finish.
There was some kind of a tart aftertaste that I just couldn’t get past. I also tried Jim’s beer, I believe it was a Kolsch or a Pilsner, and just wasn’t impressed. However, the next day I attended their can release and was offered a sample of Kubrick. Once I tasted it, I thought that there was no way that could have been the beer I had the night before. The sample was hazy, juicy, and didnt have any of that strange tartness that I had tasted before. While at the can release I was able to score cans of both Experimental Jetset and Noise Ordinance. Experimental Jetset pours a thick yellow-orange haze and tastes like creamy mango heaven. This beer totally bowled me over and changed my impression of the brewery. Noise Ordinance also did not disappoint. This Imperial Milk Stout was a thick, creamy, and tasted like a roasty chocolate milk. I look forward to checking out this brewery again, probably earlier in the day, so I can fully enjoy the experience and give their beer the attention it deserves.
Foam was our last brewery trip for the first leg of our trip and our night concluded, or rather was rudely interrupted by some drunks attempting to kick in our hotel door, but that is a story for another time…