The second day of our trip started out a little rocky as Jim was not feeling well, and we had to change around our plans for the day a little. While Jim took some time to recuperate, I headed off to the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, just outside of Burlington. I was able to score some amazing beers here including Lawson’s Finest ‘Sip of Sunshine’ and ‘Fayston Maple Imperial Stout’ as well as some cans of Frost Beerworks ‘Lush’ Double IPA. We had to change our original plan, which included making a trek up to St. Albans, about as far north as you can go in Vermont without crossing the Canadian border. Instead we took a trip to one of the first breweries we ever visited in Burlington…
Now before I go losing any of my beer snob cred, let me say that the Magic Hat brewery really is a must-visit for anyone stopping in Burlington. While they may not be putting out the rarest beer that folks line up around the block for, they are still making solid brews with a brewery space that is just downright fun to explore. The vibe inside this brewery is eclectic to say the least, with an amusing walk-through tour studded with over the top decorations, culminating in a view of the real brewery and production line. The brewery also has some amazing swag ranging from sweatshirts, to glassware, to beer soap, and more.One new thing we noticed on this visit is that the brewery has started serving food, and has a few tables to enjoy meals and full pours. We opted to just share a tasting flight of four rather small samples. We were pleasantly surprised to find numerous offerings that we had never heard of, including some Vermont-only exclusives, and some new pilot beers. We passed on the classics of No.9 and Circus Boy, and opted to try some different beers: an export lager, a dark mild, ‘Taken for Granite’ IPA and ‘Belgo Sutra’.
The export lager was exactly that: a solid crisp, clean, and malty lager that I would drink again any day. The dark mild was another pleasant offering that went down smooth, with roasty and bready flavors. ‘Taken for Granite’ is an IPA that really surprised me, bursting with peach, grapefruit, and cherry flavors. This IPA is different than everything else out there, but can still stand up next to the IPA legends of Vermont. We liked this beer so much that we even bought its corresponding glassware, and a 4-pack to take home. Last was the ‘Belgo Sutra’, a Belgian quad that brings the dark fruits and figgy flavors, but was a bit too sweet for our taste, and didn’t have that booziness I expect from a quad. All in all, I’m glad our plans changed, and we decided to return to Magic Hat to see how this brewery and its beers have evolved in a pleasantly surprising way.
Next, we headed to Williston, a town just outside of Burlington to Burlington Beer Company. This brewery is in an industrial warehouse type space that creates a really cool vibe. There’s a small bar, several tables, and some even have gaming systems that allow you to play old school Nintendo while sampling their brews. This has become one of our favorite spots in the Burlington vicinity, and we check it out each year. This is the first year that we have eaten food there, and I had an amazing Korean flavored pork burger with a spicy side salad. I sampled four beers of theirs that I had never tasted before. First up was ‘Peasant Bread’, a brown ale made with toasted wild rice. This was a really tasty brown ale full of roasted caramel flavors with some light citrus hop flavors that linger. The ‘Uncanny Valley’ is a hazy IPA with lots of citrus and lemony brightness with a clean finish.‘Beekeeper’ an Imperial IPA brewed with honey is a smooth tropical hop bomb that is nicely balanced by a hint of honey to provide a light sweetness. This beer was my favorite of the flight, fitting that hazy NE IPA style quite nicely and at 9% ABV, it still drank quite easily without a boozy burn. I was most excited to try ‘Inertia’: a “double stout” brewed with salted pretzels, peanut butter puff cereal, and chocolate. This literally looked like mud in a glass, but tasted surprisingly smooth and creamy like an adult chocolate milk. It had a nice hit of peanut butter, but overall I was kind of let down by this beer. It was pleasant to drink, but not as complex as I imagined, and isn’t something I would seek out again. We ended up bringing home 4-packs of the ‘Peasant Bread’, ‘Beekeeper’, ‘It’s Complicated Being a Wizard’ (their year-round double IPA) and ‘Barista’, a coffee porter. I also picked up a sweet new glass for our collection, featuring some of BBCO’s signature artwork that makes their branding so cool.
Right down the road from Burlington Beer Company is a fairly new brewery, Goodwater Brewing, and we decided to check it out for the first time. We got there right when they opened, and sat at the bar overlooking the brewing area. I was pleasantly surprised as the brewery had several different beers available that were not listed on their website. One of the first things I noticed was this brewery’s logo. I loved the design, featuring three of the main components of beer: hops, malt, and water. I love to find places in Vermont offering a wide range of styles like Goodwater does, as I am often hopped-out by the end of our Vermont trips, due to the overwhelming number of IPAs in the area. Of the eight available beers, we shared a sampler of six. We started with the ‘Stange’, a true to style Kolsch, that was bready, crisp, and light. The ‘Proper Mild’ was just that, adding a nice chocolate note to this well-balanced beer. ‘O’fest’, a Märzen style lager, was malty, and toasty with that crisp lager finish. Next up was the Irish red ale, ‘InspirRED’, which started with a pleasantly sweet aroma, big toffee flavors, and a nice bitter finish. My boyfriend’s overwhelming favorite was their IPA ‘Hop Collusion’, with Citra and Simcoe hops lending this beer a fruity start but a strong bitter, piney, West-Coast style finish. This was one of Jim’s favorite IPAs of the whole trip, which is certainly saying something in Vermont. I personally preferred their DIPA, ‘Clearly Hazy’, which was juicy, tropical, and dangerously easy to drink. Overall, this brewery is definitely getting added to our list of places to return to, and we left with a growler of ‘Stange’ and a four-pack of Hop Collusion cans.
Our final stop of the day was to 1st Republic, a veteran-owned brewery and homebrew shop in Essex. On their chalkboard, the brewery advertised a well-deserved discount for military and first-responders. This brewery is an awesome place to hang out, with free popcorn from a movie theater style machine, tons of games to play, and a very inviting couch. If you are homebrewers like us, you can also peruse the equipment and ingredients for sale there. We sank into their big comfy couch with a flight of four tasters, a basket of popcorn, and started in on a fierce game of Jenga. First we tried their Kolsch, that was bready, sweet, and reminded us of the taste of wort, the sweet solution of sugars extracted from malt during the mash process of brewing. Next we sampled ‘Caught in the Webs’, a blood orange blonde that was easy drinking, but could be kicked up a notch. I found the blood orange flavor to be a bit too subtle, and I really wanted that hit of citrus. I was pleasantly surprised by their ‘Raspberry Saison’, a beer I would never normally go for. This beer poured a gorgeous pink-orange hue, had big raspberry flavor, and a pleasant tartness that I would definitely go back for. We finished with their ‘104 Porter’, a light bodied beer that really hit us with smoked and roasted flavor. Overall, this brewery was welcoming with friendly and knowledgeable staff, as well as tasty brews, and a great environment.
This leg of our beer trip was a nice combination of old and new, returning to a classic brewery that continues to surprise us, a recent favorite offering new and unique beers each visit, and two new spots that offered up some new favorite brews.
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