The End of the Road
After six weeks on the road traveling up and down the East Coast, my Beercation came to a close with tours of three three breweries in 36 Hours. This whirlwind tour included the Vermont location of Harpoon, Alchemist Brewery and Cannery and the Magic Hat Artifactory. These three breweries are in Vermont along the I-89 corridor making all three easy to visit in a short period of time.
After leaving Portland, ME and Allagash Brewery the family and I headed to Burlington, Vermont. In Maine we ran across a few campers that suggested that if we were going to Burlington we had to stop in Windsor, VT and visit the Harpoon Brewery. It just so happened that we were passing near Windsor at lunchtime so we dropped in for lunch and a few drinks.
Harpoon’s Windsor location, called the Riverbend Taps and Beer Garden, is not the original Harpoon location (that’s in Boston). Harpoon took over the former Catamount Brewery when they needed to expand to meet demand. The location is great for a midday travel stop. It’s located not too far from I-89 just off I-91 right on the Vermont/New Hampshire state line. They couldn’t have picked a prettier location as it’s set in a forested area with views of the Connecticut River.
The Harpoon Brewery has a viewing area and tours are offered during the weekend but the big draw here isn’t the brewery so much as the brewpub and the setting. The brewpub has a large seating area inside, a selling point I suspect, during Vermont winters. The day we visited, however was beautiful and we chose to sit outside. There are two outdoor seating areas, one a paved area adjacent to the brewpub, the other a little away from the pub but just as nice and reserved for those, like us, with dogs.
Once we settled in we ordered some of the reasonably priced food. I ordered the Vermonter a smoked turkey and bacon sandwich topped with Granny Smith apples and spicy mustard. My wife, Ashley, ordered the Rachel, a Reuben made with turkey instead of corned beef. My vegetarian kids jumped on the hearty grilled cheese. While we waited for the food I ordered up a UFO for my wife, she likes whites a lot, and a six brew sampler for me. Of the six, the Munich Dark, a malty Dunkel Munich lager was my favorite though the Summer Beer, a light crisp Kolsch came in a close second. I also tasted the Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA which I’ve had a several times since my visit and find to be a nice easy beer. The Rye IPA started out as one of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series and stuck. Another 100 Barrel I had a taste of was the Ginger Wheat (#42). This one I only got a sip of as my wife kept it after having a taste. And we ended up leaving with a bottle for later.
The Windsor Harpoon Brewery is open Sunday-Wednesday 10-6:00 and Thursday-Saturday 10-9:00. Guided brewery tours are offered on Fridays and weekends. They can be found at 336 Ruth Carney Drive, Windsor, VT at 802 674-5491 or online at http://www.harpoonbrewery.com.
One of the main reasons we traveled to Burlington was that we had promised the kids a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. We woke up early the next day and headed back down I-89 to Waterbury, VT for an ice cream break. It just so happens that the Alchemist Brewery is located just down the street from Ben and Jerry’s. The Alchemist brewery is small, there are no tours, just a viewing area with some signage explaining the process and their commitment to making one beer (that’s right: one beer) and making it a good and consistent as possible. Alchemist seems to be on to something because that one beer, the double IPA Heady Topper, is considered by many to be one of the best beers around. I was a little worried about visiting this brewery. I don’t’ like IPAs very much and the very idea of a double IPA makes my teeth hurt. I’m sold on Heady Topper though. It was a highly drinkable citrusy IPA. I desperately wanted to buy some for the road but the Vermont Brewers Festival was happening the weekend I was in town and there was NO extra Heady Topper in the state. I’m a convert to IPAs if Heady Topper is involved.
The Alchemist Brewery and Cannery is open daily 11:00am – 7:00pm. They can be found at 35 Crossroad, Waterbury, VT via phone at 802-244-7744 and online at http://www.alchemistbeer.com.
After a morning touring Ben and Jerry’s we headed back to Burlington arriving in time for an afternoon tour of Magic Hat Brewery. Located in South Burlington, a visit to Magic Hat Artifactory is less about a brewery tour and more about coming face to face with the Magic Hat experience. Walking in the building is a bit of an shock. The exterior is a pretty straightforward warehouse type building, only the treehouse and hops growing up the walls give away any inkling of what is going on inside. Inside is wild. The store is packed with gear, the bar was full of tasters and the music was loud. The tasting bar, which also serves as a growler bar, is set up so that get a taste of the full line of Magic Hats offerings. Once settled into a spot you receive a card, with six spots marked. Every time you order a sample a spot is stamped, this process continues until the card is full. There are eight offerings so if you like you can order a full line up made up of a several of Magic Hats regular line and a few special brews. Magic Hat’s capstone beer, #9 is the first taster, followed by the Hefeweizen Circus Boy and then Single Chair Pale. Once past the regulars you move into the rotating line up. On the day of my Visit there was the fruity Elder Betty, the spiced Pistil, Blind Faith and English IPA, the white Hocus Pocus and finally Demo, a Black IPA.
Out of this group I was draw to the Demo and Elder Betty, the later a bit of a surprise as I’m not a fruit beer fan. While Ashley and I enjoyed our samplers, the dog slept at our feet under the bar and the kids took full advantage of the in store photobooth. After the samples were done the tour started.
One of the problems I experienced up and down the East coast was that dogs and kids were not always welcome so I was never able to take a tour with my wife – she was always watching one or both. Magic Hat allowed both kids and dogs on their tours. The Artifactory was a great place to end my brewcation because the whole family, dog and all, were able to have a look around. The Artifactory tour doesn’t focus much on the brewing process, though it is touched on, it’s more about the history of Magic Hat and the culture that surrounds the brand. The tour is all about fun, the guide handed out hops candy, asked beer related trivia questions (with prizes) and was generally pretty jovial and fun.
Magic Hat can be found at 5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington, VT. Their hours change depending on the season so check for times on their website at http://www.magichat.net.