Last year, Drew drove from Montreal to Portland to meet me for some travel adventures. His route took him through a small stretch of Vermont called the North East Kingdom. Sunny days in the rolling green mountains of Vermont have made many a person fall in love with the small state, and the sights alone would probably have brought Drew back, but Vermont just kept heaping on the charm.
He stopped into Kingdom Brewery to pick up a growler of Vermont beer for us to share that week and found the brewery passport, 30+ local breweries. By the time he stopped into the VIC for more information on the state, he was sold. Then that VIC served him free local coffee. We started making plans to return right away.
Vermont is a leader in the buy local movement, in renewable energy, and has the most craft breweries per capita in the US. We planned a trip in March, and loved it so much we were back again in July.
We tasted, learned, met, explored, and now we want to share. Get started on your own Vermont itinerary with picks and places from our visits below! The order of this post follows the route we took on our four day trip in March, though we did a little bouncing around, so be sure to map the best route for you if you plan to hit multiple stops.
1. Have a beer at one of America’s smallest breweries:
Norwich Inn is a historic inn located just past the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. It’s home to Jasper Murdock Ales, one of America’s smallest breweries. Stop into the on-site alehouse and try one of six rotating beers brewed on-site. Pair it with the Whistling Pig Cheddar, which is made by a local cheese company from Woodstock using the brewery’s Whistling Pig Irish Red Ale.
Read about our experience at Norwich Inn HERE.
2. Explore The Artisans Park:
The Artisan Village is a working community of artisans in Windsor, VT. Here, “art” is not restricted to the abstract – find artisanal spirits, fine cheeses and edible artisan goods, handmade work for the home, and more. Read about our experiences HERE.
3. Then Watch Art In the Making:
One of the first things that caught our eye about Vermont was Simon Pearce, a line of glass products hand blown in a small studio overlooking a waterfall in Quechee. That waterfall also happens to power the shop and on-site restaurant. Make sure you take in the glass blowing demonstrations. Watching hot glowing glass be shaped and sculpted into beautiful, functional art is nothing short of magic. You can also catch glass blowing demos at their second location in Artisan Park (above).
4. Roadside Maple Taps:
We found maple taps near Woodstock, but would hazard to guess you can spot these throughout the state. Vermont is well known for their maple syrup productions, with many using the traditional method with a tap and bucket to collect the sap.
5. Rest and Relaxation With a River View
Our first taste of Vermont hospitality was one of our favourites. 506 On The River Inn, a family-run 40-room hotel, is the epitome of style and comfort. The hotel is filled with welcoming third spaces – games rooms, lounges and gathering spaces. They have a mix of found historic items and local artisan goods – a bar repurposed from an abbey auction, a cash till from the past, the kitchen I didn’t know I’d been dreaming of, and other quirky pieces that showcase the history of the region.
We especially loved the locally made pillows scattered throughout the hotel with “Vermontisms”, the hyper-local gift shop, and the local-food-filled menu. The rooms are large and lush, and every single one has a water view! There are shuttles if you want to ski at nearby Killington Ski Hill, but we think you’ll have fun exploring the property and the town, too! We aren’t alone in our love for 506 – the property was featured in Conde Nast “Where to Stay in 2015” guide.
6. Sit and Watch a Waterfall:
We were totally taken with Middlebury, a charming town in Addison County, Vermont. On a morning run we explored the streets as the sun came up, and discovered a little outdoor seating area to sit and watch the waterfall.
7. Then Indulge in the Middlebury Tasting Trail:
After you’ve gotten your fill of pretty, head 15 minutes outside of town and take in the Middlebury Tasting Trail, which includes two breweries, a winery, a distillery and a cider house. You can do sections of the trail on foot, but you’d be best to opt for a cab or DD to chart this course. Read about our stops to Woodchuck Cider House, Otter Creek and Drop-In Brewery.
8. Have a Mini Maple Syrup greeting:
Water bottles are a standard in many hotels these days, but the Middlebury Inn has a sweeter way to greet their guests – mini bottles of locally made maple syrup! It’s not the only reason to visit the inn – this historic inn dates back to the 1800s, and has maintained its Victorian style throughout the 75 onsite guest rooms. Its central location is perfect for town strolls, and sunrise runs over the cobblestone streets.
9. Roadside Skiing and Ski Lodge Brewing:
Since we tried Vermont’s smallest brewery, we had to also try one of their largest. The atmosphere at Long Trail Brewing is worth a detour, a true ski-lodge vibe. Nearby, there is a ski hill right along the highway if you want to work up a thirst. And with lots and lots of take-home options, the DD for the day can still experience this stop once you’re stopped for the night.
Read about our experience at Long Trail HERE.
10. Meet a Craft Beer Concierge:
There are about 40 breweries in Vermont, so unless you’re planning an extended stay, you might need a little help to pick and choose where you’ll visit and what you’ll taste. Enter the Craft Beer Concierge at Hotel Vermont in Burlington. This stunning locally owned property employs a full-time craft beer specialist to help guests navigate the extensive Vermont craft beer scene. This is a great home base for craft beer enthusiasts. We learned so much about craft beer during our one-night stay, plus a dozen rotating local taps means you can take a comprehensive craft beer tour on-site.
11. Citizen Cider:
We went for the beer, but Vermont’s cider scene would make a strong case for a repeat trip. We tried just a few while there, and while we liked everything we tried we really fell in love with Citizen Cider. Go try the brose, and the chicken tenders – the spicy cider sauce they’re coated in is not to be missed.
12. Then Explore The Bounty of Beer in and Around Burlington:
There’s a high concentration of craft breweries in Burlington, including The Vermont Pub & Brewery, Magic Hat, Zero Gravity (try the flatbread!), Switchback, Four Quarters, Fiddlehead… The list goes on and on.
13. If you only try one…
You can’t visit The Alchemist, maker of Heady Topper (the brewery is closed to the public) and you may need to follow their delivery truck around to score a can. Named “Best Beer in the world” by Beer Advocate, it can be difficult to locate but is well worth the hunt.
14. Hotel Vermont:
We found our first can of Heady Topper at Hotel Vermont. One of an extensive number of local features. They had local wine glasses, local blankets & pillows, local soap, ice containers made from repurposed local maple syrup containers, and all the wood used throughout this trendy, independently owned Burlington hotel was repurposed local wood from Vermont and New Hampshire. The tap line up is all local. The food is “my-neighbour-caught-it-this-morning” local, even the iPad cases found in each room were made in Vermont.
It’s a localvores paradise, for sure, but even if that’s not your thing, you’re going to love this place. Clean, modern rooms, a craft beer concierge, snowshoe and bike rentals, and great food with a view of Lake Champlain, all in the heart of downtown Burlington.
15. Vermont Cold Brew:
Beer isn’t the only brew in Vermont. The Northern Bayou Cold Brew Company creates a huge and inventive line-up of cold brew coffee. It’s a tasty kick in the pants, with flavours including hopped coffee and coco nib. So, so good. Find their stockists on their website and go out of your way to get a bottle. We found ours at the Growler Garage in South Burlington, a cool stop in and of itself. Read about it HERE.
16. Learn to Cook at this Culinary Resort:
At The Essex Resort, you can get hands-on experience in the kitchen with one of their culinary packages. Learn to cook using ingredients from their on-site farm, or let staff do the work for you. They have two on-site restaurants filled with local, seasonal fare and cocktails. It’s just 15 minutes outside of Burlington.
17. Ben & Jerry’s:
A classic tourist stop for a reason. Stop into the factory just outside Stowe to tour and taste your way through the Ben and Jerry’s story. It’s a bright, colourful, fun stop, great in the summer but no less enjoyable in the cold months. We loved their gift shop with ice cream pranks, branded tees and big, fun dog cookies.
18. Trapp Family Lodge:
Known throughout the world for the Disney-fied portrayal of Maria and the singing von Trapps, the real story, and especially their lives after the story, are the real marvel. The Trapp Family Lodge is a paradise for the active traveller. In the mountains just outside the quiet, bucolic town of Stowe, sits the expansive, rustic, and charming lodge. There’s so much to do on-site, especially for nature lovers. The von Trapp family grow much of the food for the lodge on-site, and their traditional Austrian breakfast is not to be missed.
19. Ski/Snowshoe Alongside Scottish Highlanders:
The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe is all kinds of pretty, but the on-site sports lodge will really get you out exploring the property, including trails that take you past their on-site heard of highlanders. Bring or rent gear and get outside. If you need lessons (like we did), private and semi-private lessons are available.
20. Trapp Lager:
And in case all the nature, active living, great food, and cozy accommodations worked up a thirst, the Trapp Family Lodge is home to von Trapp Brewing. Trapp’s line-up really stands out in Vermont’s brewing scene due to their Austrian lagers, a refreshing, delicious, and exciting departure from the state’s trademark hop bombs. Plus, there are few cozier places to grab a pint than the on-site brew-pub. Trapp recently expanded production with a sleek, modern facility, also located on-site. Try a taste of everything, but we especially recommend a pint of their dunkel.
21. Wait a REALLY Long Time for Beer:
The only place we’ve waited three hours in a line up for beer, and the only beer line-up I’ve tasted so far that is worth that kind of wait. Hill Farmstead is in the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t deter serious beer hunters even a little bit. See how many states and provinces you can count on license plates in the parking lot, taste a sample or two, pet the brewery dogs and make friends, you’ll be here for awhile.
Thanks to Vermont Tourism for answering our many, many questions and for connecting us with places to stay during the March leg of our trip. See more great craft beer destinations we’ve visited in Vermont and beyond HERE
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