Places: Best places for foam, food, and fun in Vermont… and beyond
Otter Creek Brewing was founded in 1991 and has been flourishing ever since. In 2016, they opened a 120-barrel brewhouse with an accompanying 9,000-square-foot addition to its original space. Due to covid, the brewhouse is currently closed to the public but their four year-round and two seasonal brews are available in stores throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.
Copper Ale, the beloved classic German-style Altbier, is the current limited release celebrating Otter Creek’s 30th anniversary. With notes of sweet caramel, toasted malts, floral, and a hint of citrus, it’s no wonder folks throughout the region are searching out an old favorite.
Just off Route 7 in Middlebury sits a distillery obsessed with creating unique and distinctly local spirits. Started in 2010 by friends Lars Hubbard and Chuck Burkins, the Appalachian Gap Distillery is a Middlebury treasure that should not be missed. While you will have to wait to experience a tour of the distillery and enjoy a free tasting due to COVID-19 restrictions, you should not delay in ordering their unique spirits online or by phone and making the trip to collect your liquid treasure curbside.
When you make your visit to Appalachian Gap Distillery consider trying the Papilio Agave-Maple Spirit. It is described by the distillers as tasting of the “smokiness in Vermont’s own dark maple syrup.” If Rye Whiskey is your preference, the Drumlin Champlain Valley Rye is made with rye exclusively grown within 25 miles of the distillery. The distillery focuses on sustainability when producing all eleven of their spirits in their totally solar-powered space. With so many choices, Appalachian Gap is a must-try when visiting Middlebury.
If wine is your jam, then a trip out to the Lincoln Peak Vineyard in nearby New Haven is in order. This local vineyard produces red wine exclusively from grapes grown at the vineyard. Owner and longtime local farmer Chris Granstrom developed his existing tree and strawberry farm into a thriving vineyard growing Marquette and Farnsworth wines. The unique growing conditions of the rocky soil allowed Lincoln Peak Vineyard to create award-winning small-batch wines.
Tastings are not available at this time, but those in the know recommend the vineyard’s wine club as a great value. They are currently running a cellar sale on their older vintages. Prices range from $20 to $45 per bottle and can be picked up in person or ordered online.
The Woodchuck Cider House in Middlebury, founded in 1991, is well-known throughout the country for their crisp and delicious hard ciders. Their current lineup includes seven core ciders, a 100 Calorie Variety Pack, and the 802 Collection of traditional ciders. The 802 Collection is made with fresh-pressed juice from orchards in Vermont.
As of March 27, the Cider House is open for visitors. Located on Route 7, the Cidery includes the Tap Room and Cider House. Tours and tastings are open for visitors Wednesday through Sunday. You will not want to miss this stop on the Middlebury Tasting Trail.
Now that Two Brothers Tavern has returned from the countryside to the heart of town, a stop at this gem of Middlebury is in order. The Two Brothers Tavern space is under construction, but the Notte restaurant and full-service bar remain open. They serve delicious Vermont comfort food loved by locals and visitors alike.
The main attraction when visiting Two Brothers Tavern is the 32 draughts to choose from. Almost as talked about as the rotating variety of brews is the excellent and friendly service of the staff. Boasting the largest selection of craft brews, microbrews, hard ciders, and kombucha—there is definitely something for everyone.
A countryside visit to Alchemist Brewery and Visitor’s Center in Stowe is required for all serious craft brew enthusiasts. Fans of their beers rave about the quality of the brews and the vibes. Currently, the Visitor Center and Tasting Room are closed to the public, but curbside pickup is available.
The first brew to try from the Alchemist is the Heady Topper IPA. This unfiltered IPA is full of hoppy goodness and a favorite of Vermont beer lovers. All of the beers canned on the 15-barrel brewery and canning line sport truly incredible artwork. The Alchemist has certainly perfected the cool factor and will be a fun visit when covid restrictions are lifted.
The Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop located on Main Street in Stowe is the place to visit if good beer is your passion. They carry a selection of over 700 beers, ciders, meads, and a smaller selection of wine. The folks at Stowe Public House create a welcoming environment for craft beer experts and novices alike. Check out beers from around the world and craft beer favorites from right in Vermont.
In addition to their retail bottle shop, Stowe Public House serves Vermont cheese plates, wine, and beer from their tasting menu. If you have the time to do a tasting while visiting you will not regret drawing on the expertise and passion of the staff. The Stowe Public House is a must-visit for good beer while in Vermont and the building is lovely as well.
If you are searching for great food and beer in an incredible setting then you need to try the Idletyme Brewing Company. With indoor and outdoor seating open and an excellent lineup of beers curated by Brewmaster Will Gilson, this brewery and restaurant will become a fast favorite. The folks at Idletyme pride themselves on their historic roots in the community and dedication to fresh, quality Vermont-made ingredients.
Many visits to Idletyme Brewery will allow a chance to enjoy the varied settings offered by the brewery. There are multiple dining options, a brewpub, farm table room, porch dining rooms, and a gorgeous backyard to explore. The seasonal patio area is a great place to relax and take in the view. Guests will enjoy the Biergarten and Treehouse Bar as well as a large lawn for the entire family to enjoy.
Tres Amigos restaurant offers excellent tequila drinks, Mexican-inspired cuisine, and fantastic live music on their Rusty Nail Stage. Enjoy one of five flights to sample a variety of mezcal and tequilas. Tres Amigos has a substantial drink menu sure to satisfy everyone in your group.
The restaurant has been drawing rave reviews since its opening in 2017. It is back in operation with covid restrictions being followed but open for seating and events on stage. Before you soak in a great show after a long year without live music, eat an excellent meal and unwind with a “flight to Mexico” and choose your favorite tequila.
To round out the list of must-visit locations we have Stowe Cider. They are famous for their dry and delicious cider varieties. Stowe Cider is available in stores throughout the region, but why not go directly to the source? Their Taproom is currently open for indoor and outdoor seating while observing proper covid precautions.
While visiting the Taproom, there are many options for cider, craft tea, and craft seltzer. The tasting room is right in the production facility, so every visit is its own tour. Drinks in the taproom and live outdoor music should provide plenty of entertainment. Stowe has many great stops for the craft beer and cider enthusiast and Stowe Cider is one that should not be missed.
The River Roost Brewery is described by visitors as cozy with very friendly service. Located in Hartford in the Connecticut River Valley, this brewery was established in 2016 by founder Mark Babson. The brewery has a small taproom where patrons can buy and fill growlers with their favorite brew. Tastings are also available to narrow in on your new favorite beer or enjoy exploring new brews.
Dedicated followers of River Roost Brewery rave about their IPAs, but don’t underestimate their darker beers as well. Growlers are available for purchase in the taproom as well as a small amount of River Roost merchandise. The Mas Verde IPA is available on tap and in cans as supply allows. This IPA is hugely popular with locals and makes a great start for exploring what River Roost Brewery has to offer.
Big Fatty’s BBQ and Crowler Pit, located in White River Junction, has something for the whole family. The BBQ restaurant is a relaxed atmosphere with food and toys to keep the kids entertained. The whole Fatty’s team provides great service and knowledge about their offered beers. The food and beer menus are robust and sure to satisfy every taste.
The Crowler pit allows visitors to pick and choose one of ten craft beers on tap to fill their crowler, a 32-ounce can that is filled and sealed then and there. Fatty’s prides itself on stocking hard-to-find craft beers for purchase as well. They even have gluten-free beer options! Enjoy an evening of beer and BBQ at Big Fatty’s and take home your favorite craft beer combinations in your custom crowlers.
The Norwich Inn is a historic establishment dating back to 1797. One of the best breweries in Vermont, the brewery at the Norwich Inn is under the direction of brewmaster Patrick Darin. The brewery, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse, opened in 1993. When you make your selection at the bar, the beer is pumped directly from the brewery underground to the tap and into your glass. Talk about fresh!
The historic inn is as delightful as the dining and beer options. Visitors will enjoy the delicious food and beer surrounded by a historic atmosphere. Make a weekend out of your visit and enjoy luxury accommodations that harken back to the days when President James Monroe visited the Inn. When you leave, make sure to stop by the brewery and pick up a stock of Vermont craft beer made and bottled onsite. Their brews are sold exclusively at the Norwich Inn, so you won’t want to miss out on bringing your favorites home.
The Public House at Quechee Gorge is open once again for dining and drinks at the pub, and it promises to be a good evening out if you stop in. They offer fresh food, craft beer, and live music for the entire family to enjoy. Now that they are back open, it is easier than ever to call and make your reservations ahead of your visit.
There are seating options both inside and out as well as bar side. If you are looking to take in their live music while you eat, the outdoor seating is ideal. The owner, Andrew Schain, is known to make the rounds visiting patrons and adding to the welcoming atmosphere. While you are there, order from the knowledgeable bartenders and try a great Vermont craft beer or locally distilled spirit.
Another great stop, while you’re visiting the Quechee-White River Junction area, is the Vermont Spirits Distilling Company—just look for the large carved moose on Route 4 to know you’re in the right spot! Established in 1999, Vermont Spirits Distilling Company crafts small-batch vodka, gin, bourbon, brandy, and liqueurs. They are currently open and welcoming visitors to stop by daily and sample their fine spirits made on location.
They use only the finest local ingredients to make spirits worthy of the Vermont tradition. Vermont Gold Vodka is made from 100 percent Vermont maple sap and their line of Coppers gins are made using organic botanicals and handpicked wild Vermont juniper berries. With so much care and focus on local ingredients, the resulting spirits will become fast favorites.
When visiting Jeffersonville, a must-see is Martell’s at the Red Fox. The music and food venue is open once again and following current covid guidelines. What better way to relax and unwind after a year without live music!
While you are there, soak up the beautiful weather and sunshine in their outdoor seating areas. Visitors to Vermont staying in Smugglers’ Notch say the food at Martell’s at the Red Fox is excellent and the service wonderful. This family-owned and -operated venue is the passion of the Martell family, and you will get a sense of the care and dedication with every delectable option on their menu. As if that wasn’t great enough, they also have a wide and excellent selection of craft beers with a special focus on Vermont brews.
Experts in their craft, the folks at Smugglers’ Notch Distillery are the recipient of the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards top ten vodka distilleries in the United States. The distillery was founded in 2006 by father-and-son team Ron and Jeremy Elliott. They produce small-batch gin, bourbon, and vodka in the spirit of the original bootleg operations that moved through Smugglers’ Notch in the 1800s.
Since prohibition is no longer an issue for current times, visitors should take the opportunity to stop by for a tasting at the distillery. Smugglers’ Notch Distillery is famous not only for their vodka but for the Vermont Maple Bourbon as well. Tastings are sure to delight with the smooth offerings and enthusiastic knowledge of the staff.
Don’t skip out on the adventure when you visit Jeffersonville! The ArboTrek Zip Line Canopy Tour is taking reservations now and reopening in May with updated facilities. Before you relax at one of the many excellent restaurants or breweries, going zipping through the Vermont treetops. This is an adventure the entire family will want to experience.
Families and groups can experience one of the activities available at Arbotrek, or make an entire all-day adventure of your outing. They offer zip line canopy tours, a treetop obstacle course, climbing adventures, and team building activities. The views can’t be beat and what better way to experience the natural beauty of Vermont than from the treetops.
The Cupboard Deli is a great place to stop before heading out on your adventures in the Smugglers’ Notch area. Treat yourself to a coffee and something from the largest selection of fresh baked goods in the area. If you need to fill up on a bigger breakfast, just add a famous Breakfast Buddy to your order. During warm months, the Creemee Bar is open to meet the ice cream cravings of your group.
Folks headed out for a day of hiking or kayaking can gather all they need for packed lunches. The Cupboard Deli also sells a large selection of Vermont wines and craft beers. Locals describe this stop as a hidden treasure, so don’t miss your chance to see why it is so beloved!
If you have always wanted to try a gluten-free beer, Red Leaf Gluten-Free Brewing is the place to start. This brewery sources gluten-free grains and locally handpicked berries plus homemade maple syrup for their beers. Folks with and without gluten sensitivities are fans of Red Leaf. It’s just good beer!
The tasting room is open and the owners are friendly and ready to talk gluten-free brewing while you sample their tasty brews. Start with the Woodsmoke Porter now available in cans at the brewery. Sit out on their front porch and sip the summer and sunshine flavors of the Strawberry Hibis-Kiss or Clementine White Ale. Other highlights of a tasting at Red Leaf are the bourbon barrel-aged porter with Vermont maple, the Woodpile Maple Brown Ale, and the Woodsplitter IPA.
Take in gorgeous views of the Connecticut River from the riverfront taproom location of the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery in Brattleboro. There are seating options in the firelit indoor dining area or you can take in the cool breezes off the river in the outdoor seating area.
While enjoying the view, sip on one of the Whetstone craft beer offerings and dine on “inspired pub fare” using locally sourced ingredients. Whetstone has a selection of over 50 craft beers, including local and regional favorites. Don’t forget a photo opportunity when you straddle the New Hampshire and Vermont state line running right through the restaurant. Not only will you be drinking really good beer, but you can also do it in two states at once!
Also in Brattleboro is the Saxtons River Distillery, which produces fine Vermont spirits. Founded in 2016, this distillery specializes in small-batch handcrafted bourbon, gin, rye, and liqueur. Founder and head distiller Christian Stromberg began distilling spirits near the Saxtons River using recipes passed through the ages from his Lithuanian ancestors. He set out to marry these traditions to the special flavors of Vermont.
The result is a distillery worth visiting to explore these quality spirits. Currently, the tasting room and indoor areas are closed to the public, but you are encouraged to enjoy a tasting on their outdoor porch area. A visit is absolutely worth your while. Find your new favorite and take a few bottles home with you.
Customers are raving about the fresh and delicious food at the Vermont Country Deli. This country store has the perfect atmosphere for browsing unique treats and a gourmet marketplace. The deli offers custom pastries, comfort food, and sandwiches. Many say the baked mac ’n’ cheese is the best they’ve ever had!
The Vermont Country Deli opened in 2014 and specializes in local products sourced from around Vermont. In addition to great food and shopping, they have a quality selection of Vermont craft beers and wines. They rotate their selections, but you can expect to find all Vermont beers, ciders, and wines any time you visit.
Outer Limits Brewing in Proctorsville is open for indoor seating and takeout. However, reservations are required at this time and can be made ahead of your visit on their website. The brewery was opened in a historic two-story brick building by the husband-and-wife team of Wesley and Taylor Tice. The dining space is sleek and inviting, creating a relaxed atmosphere for patrons.
An interesting note about the brewing process at Outer Limits—their spent grain is used on a local farm which in turn provides meat for their menu. The Sweet Surrender Bakery also takes their spent grain and creates soft pretzels customers claim are the best they have ever tasted. Outer Limits has their great selection of craft beers on tap and available for purchase in 32- and 64-ounce growlers. The Ground Control Pale Ale and High Frequency are available in cans for purchase.
Last but certainly not least is Meulemans’ Craft Draughts in Rawsonville. This is one of the best craft beer stores in the whole state. A small 800-square-foot shop is jam-packed with the best beers and wines Vermont and the surrounding region have to offer. This locally-owned shop was founded in 2010 and expanded into their current space in 2013.
Not only will you discover rare and hard-to-find craft beers—some on tap that you can’t find bottled anywhere—but they also have a good selection of European beers. The shop has ciders and meads as well. The owners and staff are passionate about craft beer and a great resource for enthusiasts and new lovers of craft beer alike.
MiddleburyOtter Creek Brewing Co.
793 Exchange Street
88 Mainelli Road
Lincoln Peak Vineyard
142 River Road
New Haven, VT
Woodchuck Hard Cider
1321 Exchange Street
Two Brothers Tavern
86 Main Street
100 Cottage Club Road
Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop
109 Main Street,
Idletyme Brewery Company
1859 Mountain Road
1190 Mountain Road, #1
17 Town Farm Lane
Upper ValleyRiver Roost Brewery
230 South Main Street
White River Junction, VT
Big Fatty’s BBQ and Crowler Pit
186 South Main Street
White River Junction, VT
325 Main Street
The Public House at Quechee Gorge Restaurant
5813 Woodstock Road
Vermont Spirits Distilling Co.
5573 Woodstock Road
White River Junction, VT
Smugglers' Notch/JeffersonvilleMartell’s at the Red Fox
87 Edwards Rd
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery
5087 Vermont Route 15
1239 Edwards Road
The Cupboard Deli
4837 VT Route 15
Red Leaf Gluten-Free Brewery
105 Main Street
Southern VermontWhetstone Station
36 Bridge Street
Saxtons River Distillery
155 Chickering Drive
Vermont Country Deli
436 Western Avenue
Outer Limits Brewery
60 Village Green
Meulemans’ Craft Draughts
8814 Vermont Route 30