With more craft breweries per capita than any other state in the nation and long-established brewing companies that have become household names, Vermont is a destination where beer lovers can taste some of the best beers in the USA. The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead Brewery have done nothing short of wowing beer critics, and drinking their fresh-tapped creations should be on every beer lover's bucket list. The Vermont Brewers Association has nearly 60 members, and their map will help you find all of them. This guide will help you focus your travels on the very best breweries to visit in Vermont.
This brewery, situated on farmland owned by the Hill family for more than two centuries, has been named the world's best brewery by RateBeer for five years running. Home to an astounding eight of the top 10 beers in Vermont as rated by Beer Advocate, it's a must for any beer connoisseur who is visiting Vermont. Granted, getting here isn't the easiest. Hill Farmstead Brewery is in the remote Northeast Kingdom, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston or four hours from Hartford. But the miles will seem nothing when you get to sample — and take home in bottles or growlers — some of the best small-batch beers ever made while enjoying spectacular views.
This brewery — founded in Waterbury, Vermont — thrived for years on the strength of a single beer: Heady Topper. This smooth-drinking Double IPA — a fruity, hoppy and distinctly New England beer — is still in high demand and it's only sold in Vermont. If you want to join its cult-like following, plan a pilgrimage to The Alchemist's Brewery and Visitors Center in Stowe, Vermont. Here, you can taste The Alchemist's expanded line-up of craft brews and, if you time your visit right (Thursdays at 4 p.m. or Sundays at 11 a.m.), join an intimate tour of the brewing facility. A family- and dog-friendly destination, The Alchemist gives back to the community by donating all tour proceeds to programs for local youth.
If you've ever wished you could drink in a summer's day, then make your way to Waitsfield, Vermont to taste Double Sunshine: an American Imperial IPA that's earned perfect 100 scores from both Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. In a span of just over a decade, Sean Lawson has gone from homebrewer to something of a beer god, and the new brewery, taproom and retail store he and his wife, Karen, opened late in 2018 is a stunning space in which to sip fresh brews and nibble Vermont cheeses and other local snacks. You'll be rubbing elbows with both beer snobs and tourists; neither can resist the allure of trying beer made with Vermont maple syrup.
The largest brewery in Vermont, producing nearly 175,000 barrels each year, is also the most psychedelic. When you visit Magic Hat in South Burlington for an Artifactory Tour, you'll hear about the company's history, see quirky artifacts, watch a film about the brewing process, possibly see the brewery in operation, and you'll definitely taste three beers including two test brews only available here. Magic Hat sponsors many events on-site and in Greater Burlington including the annual Magic Hat Mardi Gras.
Adding an Austrian-style brewery at Stowe's Trapp Family Lodge was a pet project and dream come true for Johannes von Trapp, the youngest son of Baron and Maria von Trapp, whose singing family and storied flight from their homeland inspired "The Sound of Music." For a full-blown Austria meets Vermont experience, spend an afternoon mountain biking or cross-country skiing on the resort's trails (non-guests are charged a day use fee), then stop into the Bierhall for schnitzel with noodles and other Austrian favorites paired with German-style lagers. The 30,000-square-foot brewery's observation deck is open weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and behind-the-scenes tours of the brewing operation are available on weekends at 1 p.m. and Tuesdays at 6 p.m.
Foley Brothers Brewing
When you love beer but your partner doesn't, what are you to do? Head to Brandon, Vermont, where the family behind Foley Brothers Brewing also operates Neshobe River Winery. Here in an old-school barn in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest, you can go the chardonnay and rosé way or sample small-batch beers including Prospect, a well-regarded Double IPA. If Decided Funk #3 is on tap, you can experience the best of both worlds: This dark sour beer is wine-barrel-aged. Reserve your stay at the on-site Inn at Neshobe River, and you can kick back on the porch with a bottle or can of your favorite.
When Harpoon launched in Boston in 1986, it was the first new brewery in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in more than 25 years. Fast-forward to today, and Harpoon is the 12th largest craft brewer in the nation. Lucky for Vermonters, when Harpoon maxed out its brewing capacity in Boston, the company scooped up the shuttered Catamount Brewery in Windsor, Vermont in 2000. If you're a fan of Harpoon's signature IPA or want to try the always-innovative brewer's latest experiments, visit the Windsor brewing facility. Guided 30 minut tours of the brewery cost $5 and include a tasting for those 21 and up. Stick around for a pint and a meal overlooking the bottling line indoors or outdoors in the Beer Garden. The Vermont brewery is also a destination for a variety of special events including Harpoon's Octoberfest.
Founded in 2016, this upstart little brewery has an ideal location on Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront. Already attracting attention for IPAs like Built to Spill, Foam keeps this independent-minded community supplied with fresh potions. Their own beers play the starring role, but you'll also find nitro cold-pressed local coffee, kombucha and alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders from Burlington's Citizen Cider. Frequent live music and food truck visits keep the lakeview patio lively.
This one-of-a-kind destination sits on the banks of the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, Vermont, and views from the deck and rooftop beer garden are outrageously beautiful. The food is an upscale take on pub grub featuring local ingredients and twists on bar favorites. Like how the poutine is made with beer-battered cheese curds. The on-site brewery is tiny but mighty and experimentation is a constant. Apart from a dozen flagship brews like Whetstoner or Schmoke and a Pancake, most beers are crafted once — and then live only in memories and in recipes shared online. A larger brewing facility is in the works, but the community-focused vibe is here to stay.