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Monday, July 18, 2011

Vermont's Finest... BEER: Part I

Friday 6/10/11

Brewslut and I departed Annville at 6am with our good friends Dan and Kristen, and drove to Poughkeepsie, NY for a stop at the excellent beverage mart, Half Time, and picked up some beers not available in PA, like selections from Captain Lawrence, Goose Island and some other local stuff with which I was not familiar.  Also had lunch next door at Crew, which was pretty fantastic!  I had Ahi tuna tacos for an appetizer and a veggie burger that was quite tasty.  They also had a nice tap selection including lots of local selections.  I got a Captain Lawrence pale ale that I'd never had before (sorry, no review unfortunately). 

Inside the Warren General Store
Our next stop was the Warren General Store in the quaint little town of Warren, VT, which reminded me of something out of the 80's TV series Newhart.  They boast a wide assortment of artisan cheese, baked goods, candies, nuts and wine.  Oh yeah, and it's pretty much the only place you can buy Lawson’s Finest Liquids, albeit in strictly limited quantities.  According to inside information (thanks Deuane!) they only make deliveries to Warren on Tuesdays and Fridays, and there is typically a 2- to 4-bottle limit per person.  Dan and I each got our four bottles – two bottles of a Weiss-K (a hefeweizen) and two bottles of Permagrin Rye Pale Ale (a rye pale ale, as the name implies).  They also had an ample supply of extremely fresh Peeper Ale from Maine Beer Company.  Needless to say (and much to the chagrin of one of the workers) Dan and I emptied the shelf after we found out that it was bottled just a few days prior to our visit!  Brewslut overheard him say, "Now I don't have any beer to sell for the rest of the weekend!"  Well, what's the difference?  You sold it all to me, right?  
Ebenezer's... the #1 rated beer bar in the country... and it's in the middle of nowhere!
After Warren, we were off to Ebenezer's in Lovell, ME.  We stopped here last year during our Kate the Great Day trip to Portsmouth, NH.  I opted for a Saison Dupont as my first choice, and it did not disappoint.  This isn't the benchmark of the style for nothing.  Check out my BA review here.  I also enjoyed a vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoot from 2004 (Chris also tapped 2002 and 2003!). Where else are you going to have an opportunity like that?!  If we had more time, I would have tried all three.

Tap handles at Ebenezer's
Last time we visited, only Dan was able to secure a tour of the fabled "cellar of doom".  This time, however, we were all fortunate enough to get a tour of the beer cellar, which was pretty ridiculous even by our standards.  Racks upon racks of Cantillon beers.  I mean, this place had more Cantillon beer than Cantillon itself, it seemed.  Rare bottles of vintage Russian River beers were strewn about.  Unlabeled lambics from the Mesozoic era were even plentiful!  Belgium in Lovell, ME indeed!  Here are some pics from the cellar...

We purchased two rare bottles from the cellar: Allagash Victor Francenstein, and an extremely rare blended gueuze from Belgium that was one of only 40 bottles!  But since it isn't an actual beer that was brewed (it is a blend), I was not able to add it to BA.  M'wah!

Afterwards, we stayed at the Central Lovell Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast (or in our case, just "bed" as we were heading to Rosie's in town for breakfast). 

Saturday 6/11/11

After and early rise and shine, we were off to Rosie's, just down the street in Lovell, ME.  This is where author Stephen King likes to have breakfast on occasion, but sadly he was not there on Saturday morning.  I had my VHS copy of Maximum Overdrive ready for him to autograph.  OK, not really.  While it took quite a while to get our food, we had some pleasant conversation with some locals at the bar as well as our waitress.  I enjoyed my turkey hash scramble, which was the breakfast special of the day.  But I was getting antsy, because we were off to Hill Farmstead, the brewery that provided the impetus of this very trip to Vermont.  I had been pretty damn impressed with Shaun's hoppy offerings thus far... first Abner, then Ephriam and most recently at Philly Beer Week, the Citra DIPA).  All were phenomenal to say the least.  I had also heard that he had a penchant for making some tasty Saisons as well, which is a favorite style of mine, especially during the summer months.  So needless to say I was coming prepared, with four empty flip-top growlers at my disposal.

Greensboro, VT is pretty much your middle-of-nowhere rural town.  I think the last two miles of the trip was on a bona fide dirt road!  From the outside, the brewery is nothing to look at.  As a matter of fact, it looks like a garage from a horror movie.  OK, perhaps not that scary.  But there is a certain charm to this place.  We entered the tasting room, and found a pair of other visitors and a young guy working the bar.  We all opted for the sampler, which included everything they had.  The Citra DIPA had just kicked moments ago, so the Everett porter was about to go on.  In addition to the Everett, we also sampled Abner (DIPA), James (black IPA), Motueka (single hop pale ale), Florence (wheat saison), and Edward (flagship pale ale).  I believe there was a seventh beer, but it escapes me at the moment.  I'm definitely glad I brought four growlers, because we filled all of them with Hill Farmstead's amazing beers!  Overall, this was an enjoyable visit to a simple tasting room.  Hill Farmstead is brewing some of the finest beers on the East Coast.  If you come across any bottles at your local bottle shop, be sure to pick a few up... you won't be sorry!

We drove by Rock Art’s new tasting room unexpectedly, so we stopped in for a quick beer sampler of four beers.  All were surprisingly good, considering I’d never really been a big fan of their beers.  Plus it was only three bucks for the sampler paddle, and I got to keep the taster glass!  It was a very short stop, however, as we were on our way to meet our friends and new VT residents The Bodans at The Alchemist.  I must admit that I was really excited about visiting this place, especially since their Heady Topper IPA had become a Top 100 beer on BA and also after I had perused their website and read about some of their beers.  Sadly, Heady Topper was not on tap during our visit, although we did learn that they were in the process of installing a canning line, and that Heady Topper would be in cans in a few short weeks!  I enjoyed two pints of Shut the Hell Up, a 3.7% ABV Simcoe hop bomb with tons of flavor for such a light session beer.  Awesome!  Also awesome was the smoked tofu burrito I drove into my gullet!   I could have stayed there much longer, but unfortunately I tend to prefer quantity over quality when traveling in the name of beer.

Pleepleus enjoying some of my Shut the Hell Up!
Afterwards, The Bodans joined us for another round up the road at The Shed, where Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead used to brew.  However, I was not overly impressed with this place.  I opted for their Sanity IPA, described by the waitress as a piney IPA.  Unfortunately, it was an average IPA at best.  Bodan told us that their burgers are phenomenal, but three of the four of us are non-red meat eaters.  Plus we already ate at The Alchemist anyway.   Overall, I wish we would have spent more time at The Alchemist, as it is a far superior place compared to The Shed.  Oh well, live and learn.

On this particularly rainy night, we decided to head back to the hotel in Burlington, get an UNO deck and a corkscrew, and finish out the night with a few hands of UNO and a bottle of red wine that Brandi picked up for $3 at the wine shop next to Crew in Poughkeepsie.  But first, I was on a quest for some soft serve ice cream, which we were able to procure right across the street from the hotel.  Brewslut  posed as my “sis” since we were both dressed like twin siblings, each wearing the same exact blue Selin’s Grove hoodie sweatshirt. So we ended the day with an early night and a few wine-soaked hands of UNO!

Stay tuned for Part II of the Vermont trek, coming soon!


  1. Sounds like an awesome trip Jeff. I'd love to be able to hit up The Alchemist at some point as I've heard really great things about it.

  2. Yes, The Alchemist was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Great beer and vibe there. VT is indeed a great state for beer!

  3. How was the Motueka Plae Ale? I just ried to get some of those Motueka hops for a DIPA I brewed today. Couldn't find any though so I sube some galaxy from Australia for a late addition.

    Very nice write up of your trip!



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