Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Vermont Beer Week

Northern Vermont, specifically the area around Montpelier and Burlington is about a three hour drive from the North Shore. It may be a stretch to call it “our backyard”, but we will go with it. If you can make it a day trip, it counts for me.

I had been meaning to make a beer pilgrimage to Vermont for a long time. When two of my Tweeps @HopSnobbery and @LipstickNLager organized the first Vermont Beer Week, it seemed like a perfect time to finally make the drive. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make it, until Newburyport Brewing asked my girlfriend and I to work at the Claremont Brewfest in Claremont, NH. Claremont is located right on the Vermont border. Since we were already part of the way there, it only made sense to continue on.

We purchased some beer at The Craft Beer Cellar in Waterbury, and stopped in at The Prohibition Pig and The Blackback Pub. We didn’t have a hotel, so we could only spend a few hours in town.  At the Blackback we ordered a can of Heady Topper and a pint of Sip of Sunshine, and I was finally able to do a proper side-by-side and determine which beer I preferred.

Both beers are excellent, and determining between the two is splitting hairs. As a brewer I appreciate how the malt, hops, and yeast in Heady all noticeably contribute to the flavor. Sip of Sunshine has a perfect hop blend and an intoxicating aroma, without being overly bitter. I think I give Heady Topper a slight edge.

We weren’t just “whale-hunting” beer tourists. We did try other beers from Hill Farmstead, Zero Gravity, and Prohibition Pig’s own brewery. Everything was excellent, and I definitely plan to go back to Vermont and spend more time up there.

While the beer was excellent, that doesn’t mean we don’t have comparable beers here in Massachusetts. Trillium and Jack’s Abby can stand toe-to-toe with Hill Farmstead when it comes to making hoppy beer. At The Blackback somebody saw our Newburyport t-shirts and said Green Head IPA was their favorite beer. We have so much great local beer that I don’t typically feel the need to engage in beer trading, or waiting in long lines just for a limited beer.

I certainly did love some of the hoppy ales we tried on our short trip. Pale, cloudy, hoppy ales like the ones we had in Vermont and are being made all over New England are quickly emerging as a new regional style. This weekend I will brew my own interpretation.

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