It’s no secret, Vermont makes great beer. An efficient way to confirm this is to attend the Vermont Brewers Festival. The recent growth in breweries has risen from thirty to well over 55, earning its tag-line of Small State Big Beer, and a reputation as the Disneyland of Beer.
This gem of a beer festival is held at Waterfront Park in Burlington (July 18 - 19). As we approached the site we were struck by the spectacular Lake Champlain backdrop, the lush green, spacious and well-laid out grounds, and the natural stillness … just the happy sound of people talking about and drinking beer.
There are three sessions and $30 buys you 15 tickets (3 oz tastings) with 1 ticket for tastes under 8% and 2 for anything over. With an option to purchase 5 additional tickets, we found this plenty to explore the tastes of Vermont on our first day.
We looked for the longest line up and joined it for our very first taste of Alchemist and crushed (ha!) the Crusher American DIPA at 9% and Focal Banger an APA at 7%. (No Heady yet, but we would track that down later.) We then made a beeline to Hill Farmstead where they were pouring Edward a dry-hopped APA with beautiful floral notes and tastes of citrus and pine (just the way we love it) and Grassroots Brewing Brother Soigne (a collaboration with former Dieu du Ciel brewer Luc Bim Lafontaine) with hibiscus, lime and blood orange which was super refreshing. Another memorable summery moment was Otter Creek Fresh Slice White IPA with coriander and clementine. While chatting with others we learned that Fiddlehead Second Fiddle was one we had to try and we were not disappointed with this big juicy Double IPA. Just to compare we tried a Spruce Tip IPA brewed by Vermont Pub & Brewery with Lawson’s Finest Liquids and found it to be a touch more medicinal tasting than BC’s spruce tip brews. There was no shortage of big beers here so we went all in and indulged in Rock Art’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Wee Heavy Scottish Ale (at 10% it was big and heavy) and their Belvidere Big IPA (which later would end up coming home with us). To round things out we sampled the Trapp Dunkel, Four Quarter’s Fleur de Lis session saison and Opus Ferum Patersbier with Brett Bruxellanis (cask) and many more.
We were proud to see Canada well-represented by neighbouring Quebec breweries who were in such great company. It was nice to see several cross border collaborations with Vermont Pub & Brewery such as Lemongrass Saison with Hopfenstark, Sunset Vibrations an oak-aged Scotch ale with Dieu du Ciel, and Sour Rhubarb Saison with Le Trou du Diable. Benelux, Dieu du Ciel, Dunham, Le Trou du Diable and Hopenstark breweries were all present at the festival so if you don’t have time to visit Quebec you can sample their finest here.
We highly recommend this one - it is one of the best beer festival experiences we’ve had to date. Thanks to the brewers, the volunteers and to the Vermont Brewers Association for giving us such a welcoming taste of Vermont.