Vermont’s craft beverage makers have become a major driver of visitors to the state and Central Vermont has been a hotbed of this trend. But it’s not just our world-famous beers that will quench your thirst.
Old-time Vermonters made Switchel to slake the thirst of hard working farmers for generations. Then, about 40 years ago, a mom & pop small business called Green Mountain Coffee Roastersbegan in Vermont’s Mad River Valley. You may have heard of it. Ever since, this region has inspired others to follow in their footsteps creating a vibrant, local beverage industry.
Did you know that Vermont has more craft breweries per capita than any other state? It’s true! Central Vermont more than pulls our share of the weight, boasting several esteemed craft breweries.
Originally a 60-seat brew pub in the village of Waterbury, The Alchemist decided to open a small production brewery in 2011. Today, they operate two breweries in Waterbury and Stowe, and distribute cult-favorites Heady Topper and Focal Banger throughout the state.Their original location then became the home of Prohibition Pig, which has a rotating list of house brews and hard seltzers. Big Tree Brewing, located at The Reservoir, and Freak Folk Bier, town’s newest addition, round out the brewers located in Waterbury.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids has earned critical acclaim and an enthusiastic fan following. Brewer Sean Lawson started a single-barrel nano-brewery with his wife Karen in 2008 after 20 years of home brewing. Since then, their specialty maple beers & IPA’s have garnered awards at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, and at two National IPA championships. In 2018, they opened a Waitsfield brewery, taproom and retail store. Also in the Mad River Valley, Cousins Brewing Company is a three barrel brewery located at the LocalFolk Smokehouse at the junction of Route 100 and Route 17 in Waitsfield. They brew with only the finest ingredients, producing a variety of fresh, well balanced beers available in cans and on tap at the LocalFolk Smokehouse.
Idletyme Brewing Company is a local brewpub located in Stowe, offering high-value fare in a cool atmosphere. Whether your preference is brown or pale ale, Helles Lager, or the famous Idletyme Double IPA, you’ll not be disappointed by their experienced Brewmaster’s offerings. Located at the Trapp Family Lodge, the von Trapp Brewery & Bierhall is a must visit for any craft beverage enthusiast. The von Trapp Brewery currently produces several lagers brewed from the finest authentic Austrian ingredients and their own pure Vermont spring water. Visit the brewery and then grab lunch at the Bierhall – serving authentic Austrian lunch and dinner selections.
Don’t have time to visit the breweries in person? You can also enjoy many of the region’s finest brews at Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, which the Boston Globe called a “craft beer mecca.”
The proliferation of craft beverages in Central Vermont isn’t limited to brewers. Craft distilleries are also leaving their mark on the region.
The story of Caledonia Spirits begins in 2011 with a beekeeper and distiller working together in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The original distillery was located in Hardwick near the Barr Hill Nature Preserve. They perfected the use of raw honey in the distillery, capturing the countless botanicals foraged by honey bees into a bottle of gin. The honey would always be kept raw to retain the depth of character of the land. In June 2019, they moved into their new home on Gin Lane in Montpelier, where they make America’s most-awarded gin, Barr Hill.
When Mad River Distillers got started they wanted to make their own artisanal spirits from scratch, but never imagined where that simple vision would take them. It was a vision of farm-to-glass, to collaborate and bring the fruit of their labor to market in the form of handcrafted spirits. You can sample and purchase their spirits at the Mad River Taste Place in Waitsfield.
Smuggers’ Notch Distillery’s Barrel House Tasting Room, photo by TYKE Photography
The region’s bountiful apple orchards have been the source of cider for generations. Today, there is a proliferation of high quality cider producers slaking the thirst of locals and visitors alike.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill is a great, family-friendly stop on your way to Stowe. While they are known as the top New England producer of fresh apple cider, they also serve authentic hard cider as well. Try their popular Barn Dance made from the cider mill and pair it with a freshly-made cider donut.
Founded in 2013, Stowe Cider has a vision to bring something different to hard cider lovers. Located on Mountain Road in Stowe, their tasting room is open a select few days inside the production facility. Enjoy live music, a consistently rotating tap selection and more than 10 varieties available to go.
Tin Hat Cider’s traditional dry ciders come from fruit grown in the Mad River Valley largely come from the orchard at Mountain Valley Farm in Waitsfield, but cidermaker Teddy Weber also hunts for and incorporates wild apples found in the area. All ciders are made with unsprayed apples grown in central Vermont, and are fermented in his cellar facility. Their cider is sold wholesale in Vermont and at retail shops like the Mad River Taste Place, as well as at special events and farmers markets throughout the area.
While grapes certainly grow in the area, wine production is a relatively new endeavor that is quickly garnering rave reviews.
A new family-run winery in Stowe, Ellison Estate Vineyard crafts Old-World style natural wine from one of the oldest and largest single plantings of grape vines in Vermont. This boutique winery offers small intimate tastings and events.
Four kindred spirits, Joe and Carol Klimek, Tom Golodik, and Kathleen Rubel, formed a friendship based partly on their common love of all things Vermont and over the course of that friendship, the two couples developed an interest in fine food and wine sparked by their travels during various shared vacations. Eventually, after searching for a new home, they settled in Waitsfield and established Mad River Vineyards.
Over in Barre, the Neddo Family Vineyards has been growing grapes and making wine since 2006. They produce reds, whites, fruit and other specialty wines.
Even More Beverage Makers
Looking for a non-alcoholic beverage? Vermont’s artisan producers have you covered there too!
Noah’s Fizzy Lemonade is a delicious, non-alcoholic, all-natural beverage dreamed up in 2011 by a seven-year-old in Waitsfield. Noah’s Fizzy Maple Lemonade is made from 3 simple ingredients: lemons, pure VT maple syrup and water along with some light carbonation to give it its trademark “Fizz.” Also founded in the Mad River Valley, Root Juice is committed to offering the finest custom crafted blends with your health and wellness in mind. Who doesn’t love a fresh pressed juice or a custom crafted smoothie? In the summer, come visit their Airstream Juice Bar at the East Warren Community Market in Warren.
We encourage you to discover all of the brewers, cideries, tap rooms, distilleries, wineries and wine shops throughout the central Vermont region.