We should probably get something out of the way right here. I don’t ski. Or snowboard. I tried to learn, about ten years ago when I was in my twenties, but that went dreadfully.
I learned to skate at a young age and played my fair share of hockey. And that might be the root of my problem with skiing. I’m pretty good at the hockey stop—in one direction. And that translated decently to turning in skiing—in one direction.
Really, I’m fine until I need to turn to the right. And then it’s either off into the trees or a fall that sees two skis and two poles each heading in their own direction.
Despite my aversion to all sports alpine, I really enjoy Vermont. It’s a scenic, sparsely populated state with great food and even better craft beer.
And it probably goes without saying that the home state of Bernie Sanders is a progressive place where Canadians are welcomed with open arms. And that’s a surprisingly relevant consideration in this time of tariffs and trade wars.
Whether you’re going to Vermont for the tail end of summer on Lake Champlain, to see the fall colours in all their splendour or, yes, even for the skiing at Stowe, I would definitely include Waterbury and Burlington on your itinerary. The former is an impressively picturesque small town that punches well above its weight for beer and the latter is Vermont’s version of a big city. >>
Originally based out of the American Flatbread restaurant in downtown Burlington, they now have a production brewery on the outskirts of town. Even in late winter, when the beer garden is months from opening, the taproom is a sunny refuge with a welcoming bar and solid food menu.
Little Wolf APA (5.2% ABV) is a remarkable balance between lemony, dank and resiny hops on the nose and a body of toasted brown bread and orange marmalade. Conehead (5.7% ABV) breaks from IPA tradition by using a wheat base that helps with its spritzy aroma and Citra-supported notes of pineapple on the palate.
Among the delicious bar snacks, deep-fried cheese curds are impossible to resist. All that saltiness helps highlight many of the individual elements in various beer options.
Switchback Brewing Co.
Long before Heady Topper was brewed in a pub basement in Waterbury or Shaun Hill built one of the most recognizable brewery brands in the U.S., Switchback was a go-to brewery in Burlington. They recently revamped their space on Burlington’s south side and it is now a friendly spot (including for dogs) to enjoy a tasting flight.
The Citra Pils (5.1% ABV) has plenty of the promised German malt as a backbone and a bright spot of pine needles and white grapefruit juice notes from the citra hops to earn the IPL designation granted to it by Switchback.
Continuing on the hop-forward theme, Connector IPA (6.1% ABV) is hazy medium-gold with orange ice cream on the nose and a leaf-and-marmalade flavour that ends with a slightly prickly finish. It doesn’t drink like six per cent.
This lakefront brewpub has recently become the must-recommend spot in Burlington. Their tasting room is filled with brewing equipment and the pleasant aromas that go with it. The colourful-splotches-and-wavy-corners decor reminds me of the early 1990s. It has become a meeting spot for locals looking to get their hop fix.
If it’s enamel-stripping, slow-sipping double IPAs you want, this is the place. Youth Lagoon (8.0% ABV) represents the tropic-fruit section of that style with light-medium bitterness and a nicely dry finish. Built to Spill (8.0% ABV) is danker with more earthiness on the nose and bright pineapple flavours.
Where Else to Visit
Yes, you absolutely should consider making the drive up to the top of the hill in Greensboro. Hill Farmstead is a craft beer treat. But if driving conditions aren’t the best or they are and it’s likely to have a long lineup, I think you’re better off at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill.
By all appearances, this should be nothing more than a very good option for a casual dinner with your parents if they are dropping you off for another year of college in Burlington. In fact, it has one of the best tap lists in all of the northeast U.S. with plenty of options from local breweries like Good Measure, Queen City and von Trapp as well as the fermented apple option from the likes of Citizen Cider and Cider Creek.
I had an excellently fresh Hill Farmstead Edward (5.2% ABV), which is one of my favourite takes on the highly drinkable American pale ale style. The stone-fruit aroma and mildly bitter flavour did an admirable job of standing up to my blue cheese and bacon selection from the excellent burger menu.
Down closer to the lake, the Growler Garage is a decidedly more casual place with tap, bottle and can lists that are nearly as good. Despite the bar’s name, they no longer do growler fills. This was the first place I found Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine (8.0% ABV) in its distinctive, bright yellow can. Just enough sweetness supports the fruity notes that range from apricot and melon to lime and orange zest.
John Kimmich’s The Alchemist brewery has moved production of Heady Topper and Focal Banger out of town to Stowe, but Waterbury is still a must visit. Prohibiton Pig, with shareable plates of barbecue and house-brewed beer, feels like an unofficial clubhouse for the hometown of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Across Elm Street, Craft Beer Cellar is a gem for those looking to fill their trunks for the drive home, especially because they are a rare source for single bottles and cans.
Getting to Burlington
Porter flies from Toronto every week from December through the end of ski season. The drive to Burlington is an easy one, especially if you stop at one of the excellent breweries south of Montreal. Driving also makes Waterbury and Stowe much easier to get to.
Where to Stay
The all-year tourist season means there are plenty of accommodation options in Burlington, but it’s hard to top the Hotel Vermont. The boutique hotel on Cherry Street has gorgeously modern rooms furnished with goods from local producers. They also have a strong craft beer focus for their lobby bar and special events calendar.