Stratton Mountain, Where the Beer Trails Meet

To every season there is a beer … and here in Vermont you’ll tap into some of the best in every style from crisp wheat to deep stout, from a bubbly framboise to the trendy sour.

While IPAs are never out of style or season, 2016 is the year of the dry hopped sour, according to bon appetite as well as Stratton’s local beer expert Greg Meulemans, chief curator of Meulemans Craft Draughts  at the corner of Routes 30 and 100 in Rawsonville.

It was last summer that Greg pointed me to a new favorite from Backacre, a small operation just up the road in Weston that crafts a single sour golden ale by aging beer for more than a year in oak barrels and then blending those barrels to achieve the ideal balance of “tart, fruity and earthy elements.”

backacreBackacre is only sold and served in Vermont and only at a handful of locations including Verdé in the Village and Meulemans Craft Draughts.  My advice to you:  Don’t leave Vermont without at least one 750 mL bottle.

You probably already know Vermont has the greatest number of breweries per capita. And that the world’s best beer is brewed in the Green Mountain State.  Maybe you’ve even queued up at 2 on a Tuesday to score cans of the coveted Heady Topper.  Well, now’s the time to discover a few more of our southern Vermont secrets.

Hermit Thrush in Brattleboro offers tours and a tap room with two-ounce flights that invite you to try a whole host of New American Sours.  What will I choose? Gin Barrel Saison, Jolly Abbot, Silly Friar, Hoppy Smalls … definitely Party Guy.  Try the Farmers Grow Hops Here when it’s released in early fall; this homage to a nascent  farm-to-pint movement  brings  green whole-cone hops from local growers,  like Greg and Pat Meulemans,   to the cask fresh off the vine.

Part of the first wave of  Vermont craft brewers,  Trout River,  now under new ownership and  at home in Springfield, continues  the original Rainbow Red Ale while building their own identity with fresh offerings including the Vermont Single IPA.

If there’s a small beer movement, the family run, seven-barrel Foley Brothers in Brandon is at the heart of it with releases worth putting on your calendar.  Not exactly over the river and through the woods, but down a gravel road to an old cow farm where the hay barn serves as a tasting room.  You can also pick up selections on the shelves at Meulemans Craft Draughts.

Belly up to the bar, any one of the bars, in Stratton Village for a chance to try even more options with the Firetower Restaurant and Tavern exclusively pouring Vermont brews and where Zero Gravity’s crisp, Citra hop Conehead IPA is a year-round favorite.

Bar 802 Stratton

At Bar 802, the drafts rotate with a preview of “Up Next” on the board.  I’m looking forward to the Otter Creek Over Easy Pale Ale for a late summer libation. Otter Creek, based in Middlebury, was early to the Vermont craft brew scene and now has a wide distribution; try it here and buy it at home.

Maybe you’ve been drinking Vermont’s famed Long Trail Ale for 20 years and like to take advantage of every opportunity to try something different; that’s how I met Tim and Trish of Waterford, CT, at Mulligan’s.  They were enjoying a von Trapp (yes, that von Trapp – youngest son of Maria and the Baron) Bohemian Pilsner – brewed in Stowe and winner of 2015 Silver Medals  in both the Great American and  Great International Beer Festivals – and the Northshire Battenkill Ale, an English style brew that “looks dark but tastes light,” as Trish explained.  “I like this Pilsner; It’s not an IPA,” Tim added with a smile.

Northshire Brewery, which crafted Stratton’s 50th anniversary double brown ale with a splash of maple syrup, is soon moving from Bennington to Manchester.  And they will be among the hundred plus brewers here for the annual Stratton Brewfest on October 8.

Until then, head for the hills and sample the freshest session beers or try an authentic Octoberfest from von Trapp.  “Oktoberfest is a Marzen,” explains Greg Meuelmans. “What is that you say? This style of beer is actually a lager which gives it a nice clean finish to complement the toasty maltiness.”

Before you know it, the pumpkin beers will be out.  And then we drink the stout.

About the Author:
Myra Foster never misses an opportunity to sample the local brews whether it’s the Backacre in VT, Deschutes in Bend, an English bitter, Irish stout…and like children, or cats as the case may be, you cannot have a single favorite.