New England

May 2012

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York

We began our two-week journey in New Jersey and headed North towards Maine by car. We had some good brewery maps from the beer newspapers and state brewery websites, so we had a list of locations we planned to see. Of course, we are always open to a surprise visit. About halfway there we decided to pull over and get a hotel room for the night. The exit sign said Worcester, and we had no reservations, but we quickly found a room at the local Marriott. We left the car in the parking lot and lucky for us, two blocks away we found our first pub.

Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Massachusettes

The pub was warm, welcoming and cozy with brick, wood, and friendly faces.  Plus, a great beer list was clearly posted on a chalkboard on the brick wall.  How did we manage to find this place? The quality beers were both international and local.   I quickly chose the Achouffe Houblon Dobbelin IPA Triple because I rarely see it on tap, and it quickly quenched my thirst. They offered a Massachusetts tasting paddle with four beers which Nina took advantage of. The beers were representatives from Berkshire Brewing, Pretty Things, Blatant, and Jack’s Abby.   All but one passed Nina’s test.  The food menu offered charcuterie plates with local cheeses, meat, and honey.  The bartender was informative and friendly and listening to him we learned that Worcester was a serious beer city.  This was a great way to start our road trip.

Portsmouth Brewing, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This brewpub is located in the friendly compact downtown area of Portsmouth.  You can’t miss it by its sign featuring a big 3D frothy tankard of beer.  There is a store next to the pub to purchase all the swag you want. The pub is large with several levels and different rooms including an outside beer garden. The beers are well listed and described. I had a pint of Gose, an older style making a comeback, that tastes slightly salty and is a great thirst quencher.  Nina loves her Maibocks, and it is May, so she paired one up with local fish chowder.  She was very happy.  I ate fish and chips, which featured local catch and was also delicious.  We returned the next evening for a free beer and cheese tasting as part of Craft Beer Week.  Tod Mott, head brewer, was available for any tough questions.  The brewery was started in 1984, and the original founders also started Smuttynose Brewing.  When we were buying our required souvenir t-shirts we noticed the store was also selling hops starter plants…nice!

Federal Jack’s in Kennebunk Port, Maine
This was a small brewpub located on a tiny street along side a scenic fisherman’s cove. If you envisioned a Maine brewpub this is what would be built. It was hard to find because of road construction, but worth it. We soon found out that this was the original location of the more famous Shipyard Brewing in 1991. Because of this Nina was anxious to taste Old Thumper from the source. She matched it up with a bowl of local clam chowder and all was perfect. The staff was friendly and the beer choices were plenty including a cask oaked vanilla porter, which I selected and paired it with a bison burger. Great match up. The Fuggles IPA was awesome. 80% of the food menu is supplied locally and the food tasted great including the clams. This location also has a brewing school.
Sebago Brewing in Kennebunk, Maine
We found this brewpub while we were returning to our hotel in Ogunquit, so we made it just a quick stop. Founded in 1998, it’s named after a lake in Northern Maine and they have four locations. It was a polished operation with great artwork for the beer labels and t-shirts. There were nine different brews on tap and each hit the taste marks. The newest of these was the Trekker Pale Ale, brewed for a charity bike ride, which was crisp and refreshing. We also sampled Boathouse Brown, Full Throttle IPA, and Frye’s Leap IPA all of which were worthy of a full pour on another visit.
Run of the Mill Public House in Saco Island, Maine
This pub was located in a restored mill on a small island. The old brick façade had a welcoming logo sign. The interior was very woodsy with timber beams and tabletops. They had a funny beer named list; Alewife Ale, What’s Hoppenin XPA, Bugzapper Lager, and Sow Your Oats stout. There was a tasting paddle of seven brews for only $5…cool. The menu was very pub like, but respectful to the beer, some items were cooked with beer. We didn’t have a chance to taste anything from the food menu.
The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grill in New London, New Hampshire
Although we were looking for this pub, it was an unexpected find because of GPS irregularities, but also unexpected because of their quality and story. The pub is located on a great lot with a terrific view and had a beautiful goose weather vane on the roof. The inside is large and woodsy with a separate bar area. The beers we tasted, Alt, Dunkelweizen, Pleasant Lake Pilsner, and Ragged Red were terrific, and served in a well-designed logo glass. The food menu included items cooked with beer such as the porter ale onion soup and the beer cheese potato skins. When we were leaving we noticed they had a field of solar panels to run operations and the brewer Rik was tending to his newly planted crop of Cascade hops! There was as much going on inside as outside…good luck guys!
Jasper Murdock’s Tavern at the Norwich Inn, Norwich, Vermont
This may be Vermont’s smallest brewpub. The beers are brewed about 50 yards from the tavern and piped underground. Their specialty is English style. I tasted the Porter and it was dead on for flavor. The pub gives you a feel for small Vermont where conversations with unknown friends come easy. A good tip: the pub is located within the Norwich Inn, so you can taste the brews just steps from your classy room. And, before going to the pub get some exercise, there is great hiking in the area.
Long Trail Brewing in Bridgewater, Vermont
We found an advertisement for the pub that read “Munich like Hofbrauhaus”. What? Here? Are you kiddin me? Well, anyway it’s on our list so let’s go. We come around a curve in the highway and then we see it. It looks like a farm with brew tanks set along the bank of a river. Looks inviting. We enter into a large taproom with lots of beer to choose from. The bartender was very friendly, patient, and informative. And, if you have the patience you can wait for the brew master to pour your beer for only an additional $2. The newest brew was their Double White, part of their Brewmaster’s Series. It is brewed with wheat and oats with a hint of orange peel and coriander. Another beer we liked was the Double Bag, a strong ale style, dark amber in color measuring 7.2%. Great music was playing in the background and t-shirts were selling off the wall opposite the taps. Outside many lucky beer drinkers were enjoying their seats along the rushing river. Very cool place.
King Arthur’s Flour Company in Norwich, Vermont
Okay please support this company…founded in 1790 and it’s still American owned! Down the street from the Norwich Inn they offer cooking classes and we signed up for a bagel making class. I’m thinking bagels are related to pretzels and we could use a good pretzel at Stuff Yer Face. So, serious enough at four hours long we turned out some great bagels. But sadly, no beer was served.
Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Vermont
We thought we were crazy when we drove an hour from our perfectly fine B&B (which had it’s own tavern) to find The Pig. But, the previous night’s bartender whom we learned to trust, recommended it. It’s one of those places that lacks parking, is small, busy, and hard to get a drink at, but everyone loves because they keep it simple and do it right. “Classic Cocktails, Craft Beer, Fine Barbeque”. Love the pig. They don’t brew here, but there are 24 beer taps, mostly local and some hard to find. There’s a great looking wooden bar. How about a Hill Farmstead Florence (Saison), Greenflash HopHead Red and an order of Pork Cracklins? I’ll have another round please.
Magic Hat Brewing in Burlington, Vermont
Located on the south end of town, their quirky tasting room is a fun place. Uniquely decorated and designed in a dimly lit room, there were plenty of beers to taste. They offer four free tasters. I had lost track of Magic Hat since the early years of Magic Number 9 and Blind Faith. The offerings were all new to me. I tasted the Humdinger Imperial Pils and was so impressed with it would like to add it to the SYF Beer Library. I also tasted a beer brewed with dandelions named Pistol. Others that Nina and I tasted were Elder Betty a tart ale, Circus Boy an American Hefeweisse, and Single Chair Ale. These were all enjoyed while circling the t-shirt racks, surfboards, photo booth, and all kinds of swag in the room. A clever idea…how can you resist?
Farmhouse Tap and Grill in Burlington, Vermont
This is a restaurant that has been on our radar for months while it opened just two years ago. Located on Bank Street in the downtown area it brings the farm fresh to you along with great local craft beer. There was a large outdoor seating area, and inside was designed with large farmhouse tabletops along with a shiny wooden bar with 24 tap handles. Lovingly organized, the beer menu listing matched the order of the taps, which also matched the order of the chalkboard listings! They listed the beer name, beer style, serving size, alcohol percent, and price! Perfect, that’s the way it should be done. My lamb burger was cooked perfectly, served with house made freedom fries and even house made ketchup and mustard. It paired well with my Trout River Rainbow Red. I could sit here everyday. Nina was more than happy with her cup of bean soup and bowl of roasted beets along with her Vermont brewed Bobcat Marzen auf Holz.
Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, Vermont
This brewery is located in a picturesque area and is owned along with Long Trail Brewing. They also brew the organic beers of Wolavers and are celebrating their 20-year anniversary. The first thing you notice upon walking into the tasting room is that it showcases the brewing and bottling area through glass walls. Nice place to enjoy a beer. They had plenty to sample. I first chose the 20th anniversary Quadruple Alt at 12%, which surprisingly at 11am was quite agreeable. Nina enjoyed sampling six; Black IPA, Stovepipe Porter, Spring Bock, Shed IPA, Wolavers Oatmeal Stout, and Otter’s 20th Anniversary Quad. Her favorite was the Spring Bock. We shared a charcuterie plate that was very fresh, filling, and tasty.
Man Of Kent Tavern in Hoosick Falls, New York
This is one of my old favorites when I owned a home in Vermont. When traveling from NJ to VT, MOK was a bright beacon on Rt. 7 located in the middle of nothing. You walk in and are greeted with a loud and friendly hello or cheers. The style is English and sports supported by the dozen English ales on tap and the hundreds of English sport flags and jerseys hanging from the walls and ceilings. The service is always good, the beer is fresh, the banter always lively, and the food is tasty and filling. There use to be a three legged cat, a pushy pig and a goose who acted like a security guard, but they are gone now. We drink to them!
Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York
Cooperstown should be a destination goal for any baseball fan and beer lover. You can spend four hours at the Hall of Fame and then spend four hours at the pub at Ommegang. It’s so good we did it two days in a row! The brewery is just 5 miles out of town in a pastoral setting. They use their special setting for concerts and camping beer festivals. The pub has a large bar and several large tables for groups or just meeting new friends. There is an outdoor area also looking over the large grassy fields and trees beyond. Ommegang is a brewer featuring Belgian style beers. The tap selection is very impressive especially because Duvel Moortgat, which also owns Maredsous and Achouffe, owns Ommegang. The food menu is also impressive with food reminding me of Belgium. Moules, frites, charcuterie, waffles, crepes, hearty soups, beef carbonade, and croquettes are available and deliciously pair with the beers. We were able to taste BPA Belgian Pale Ale, Rare Vos (Sly Fox), Hennepin Farmhouse, Three Philosophers, Abbey Ale and the seasonal Art of Darkness Quad. Wow, what a lineup! The staff was informative telling us about the beers and food, and mentioned two historical notes first being the local farms were the center for hop growing in the 19th century, and second, Father Hennepin was an explorer who first made note of Niagara Falls.
Looking back on the trip there were a lot of places, a lot of food, an abundance of beers, and good weather.  We gave it our best efforts and now know of some geat New England beer stops.  Even with our good maps and reports, we stll heard of other brewers opening up along our route waiting to be discovered.  So, we hope our brief highlights entice you to Travel for Beer, Get Stuffed, and Stay Thirsty!

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