Something's brewing in Southern Vermont
For many years, craft brew enthusiasts in Southern Vermont felt a bit neglected.
Although our region has been home to two award-winning brewpubs such as Madison Brewing Company in Bennington and McNeill's Brewery in Brattleboro for nearly three decades, critically acclaimed craft beers brewed in northern and central Vermont were harder to come by in the southern portion of the state. Distributors often skipped over Bennington and Windham counties in favor of the bright lights and deep pockets of Boston and New York City. As a result, locals and visitors to our region had to trek northward to experience some of Vermont's most famous craft brews.
But that is all changing. Thanks to the arrival of new restaurants and tasting rooms that prioritize Vermont craft beer, the selection available in Southern Vermont today is superb compared to years past. Below we highlight several spots that pour a variety of Vermont's finest craft beer.
The Crooked Ram, Manchester
An outstanding 2017 addition to the area's craft beer scene, the Crooked Ram offers eight rotating drafts and an array of canned beers, all carefully curated by owner Peter Campbell. The menu consistently includes some of Vermont's truly stand-out crafts (think Foley Brothers, Green Empire and Burlington Beer Co.). Draft beer to-go is available in "crowlers" - 32-ounce recyclable cans. They also now serve charcuterie, cheese and other snacks on site, which make for delightful pairings with either beer or one of their many natural wines - whether inside or at their pet-friendly picnic tables out front. Notably this is one of the few establishments in Southern Vermont where you can regularly find the Alchemist's celebrated Heady Topper and Focal Banger.
J.J. Hapgood General Store & Eatery, Peru
A historic oasis in Peru, J.J. Hapgood was reincarnated by owner and Peru native Juliette Britton and her husband Tim in late 2013 with a new, locally-inspired caf and eatery that includes a fine selection of craft beers on draft and growler filling stations - which is handy when you find that perfect Vermont brew and just have to take some home. They also have a full menu of tempting craft-made cocktails and an impressive inventory of canned and bottled beers in the general store. Add to that the scenic and inviting Vermont marble patio that abuts a lush green lawn with corn hole boards and giant Jenga set, and you will see how easy it is to while away the entirety of a sunny afternoon here.
The Tap House at Catamount Glass, Bennington
The industrial-chic decor of the Tap House is a fitting complement to the adjoining Catamount Glass factory, which displays many of its fine glass products in the dining area. They have 16 rotating taps and canned/bottled beer that feature primarily Vermont breweries, plus a comfort food-oriented menu together with cider, wine and spirits. The dog-friendly patio out front is just 50 yards west of Bennington Pottery and is a popular place to hang out in warm weather.
Hermit Thrush Brewery, Brattleboro
If New American sours are your jam, this is the tasting room for you. If you are uninitiated but sour-curious, the charming staff of Hermit Thrush will happily walk you through their range of locally sourced thirst-quenchers (up to 12 rotating taps). The brewmaster, Christophe Gagne, chose Brattleboro for its unique location and geography, which together yield some exceptional wild native yeasts that are essential to a good sour. They source much of their other ingredients from nearby Vermont farms for the true farm-to-glass experience. Add to that the hipster vibe of the tasting room, the four kinds of grilled Vermont cheese sandwiches offered from Thursday through Saturday, and Skittles - what's not to love? The Hermit Thrush is dog, cat and parrot friendly.
Union Underground, Manchester
One of the newest additions to Manchester, Union Underground beckons its patrons to descend downstairs to its rustic yet industrial-styled location in the basement of a former bank (complete with old-school bank vault). Once inside, customers can experience a rich collection of craft beers flowing from its 24 rotating taps together with its extensive gastropub menu. You can also enjoy a game of pool or shuffle board while sipping on a pint or lounge upstairs on the outdoor terrace and deck during summer months (where eight additional taps may be found).
Beer Naked Brewery, Marlboro
Perched high atop Hogback Mountain since July 2017, this brewpub offers its patrons a million-dollar view to accompany their handful of house-made craft beers. Hungry customers can also pair their brews with tasty kielbasas and pierogis from Andrzej's Polish Kitchen, which operates from a food truck at their location. Beer to go is available in growlers and crowlers.
The Fat Crow, Newfane
This post-and-beam restaurant with trendy interior decor opened in September 2018 on the site of the Newfane Cafe and Creamery, which was destroyed in a fire in 2016. It typically offers 12 beers on tap, most of which are brewed in Vermont, as part of its eclectic menu.
Whetstone Station, Brattleboro
Voted "Vermont's Great American Beer Bar" by CraftBeer.com in 2018, Whetstone Station offers spectacular views over the Connecticut River from both its rooftop Bier Garten and main restaurant. Its beer selection features dozens of independent guest beers alongside its own small, experimental batches.
The Dutchman's Tavern, Bennington
Just opened in May 2019 by Bennington natives Kelli Hurley and Kris Callaert, this tavern is among the newest arrivals to the area. It sports 24 beer taps with over a dozen craft brews alongside mainstream macro beers and traditional pub fare.
Honorable Mention: Barrows House, Dorset; Copper Grouse, Manchester; Firefly, Manchester; Harvest Brewing, Bennington; Ramuntos, Bennington and Brattleboro; Seasons, Manchester; Top of the Hill Grill, Brattleboro; Wunderbar, Bellows Falls.
Lauren Hunt lives in Arlington.
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