Vermont is exploding with buzz, boasting ownership of the best brewery and the best beer in the world. The catch? You have to make the trek to the Green Mountain state to experience the glory.
1. Not since Pliny the Elder has an imperial IPA made beer geeks so giddy. Meet The Alchemist Heady Topper, BeerAdvocate.com’s highest rated beer. Even with limited distribution throughout the state, cans of Heady still sell out within days of its release. Your best bet: Visit the Cannery in Waterbury on Mondays and Wednesdays (when fresh cans are packaged), and stick around for a few nips of the piney masterpiece in the tasting room.
2. This spring, RateBeer.com named Hill Farmstead Brewery the “Best Brewery in the World” based on consistently stellar user reviews (it currently has 28 beers ranked at 100 points). Not surprisingly, the bucolic farmhouse brewery in Greensboro is a bucket-list pilgrimage for scoring growlers of Edward, Abner and Ephraim (a pale ale and two imperial IPAs named after founder Shaun Hill’s ancestors), and devotees will be there for this year’s Festival of Farmhouse Ales on Aug. 10.
3. Sample some of the crazier creations at Magic Hat’s Artifactory, a 48-tap growler bar in Burlington. Don’t miss current seasonals like HiCü, a session ale brewed with cucumber and hibiscus, and Honey Wheat IPA, a hoppy wheat beer brewed with fresh Vermont honey.
4. Tucked away deep in the woods of the Green Mountains is a little red barn—the headquarters of the state’s most elusive brewery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Inside, brewer Sean Lawson crafts an ever-changing lineup on his tiny 7-barrel system. Don’t waste your time trying to visit; he doesn’t disclose the location. Instead, hit up one of a few spots where his beers make flash appearances (like downtown Montpelier’s Capital City Farmers Market) and try to score a bottle of the acclaimed Double Sunshine IPA.
5. Vermont Pub & Brewery, the state’s oldest brewpub, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Head to the Burlington pub and pair a pint of Burly Irish Ale with a wedge of Mt. Mansfield Creamery Inspiration cheese washed in the beer.
6. Beers from Fiddlehead Brewing (helmed by Magic Hat alum Matt Cohen) pour throughout the state, but the best place to sip them is the brewery’s Shelburne tasting room, which overlooks the brewhouse. Go straight for a pint of Ryezome, a dry-hopped, rye-wheat session ale.
7. Can’t swing a Vermont road trip? Sip the state’s beer treasures (plus a few out-of-staters) at the Vermont Brewers Festival, held annually at Burlington’s Waterfront Park.
8. Get a stamp at all of the breweries on the Vermont Brewers Association’s Passport and mail it in to receive a free T-shirt, glassware and other Vermont brewing memorabilia.