How exactly do I define craft beer? Oh my! I think it is becoming harder and harder to define as more and more people discover (in my country) that beer can actually taste and smell good! It can have flavor and color. It can be brewed in places big and small! Pretty much majority of the beer I drink is considered craft beer but as the big companies began to create their own small craft brewers (Goose Island) the definition of a craft beer is left in the hand of the person drinking it. Great post on Beer Advocate on this http://www.beeradvocate.com/community/threads/what-does-craft-mean-in-craft-beer-poll.108053/
We awoke and our hope was to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop for a nice hike. A short drive from our inn is where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets Skyline Drive. Who would have thought to call ahead? By now the roads are surely opened?….
…We arrived to find the Parkway shutdown and the Skyline drive still closed due to the snow. Well what to do? Hike ON the parkway. We arrived before most others and enjoyed a solitary walk along the rode heading upward – There was something so serene but almost eerie of being the only ones on a road usually filled with drivers. The views were just amazing down to the valley below. There were indeed some patches were the ice formed on the roadway which I am sure would make it a treacherous drive.
After our nice hike we stopped for some lunch and beer tasting at Devils Backbone. We had enjoyed the Vienna Lager and wanted to taste what else they offered. We had no idea what to expect. As we drove up we were surprised by a beautiful huge lodge-like building that looked straight out of Colorado and that was jam packed! We also visited Wild Wolf Brewing where we had expected nicer surrounding but found the shops all empty – however we ended up enjoying this beer far more and left with some very well priced bottles. So Devils offered the better atmosphere and Wild Wolf offered the better beer.
We enjoyed another hike in the valley below and returned to Iris Inn for an evening wine tasting followed by a relaxing soak in the hot tub. This ended abruptly when our power went out. After regaining power, I unfortunately fell into a deep sleep in our treehouse above the woods and would sadly not awake again until it was time to say goodbye.
The apples are ripening and the pumpkins are growing. The weather begins to get cooler and the humidity at last will disappear. The leaves have already begun to change and the mums are starting to open again. Oh….we are just a few days away from the official start to my most favorite season in Pennsylvania – Autumn! Over the next few months I will journey across my countryside and visit the festivals, apple orchards, and pumpkin patches. I will ride the rail trails, kayak the lakes, and hike the trails all over Easter Pennsylvania. Menus will change to roasted butternut squash, apple crisps, and of course our favorite pumpkin beers. A visit to our favorite brewery, Weyerbacher, will most certainly be on the list of things to do to pick up some of our favorite Imperial Pumpkin Ale… This in my opinion is the best season in Pennsylvania and a great time to visit if you are thinking of taking a weekend trip to visit the countryside surrounding Philadelphia!
Third visit. Yep. On our second visit the bartender remembered our name. There is nothing better to feel, if just for a fleeting temporary moment, like a local in a place where you would love to move. For us, Quigley’s gave that to us. The beer is perfect to quench your thirst in the heat (reaching close to 100 on this day), the happy hour is the most gracious I’ve ever encountered, and the food is the perfect low country inspired comfort food. Going here we were surrounded by those who lived here, and although I’m sure our accent quickly alerted we were not locals, it still felt good to feel like we were one of them.
We drove up to Bristol Vt for one last place to check out for we had read on Beer Advocate that it had great beer. We had no idea just how good the food was and that to get a table was reservation only! What a great little mountain town! I felt like I was back out West. This would be a great base camp for a future trip to explore North Vermont Breweries. I even had the chance to meet a nice couple who were originally from my hometown state who owned a campground in the area.
I started with Saison De Cassis – mixed into this great beer is Vermont Blackcurrants! It was delicious! And then finished my evening with a Unrepentant Stout. The chocolate and dark coffee definitely come out in this beer and it was perfect ending to a great day!
I’ve been a long time fan of Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat – for me the perfect summer session beer in the middle of a humid afternoon – and so seeing where it is produced was a must stop on our Brewery tour. The Otter Creek Brewing Company is a great brew pub serving all three of their beers with big windows where you can look out at all the shiny tanks producing beer. Although we are familiar with both Otter Creek and Wolaver’s we had not had The Shed, a small Vermont Brewery acquired by Otter Creek. The Shed Mountain Ale was good. Also tried the Wolaver’s Brown Ale and jumped ahead to the fall season and had a Wolaver’s Pumpkin.
Sometime they even offer special test batch one day of the week (not the day we were there). Regardless – this is a great stop to enjoy a few beers low in ABV, have a nice chat with bartenders who know beer, and enjoy some good local food — but get there early. They shut down in the early evening so that the local bars get the spotlight and can make the money selling their beers.
Amazing Falls! What a great place to visit on our Central Vermont brewery tour. Otter Creek runs straight through the center of town and you can walk over a great bridge to see it. You can then read about the history of the town on signs posted on the path that runs next to the falls. We had a small bite to eat for lunch at Two Brothers Tavern- a classic neighborhood pub serving good beer and food. I could see this being my local go to spot if I lived here! Also there is plenty of neat shops to visit after eating and before continuing the journey north on our brewery tour. This is my second trip to Middlebury – the first being many years ago. There are a lot of neat things to do in the area so this would be a great place to stay for a few days.
Deliciousness!! Award for our most favorite beer on today’s brewery tour. And most unobtainable… they do not bottle and so the only option to take with you is to get a growler to go. The Head Brewer’s main focus is teaching the craft of making beer. This would be a wonderful place to go if interested in learning to make your own beer – both beginner and advanced classes. You would certainly be learning from someone who really knows how to make good beer!
What we tasted: Sunshine and Hoppiness / Red Dwarf/ Heart of Lothian / Hazard Belgian / Honey Carry My Bag (love the names)
What we brought to enjoy by the campfire later that evening: Hazard Belgian
Woke up and after a relaxing morning sipping coffee on our back porch we decided to explore the breweries. With a map in hand (giving up on GPS!) we decided start out going West then North to see where the road took us…
This won’t come up as the best craft beer place in Bennington. It didn’t show up on any list I saw for a place to have good beer in Vermont (and I seek out as many as I can find on the Internet). It also won’t make the top places to eat in Bennington on TripAdvisor. .. but this place recommended by a local for pizza on our last trip was a must return for exceptional craft beer from New England. Yes. Not just VT. But being from Pennsylvania there is a huge number of beers here that are not available in PA. Oh and pizza is amazing… remember order at counter.. no table service… love it… pizza and a blueberry porter… yum… (and if one is wondering why these are posted days later… it is because posting on a cell in the mountains of Vermont was not working out too well!)