Recently my family and I were able to enjoy some time off. We decided to take a few day trips within the local New England states. Our first visit was to Niantic, CT, ate some local cuisine in Western MA, and on the final day it was time for a trip to Vermont! Ready to travel with us?
To start the day, we ventured to Northampton for breakfast at The Green Bean. This spot is great for the “earthy crunchy,” the Vegans, the Organics and the meat eaters. There’s something for everyone. My breakfast was the Bagel Platter, which consisted of a homemade bagel, cream cheese, lettuce, capers, tomato, and seasoned smoked salmon. Truly a great start for the day, and got us ready for the not-so-long 45 minute drive to Brattleboro, VT.
I really wish we made the trip earlier in the season, the foliage would have been spectacular. It was still a scenic drive, just not as colorful. After taking exit 2 on route 91N, we headed on into Downtown Brattleboro, looking for a parking spot. You’ll never guess what happened next. No, you probably did. While looking for a parking spot on High street, my wife pointed to a spot just calling our name. Lo and behold! We were right in front of a BREWERY.
I think my literal expressions was. “Hey, a brewery. I could sure go for a beer.” First stop, Hermit Thrush brewery. With its rustic and modern appeal, and delicious sour beers it was a pleasurable first stop. I ordered a flight of Belgian strong, aged sours. Each beer was served in a small tulip glass, and had enticing colors, aromas and a variety of tartness. You can read about the experience in our prior article.
We finished, well more like “I” finished, and decided to walk around the town. Downtown Brattleboro is a quaint little area with a “college town” vibe. Complete with local coffee shops, restaurants, book stores, and locally made, home grown foods and crafts. One of those local coffee shops is Mocha Joe’s. There’s just something about walking around on a cold day, with a hot locally brewed cappuccino that just hits the spot.
Inside Mocha Joe’s, it’s a small little shop. Walking down the stairs you are greeted by friendly baristas, a wall of coffee concoctions, and a few pastries. Of course, there’s always the swag and coffee making equipment right on hand. My purchase was the maple cappuccino, oh and did that just sooth the bitter chill.
Soon after we were caffeinated, we headed across the street to Beadniks. Coincidentally I bumped into a local beatnik on the way, who almost demonstrated his karate moves. We spent some time looking at beads for my daughter, and exploring the bead creations, art and accessories, as well as artifacts. Meanwhile, I checked Untappd for other local brewing establishments. As our visit neared its end, I was reminded by my wife that she was looking for a certain CD, so we strolled over to Turn It Up, a small chain that sells used media. It’s a great location if you are looking for a wide variety of used music. Records, CD’s, tapes and much more; if you have the chance, it’s a fun experience.
After a while it was time to move on. Since “we” had no specific direction, I lead the way to Elliot street. Coincidentally, we stumbled across yet another brewery. McNeill’s brewery, to be exact. McNeill’s is connected to a restaurant, which was closed when we visited, and is situated in the middle of a large intersection. Inside it has a classic “pub” look to it. Wood paneling, solid wood tables, carved out benches and so-on.
We were greeted by a friendly bartender who was more than eager to have us try their beer. The locals were in deep conversation, and very proud of their Vermont beer. In fact, when I was choosing my samples, they happened to be out of a flavor I wanted to try. The bartender suggested the Imperial Porter by Rock Art Brewery, and when I hesitated slightly, the patron next to me reminded me it was a “Vermont beer,” so I shouldn’t question it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Rock Art a lot, but I wanted something straight from the brewery at hand. However, I did acquiesce to the porter.
At this point, I would like to take a moment to emphasize that we Barley Men take pride in our knowledge on beer. We also would like to point out, we try our best to be honest, even if it might sully some relationships. Though we do like to leave the brewers with dignity. That being said, I was not impressed with the beers here. The best beer there was on the guest tap.
Trying these beers, left me with a bit of confusion. I tried five of the available brews, which consisted of two bitters, a Pale, a brown and a sour red. Four of the five tasted like flavored water. Unfortunately, the water didn’t taste that clean either. The flavors ranged from medicinal and floral to tart and smokey, not including the sour. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. The best of their beer on tap was the Smoked Red Sour, because it tasted exactly like I expected- a smoked red sour. I dubbed it an oxymoron of flavors, smokey and sour and pretty average.
Was it a bad day? Did the lines need cleaning? Well, whatever the case, it wasn’t one the the best experiences I had,
but my family and friend sure had fun playing the games left available for the guests. Onward to our next destination, Saxtons River distillery.
We were all getting a bit hungry, but before closing the night with a hot meal on a cold day, we decided to warm our spirits (see what I did there) with some local distilled goodness. About a five minute drive from downtown, we headed on a yet another scenic drive along the Connecticut River to a little distillery set right on West River Rd.
Saxtons River Distillery is a quaint little locale, with a marked sidewalk to lead you right to the simple entrance (and no it’s not filled with yellow bricks). Upon entering, look to the left and you will see a nifty little LEGO brick model of a distillery, complete with workers, vats, and Smeagol in the rafters with some recently acquired bounty. I guess we’ll never see that play-set on the shelf. The rest of the gift shop is loaded with rustic antiques, DIY style projects, and bottles ready to purchase. All this decorum sets the ambiance of the of the tasting room.
After being greeted by the bartender, and an offer of free samples, we were able to try all the available spirits at hand. Their gin is phenomenal; crisp, clean and well balanced. The effervescence let’s your senses succumb to a wonderful bouquet of botanicals, without any overpowering juniper notes. We were impressed with their Maple Rye too, it was peppery and not overly sweet. With just a touch of maple and the right amount of smokiness give this an honest rye whiskey profile. The other spirits, while tasty, were a bit too sweet for my palate. I would recommend visiting, however, and trying them all for yourself.
Now, as these fall days get ever colder, and even shorter, our day was coming to a close. Our stomachs were now reminding us that we were getting pretty hungry! Now, I would be a little less than truthful if I said I didn’t already planned on hitting up one last brewery. Bless you brew pubs, bless you! Yes, our last and final stop was the Cream of the Crop, the Creme de la Creme, the Holy Grail, the- well you get the picture.
Whetstone Station Brewery, or next and final destination, was the polar opposite of disappointment. Nestled at the edge of a bridge heading to the New Hampshire border sits a remarkable restaurant and brewery. The menu itself is fulfilling, from duck wings to poutine; pieroges to short rib mac & cheese skillet appetizers; to soups, chilis and salads; as well as burgers and wraps and much, much more! Whether you are a beer drinker or not (he laughs to himself), there are a plethora of drink availabilities. Wine, fancy drinks, guest as well as their very own brewed beers. There’s a little something for everyone.
I would highly recommend getting a flight of their own brews. I mean why not? You can try whatever they have to offer of course, but definitely try their other available brews, especially the Vermont beer. As for the food, I tried the poutine and the smoked steak chili, with a side of Vermont Cheddar Ale soup. The “chicken sammich” was spot on as well. To see what else they have to offer you must check out their menu. We did have a 30 minute wait to get in, but it’s close enough to the town to walk around and enjoy the wait. But, if you decide to wait in the restaurant, it will be completely worth it. Fun fact, in the nicer whether there’s a Bier Garten to enjoy, as well as a river front deck (they do have heaters on the deck for those New England weather nights).
So if you are looking for a place to visit any time of year, foliage or snow, coffee and beer, whiskey and music, or just a nice walk around a quaint little town, please visit and enjoy your stay in Brattleboro.
…And here’s two pictures of some delicious chili and poutine:
I love the history of beer and how its made, the whole beer experience. My philosophy is, finding your beer is like finding your soul-mate, you may have a long search, and learn some lessons, but there is a beer that’s just right for you.