Photo Courtesy of Brian Aldrich
Trapp Lager's Dunkel
Vermont is home to some of the best beers in the world – beers that rarely, if ever, are available outside of the Green Mountain State.
Breweries like Hill Farmstead, whose beers make nearly every "best of" beer list produced in the past two years.
Then there’s the Alchemist, which brews only one beer, Heady Topper, and people travel from around the country to go to the small brewery and buy a case of this double India pale ale.
And, perhaps the rarest of all, Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Only three stores carry bottles of Lawson’s beers, dropped off once a week.
So what is a beer geek to do if they really want these beers? Two words: road trip!
Last week, two fellow beer lovers and myself jumped in the car and headed to Vermont for beer. We knew we couldn’t get Hill Farmstead because they weren’t open that day, but we had heard Monday was the best day to get Heady Topper. It was going to be a crapshoot if we could get our hands on Lawson’s because the stores typically sell out quickly.
We were packed in the car by 8:45 a.m., meeting in New Hampshire for the trek north. Heady Topper goes on sale at 11 a.m., so we wanted to be there pretty close to when they first opened to make sure to get our one-case allotment.
Heady Topper is a phenomenon in the beer world. The Alchemist used to be a brewpub in tiny Waterbury, Vt., but Hurricane Irene destroyed it in 2011. The pub was flooded, shortly before the opening of the Alchemist’s cannery, which was going to produce nothing but 16-ounce cans of its pub favorite, Heady Topper.
Two years later, the beer world is still gaga for this beer. It’s ranked No. 1 in the world on the popular website Beer Advocate. If you happen to be a beer trader, it can pretty much get you any beer from anywhere if you have Heady Topper to trade.
Despite repeated expansions, the Alchemist runs out of Heady Topper each week. They produce more than 2 million cans of this beer, yet, it still sells out, so we wanted to make sure to get there to get ours.
We arrived right at 11 a.m., and we were probably the 50th group of people in line. Most people came to buy their one case, get a sample and take a self-guided tour of the brewery. Some people brought mules – people you know have no interest in the beer, but since they’re there, they can buy a case, too.
Lawson’s was out. All three stores had sold out before the weekend was over, so we took a trip to the Trapp Family Lodge, a mountain resort in Stowe. If the name sounds familiar, you could be a fan of "The Sound of Music," which is based on the story of the lodge’s founders.
The views were breathtaking, as was the foliage on the way there, but this was a "beerventure," so we weren’t there for the views - we were there for the beer.
The Trapp Family Lodge has a brewery on site. We got a chance to sample a freshly brewed dunkel lager with brewer JP Williams in the small brewery, and then we all sampled all of the offerings on the deck overlooking what looked like nothing but trees.
If you have a chance to try the beers, they are quite good, and if you can, enjoy them from the source at the brewery. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better view at any other brewery.
Our final stop was for a late lunch/early dinner at the Blackback Pub, also in Waterbury. This place looks like a hole-in-the-wall, but don’t let that fool you. It has a world-class beer selection.
We missed out on getting bottles of Lawson’s Finest Liquids and had no opportunity at Hill Farmstead beers, but at the Blackback, beers from both breweries were available on tap. They had three Hill Farmstead beers, so we all got a different one and sampled each other’s beers. The Holger Danske, a smoked brown ale, is absolutely amazing.
The food was good, too. All Mexican food, but really tasty.
All in all, it was another great beerventure.