Plants acquire their nutrients from the soil, and animals acquire their nutrients from the plants they eat. If you don’t have quality soil, you don’t have quality food. Vermont is a leading example of the many factors that come together to make quality, fresh, local food due, in part, to the quality of its soil. So what does this have to do with a Vermont breweries road trip?
Underneath Vermont’s idyllic, lush landscape is a soil composite that helps to create some of the best local food and drink in the country. In fact, the tiny state is paving the way for the local food movement. Visit any small family farmstand, and you’ll discover this for yourself. Known for its cheese, maple syrup, and yes, even its flannel, Vermont is gaining serious ground in the brewery industry as well. Vermont has the most breweries per capita in the U.S., and nano-breweries are popping up in even the tiniest of Vermont towns.
Make a Camping Road Trip out of these 11 Vermont breweries
If you’re curious to explore breweries in Vermont for yourself, this 11-stop road trip covers some local favorites in the state. We’ve also rounded up a few nearby camping spots, which follow each brewery or group of breweries, making this a perfect Vermont breweries itinerary.
First up? A brewpub that started the state’s local brew revolution.
Disclaimer: Beer and driving do NOT mix. This road trip itinerary is not intended to be combined with alcohol. Bring a designated driver along for the trip, or park at your campground so you don’t have to drive after imbibing at these Vermont breweries!
1. Vermont Pub and Brewery — Burlington
We’re starting with Vermont Pub and Brewery because, without the efforts of its founders, none of the subsequent breweries in Vermont on this list would be here (and also because of its mouth-watering array of brews). Thanks to the efforts of VPB founder, Greg Noonan, as well as state legislator Bill Mares, existing legislation at that time of the brewery’s founding was reworded and reworked tirelessly, allowing the first pub and brewery in Vermont in 94 years to finally be opened. The year was 1988, and VPB has remained a local favorite since.
Burlington itself is a small, vibrant city right on the shores of Lake Champlain. The town looks out across the water toward the rugged Adirondacks of New York. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to this town because of its proximity to a variety of activities and a nightlife scene that rivals that of much larger cities.
2. Citizen Cider — Burlington
If you shrug cider off as too fruity or juicy, I’m going to make a bet that you just haven’t had the right one. Give me a sweet cider and I’d agree with you wholeheartedly. But a Vermont cider is different; our local ciders are created from Vermont’s finest apples. We’ve really perfected the art of a hard cider.
Curious to try it out? Citizen Cider is on its A-game when it comes to hard ciders. If you prefer a sweet cider, give Unified Press a try. Otherwise, their Lake Hopper is a crisp, refreshing, dry-hopped take on a hard cider.
3. Switchback Brewery — Burlington
Switchback Brewery has been making waves in the Vermont beer scene since 2002, when it first began brewing. Since then, this unfiltered beer has been a favorite brew among those who enjoy crisp, hoppy ales. Their original Switchback Ale is a reddish-amber ale with a smooth, malt flavor that is, in short, delicious.
You can turn your Switchback Brewery visit into a full day on Flynn Ave. Right down the street from the brewery is a gorgeous, sprawling waterfront park. There’s a day-use fee, but Oakledge Park is a treasured local Burlington haunt. With access to tennis courts, bocce ball, sunny lakeside cliffs, historical walking trails, and a small beach, Oakledge is directly on the bike path that connects you to downtown Burlington and beyond. Grab a few Switchbacks, a sandwich at nearby City Market, and head to the beach for the rest of your afternoon.
Camp Nearby #1-3: North Beach Campground
One of the best features of Burlington is the mix between city life and the enjoyment of the surrounding countryside. Lake Champlain is a dream — a gorgeous backdrop to a slew of water sports, and there are miles of biking trails and local hikes. Combining a fun, lively brewery tour in Burlington’s neighborhoods with a stay at its local campground is the ideal mash-up for squeezing all you can out of a stay in the Queen City.
If you’re facing the lake at the point where Burlington meets the water, you’re most likely standing on the Island Line Rail Trail. The bike path, as it’s known to locals, snakes along Lake Champlain’s shores from Burlington to South Hero. If you’re standing there facing the lake, on the bike path, turn right and you’ll end up in the backyard of North Beach Campground. It’s walking distance or a short bike ride from downtown. A stay here means you’ll enjoy quiet beachside camping in Vermont’s biggest town.
4. Long Trail Brewing Company — Bridgewater Corners
Tucked into the hills along the swiftly moving Ottauquechee River, the Long Trail Brewing Company is home to some favorite Vermont brews, such as its Long Trail Ale. Considered a trailblazer among breweries in Vermont for a product that the state has quickly become known for (its delicious craft brews), Long Trail Brewing Company makes a variety of seasonal, limited and year-round brews that satisfy even the most discerning of beer lovers among us.
The beer to try at Long Trail: the once year-round favorite hiking companion, Blackberry Wheat, is now only available as a seasonal summer ale, so be sure to grab a few to bring back to your campsite to enjoy around the fire. If you’re wary of a fruity beer, give it a shot anyway. It’s a crisp ale with notes of blackberry that is not at all overpowering or too sweet. Take it from me, as someone who actually despises fruity or sweet drinks of any kind: Blackberry Wheat remains a summertime favorite.
Camp Nearby: Coolidge State Park
Named for the 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, Coolidge State Park is a small but popular state park that has remained virtually untouched since its creation in the 1930s. With sweeping vistas of the Black River Valley and the Green Mountains, Coolidge State Park has some pretty spectacular views from both its grounds and nearby hikes.
5. The Alchemist — Stowe
Specializing in fresh, unfiltered IPAs, the Alchemist Brewery originally opened as a brewpub in nearby Waterbury, Vermont, in 2003. It has remained a staple among small-batch breweries in Vermont ever since.
If you want to try the Alchemist’s famed Heady Topper, you’ll want to be there on canning day: they sell out. In fact, there’s a website dedicated to Head Topper that tracks its delivery, in part because when this beer would hit the shelves, there would be lines of folks out of the door, blocking roadways.
Although Heady Topper is deserving of its cult following, the Alchemist has plenty of other reasons to visit its Stowe, Vermont, brewery. Namely, its eight other brews.
6. Idletyme Brewing — Stowe
We’re adding another Stowe, Vermont brewery to this list because it’s literally across the street from the Alchemist and often overlooked — and it shouldn’t be. Idletyme Brewing Company has a slew of delicious brews for a variety of palettes, from rich, hoppy IPAs to lighter lagers.
It’s not just the beer here that’s worth a visit, though. Idletyme Brewing is a brewpub, restaurant, and biergarten, and its menu offers simple, delightful fare to go along with your drink. A favorite starter? The Vermont Cheddar Fritters. Pair them with the Idletyme, a double IPA that is full, hearty and perfectly bitter.
7. Stowe Cider — Stowe
Vermont is quickly becoming known for its ciders, so for those of you avoiding gluten, your options are definitely not limited on this tour. And even if you aren’t avoiding gluten, Stowe Cider should still be a stop on your Vermont breweries tour.
A cider to try is the High & Dry, which tastes exactly like a homemade hard cider. It’s made without sugar or preservatives, just local apples. The result is a traditional hard cider that’s smooth, simple and ridiculously good.
Camp Nearby #5-7: Smugglers Notch State Park
Stowe is known for its famed ski area of the same name. The local hospitality industry here is huge, and on any road in this area you’re bound to happen upon a hotel, inn, or bed and breakfast. But less than a 10-minute drive from the Alchemist, Idletyme Brewing, and Stowe Cider, is a stunning campground: Smugglers Notch State Park.
Combining a mini Stowe Brewery tour with a stay at Smugglers Notch State Park means you’ll be enjoying local brews and camping in supreme Vermont wilderness — all with access to some of the state’s most rewarding hikes.
Must-do hike: Sterling Pond. A short but sweet two-mile hike, this moderate trek ends at a small, clear pond tucked into the historical Smugglers Notch mountainside. A short jaunt beyond the pond leads you to the top of Smuggler’s Notch ski resort, where you’ll be rewarded with some pretty stunning views.
8. Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill — Hardwick
Caledonia Spirits is a tiny distillery that’s making a big name for itself: their Barr Hill Gin, Tom Cat, continues to win big at spirits competitions around the world. It’s also entirely a Vermont product. In 2016, the first batch of Tom Cat was aged in 100% Vermont-grown white oak barrels. This makes it the first and only product distilled in Vermont from Vermont-grown crops and aged in Vermont-grown barrels since before Prohibition. It’s a 100% local product, and the taste reflects that.
Camp Nearby: Elmore State Park
Located on a quiet, sprawling lake tucked at the base of Elmore Mountain, Elmore State Park is a small state park with a family-friendly atmosphere. Kids can bike the pathways that connect each camping loop, and the lake is warm, shallow and brimming with young families. The hike to the top of Elmore Mountain is a bit more strenuous for young kids, but it’s still entirely within the realm of possibility for a budding hiker.
Pro tip: If you want to have a quiet camping experience, camp on the left side of the loop as you drive in. The state highway that runs nearby can be a little loud, cutting into the peaceful atmosphere at times. That was the only downfall I found to this otherwise relaxed camping experience.
9. Otter Creek Brewing Company — Middlebury
Otter Creek Brewing Company is one of many small-batch Vermont breweries that have been around for some time, having began brewing in 1991. There are a variety of beers to choose from here, and all are smooth, refreshing and totally original in taste.
There are frequent events at the brewery, so it’s worth it to check before planning your visit. Live music and beer go together here like, well, live music and beer. There’s plenty of both at Otter Creek.
Camp Nearby: Branbury State Park
Tucked onto the eastern shore of Lake Dunmore at the base of Mount Moosalamoo, this 69-acre park is a farm turned state park that has a sandy beach, clear mountain water for swimming, and a small number of sites in which to camp. There are nearby hiking trails that lead to scenic views, waterfalls and caves, and excellent biking trails if you need a little more adventurous activity with your camping.
10. Prohibition Pig—Waterbury
Prohibition Pig doesn’t just have delicious beer on tap from their brewery: there’s also a restaurant with outstanding local food and, often, local live music. It’s a place to be for the atmosphere as well as for the brews or grub.
With a location right in the heart of small downtown Waterbury, you can stroll along Main Street and window shop for a bit before popping in for a drink and food. There’s also outdoor seating in the summertime, making for a relaxed vibe.
Camp Nearby: Little River State Park
Little River State Park offers private camping on the unbelievably beautiful Waterbury Reservoir. There are remote sites available that are only accessible by canoe or kayak if you’d like to experience some of central Vermont’s finest wilderness. Otherwise, there are 81 tent/RV sites to choose from, in addition to 20 lean-tos and five cabins. As this state park is adjacent to Mount Mansfield State Forest, there is an abundance of hiking, biking, and walking trails nearby.
11. Groennfell Meadery—Colchester
Made from fermented honey, mead is the oldest known alcoholic beverage, making this stop on your Vermont brewery tour a pretty sweet history lesson, too. Never had mead? It’s a gentle alcoholic drink that’s lightly carbonated and not too sweet.
Groennfell Meadery‘s product boasts a dry finish and is, as they say, “supremely drinkable.” (We’d have to agree!)
An extra fun component to a visit at Groennfell? In partnership with Havoc Mead (Groennfell’s partner company) there is a traditional Scandinavian-style mead hall that serves Scandanavian-style food from local companies right in Colchester.
Camp Nearby: Grand Isle State Park
About 30 minutes from Groennfell Meadery is one of the state’s most beloved state parks and campgrounds: Grand Isle State Park. Located on Lake Champlain’s Grand Isle, this state park is known for its small outdoor concerts, friendly staff and, among the younger campers, its fun playground. For being a larger park in the Vermont state park system, it’s still a quiet campground with private sites.