When Maria and I decided to buck the system and hit the road two years ago, we knew that we would be leaving friends and family behind. This was easily the biggest draw back to our new life style and it took awhile to adjust. Facebook kept us up to date and gave us a feeling of knowing what was going on in their lives, but nothing could replace hanging out while tailgating or playing softball while sharing stories and a couple of beers. For this reason we always get excited when we know we heading to an area where we can meet up with our friends and family.
This is why I was getting anxious after leaving Portland because we had scheduled to meet up with my sister, Andrea, in Burlington, VT to watch her compete in the US Triathlon National Championships! This was going to be her last race before cutting back her training regimen to free up time to relax and travel. We wanted to support the effort and and offered to host her in Casa De Stanley for the weekend.
However, before we arrived in Burlington we had to cross 120 miles of Vermont countryside. We heard you can’t travel through middle Vermont without visiting Hill Farmstead Brewery because if you don’t go to the source you will have little luck getting it elsewhere. The brewery is also for unique for the following reasons.
- We had to take dirt road to get there.
- The town of Greensboro has a population of roughly 770 people.
- It sits on a farm that has been owned by the Hill family for 220 years.
- The water for all their beer comes from the family well.
After the long drive we arrived at the farmstead on a sunny afternoon. Even though it had a beautiful view this brewery was off the beaten path and we wondered “how many people would drive all the way out here just to try some beer?”. The meager three cars in the lot seemed to support our assumption, yet a half hour after we started sampling the parking lot was filled up and and tasting room was packed. It turns out it the brewery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and it was currently Wednesday. This created a continuous line of patrons tasting beer, filling growlers, and trading out kegs. The beers were unique and had nice soft balance that we hadn’t had in awhile. The brewery has strong family ties with a majority of the beers being named after family relatives who have passed. Maria and I had Edward (Pale Ale), Everett (Porter), and Abner (Imperial Pale Ale).
The plan was to go directly from Hill Farmstead to Burlington and catch a hash to get a lay of the land, but we got side tracked when I spotted a brewery right off the road in Morrisville. Rock Art Brewery has a very distinct logo and I had recognized it from our area brewery research. We were able to slip a tasting right before they closed for the day. We tried a rather diverse selection of beers that including their flagship beer, a barley wine. The Ridge Runner is lighter than most barley wines you have probably tried and isn’t at all overpowering. I thought it was quite smooth with good sweetness that finished clean. We ended up buying a sampler pack and a couple bombers before we headed out to Burlington.
Maria reserved a spot at a campground that was close to downtown where my sister’s race would transition and finish. The RV’s were packed in tight, but it was a 5 minute walk from the beach and bike trail. Unfortunately, Andrea arrived with a cold that she had obtained from a visit to KC to the prior weekend. So the weekend saw alternating periods of drinking beer and drinking Emergen-C.
The day of the race Andrea was up and out the door at 5:00 while we were still resting peacefully. There was bike path directly to form the camp to the race hub so we were able zip down to the transition area right before she came out of the water from a 1,500 meter swim and quickly hopped on her bike and was gone again. We missed the switch from bike to run but were able to see her finish up as she crossed the line in 2 hours and 44 minutes. Pretty damn good for a bad ass who was nursing a cold.
We decided the best way to celebrate her final triathlon was with beer and ice cream, in that order. We took a short drive to Waterbury, home of The Alchemist Brewery and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
The original Alchemist brew pub was destroyed in August of 2011 by hurricane Irene. When they built a new facility they decided to nix the brew pub and focus most of their production capacity on just one beer: their much sought after Heady Topper IPA. The visit was a little underwhelming since there is just one beer to sample and the tour consists of stepping into a room where you can see the brew system. However we made the best of it when we discovered there was old school table top video game system with Galaga and other classics.
The drive to Ben and Jerry’s was short as the factory was literally one street over. Being a Saturday afternoon, the place was packed and there were a lot of patrons with their race numbers still on their arms and calves. We took the tour, but was it pretty weak considering they don’t produce on weekends so we saw a non-working factory. We made the best of it by consuming mass amounts of ice cream before we left.
Once we got back to Burlington we took a walk downtown and sought out Zero Gravity Brewing at American Flat Bread. The restaurant is known for it’s artisanal pizzas and the brewery is known for artisanal beers so we figured we couldn’t lose. It was crowded so we bellied up to the bar and ordered a couple pints before the food arrived. I liked the pizza but liked the beer more. Maria an earthy brown ale that sported a subtle sweetness. I chose an IPA that quite hoppy with citrus flavors on the front with a bit of lingering finish.
The three of us decided to grab another beer before heading back to camp and realized Vermont Pub & Brewery was just down the street. Unfortunately, we had to leave immediately after entering when the whole place smelled like a toilet and made enjoying a brew nearly impossible. As luck would have it there was a great craft beer bar across the street and we were able to weasel our way into spot at the bar of The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. They had a great beer selection and the bartender was very knowledgeable about their beers and the local craft beer scene in general. We tried several area craft brews and Maria was able to get her hands on some Six Point Crisp for the for time in a month. We also were able to try the Hill Farmstead Black IPA which we weren’t able to do at the brewery. After a couple rounds we called it night and retired back to Stanley.
Andrea had to leave to next morning to catch her flight and it was sad to her go as the weekend just seemed to fly by, but it was good to see her again and catch up. Meeting up with family and friends in new places is what keeps us moving. The Stanley camping went so well we are planning another meet up in Glacier National park next year. Still I knew it would be awhile until we met again, but she was kind enough to leave a memento behind…I was getting her cold.
We left the park on Monday to make our way, slowly, to meet up with our friends Jenn and Mary in Niagara. Canada here we come!