The Beerducation of Steph Heffner (And a Tour of Vermont Beer)

The Beerducation of Steph Heffner (And a Tour of Vermont Beer)

I recently returned from my residency week for the American Brewers Guild as part of the Craft Brewers Apprenticeship program. I enjoyed meeting the other 23 people in the program and had a blast working and learning in the brewery. I now have a temporary diploma to proudly display.  (I will receive my permanent diploma after completing my 5-week internship.)

Dan DelGrande

Dan DelGrande

The residency week took place at Steve Parkes’ Drop In Brewery in Middlebury, Vermont. Steve and his wife, Christine McKeever, were gracious hosts and made us all feel welcome from the moment we walked into the brewery.

We spent the week brewing with Steve, as well as Dan DelGrande from Bison Brewing Company, filtering with Scott Shirley from Harpoon Brewery and Peter Hoey from Brewers Supply Group, and completing lab work with Ron Cotti from Drop In Brewery and Gwen Conley from The Lost Abbey. The week also provided hands-on training with raw materials, sensory work, and carbonation testing.

Ok, so what about the breweries, right? That’s what you really want to read about!

Vermont Pub and Brewery

Vermont Pub and Brewery

My first stop after picking up my rental car was to the Vermont Pub and Brewery in downtown Burlington, VT. One of the oldest breweries on the East Coast (and the oldest brewery in Vermont), this brewery was opened by Craft Brewing pioneer Greg Noonan in 1988 after lobbying the state legislature to allow pub brewing in Vermont for the first time since Prohibition.

Cool birthday gifts

I enjoyed a delicious lunch and brew here and returned again later in the week to enjoy some of their special anniversary beers that were on tap.

On the way to my hotel in Middlebury, I stopped at Otter Creek Brewing to pick up a mixed 6-pack and a growler (FYI Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter is amazing). The brewery offers a bar and eating area with views of the brewing area. Later in the week, I stopped back for lunch with fellow ABG grad Colleen, and we greatly enjoyed their Double Dose IPA, a double IPA they brewed with Lawson’s Finest Liquids.

During the week, our go-to places for dinner and a pint (or two) were Two Brothers Tavern, which offered a great line-up of local craft beers and delicious pub food, and 51 Main, which had a $5 burger and $3 pint night.

Vermont 2 - Two Brothers Tavern

One day for lunch, I visited a few bottle shops in Middlebury with ABG grad Brian Murphy from Mad Fox Brewing Company. I picked up bottles from Rock Art Brewery and McNeill’s Brewery.

Rich arrived Wednesday night, and on Thursday while I was in class, I sent him on a tour of Vermont. Have I mentioned that he’s the best husband ever? He started at the Warren Store in Warren, VT where he picked up Heady Topper by The Alchemist and Big Hoppy by Lawson’s Finest Liquids. You can check out my review of that beer here. Next, he headed up to Hill Farmstead and waited in line for 2 hours to pick up a growler of Edward and several bottles for me.

Vermont 9 - Bobcat Cafe and BreweryThursday evening, we checked out the Bobcat Cafe and Brewery in Bristol, VT for dinner. While the beers were tasty, the food here is the real star. We ate like kings that night. I had the Teriyaki Marinated Tofu Tempura, which was absolutely divine. I also loved the rustic atmosphere.

On the way back, we stopped at Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne, VT. Brewmaster Matthew Cohen, or Matty O, had only 3 offerings, a kolsch, an IPA, and a double IPA, but they were all quite delicious.

Friday was the ever dreaded final, but once that was over, we enjoyed a wonderful graduation lunch at the Drop In Brewery. Steve Parkes handed out our diplomas and swag bags as we enjoyed beers and delicious food.

Later that evening, after returning my rental car, Rich and I checked out Magic Hat Brewing Company, where we did a self-guided tour, perused the gift shop, and sampled some exclusive brews. We also visited the tasting room at Switchback Brewing Company (awesome porter) and bought “some” beer at the Beverage Warehouse.

For dinner, we ate at American Flatbread, which is also the location of Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. Yes, I am a vegan, but I couldn’t go to Vermont without having cheese just once, and the pizza at American Flatbread was the perfect opportunity. I had the roasted tomato salsa pizza, and it was absolutely delicious. The Zero Gravity brews were amazing. I especially enjoyed Smokey the Beer, their rauchbier.

The next day, we headed to Boston. On the way we did a self-guided tour and sampled beers at Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, VT. I especially enjoyed the Black Rye IPA, which is part of their Brown Bag series. We also stopped at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT for lunch. I really loved the 100 Barrel Series #48 Polskie Mastne. Thier annual “beer trip” (to Poland in 2013) inspired this old style ale.

Taps at Harpoon Brewery

Taps at Harpoon Brewerd

Finally, we spent the weekend in Boston before coming home. We checked out Idle Hands Craft Ales and Night Shift Brewing, located next door to each other in Everett, MA. Night Shift is doing some phenomenal things with barrel aged beers. We also stopped by Trillium Brewing Company and the new Harpoon Beer Hall in Boston, MA. We ended the day with dinner at our favorite spot, the Boston Beer Works.

Shout out to my fellow grads! Check out…

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