I'd been a Vermont cheese fest regular for many years before I discovered that a first-rate craft beer festival existed that very same weekend. If ever there was a two-fer summer-fun Vermont weekend, it's this third one in July every year. Put it on your calendar for 2015 now!
This year, I discovered a few new things that rocked me -- and not just the beer either. As usual, the festival head and chillest program planner I know, Laura Street, gave us a heads-up to some of the new brews and snacks to try.
The sipping started with Steve Gagner of 14th Star Brewing Co. His story is truly inspirational. He was an army captain who made it through two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq before embarking on his new career -- brewing, coddling, and nurturing his beer into existence. His job now is diametrically opposed to his previous life stalwart, order-giving captain.
Steve found that the mere act of convening with his buddies and tasting his beer together led to important conversations -- the kind of conversations soldiers needed to have once they returned home. After all, beer's been the social gathering point for hundreds of years and in many cultures. Our fighting warriors deserve a round-table brotherhood hang with their buddies, cold brew in hand. This is how Steve found his beer-making niche.
His flagship brew is "a smooth amber ale with a biscuity malt backbone and a delicious hop aroma and taste -- a hoppy take on an old classic," Steve says. A percentage of proceeds from this beer go to help veteran causes.
One more brewery of note is Queen City Brewery, which has a pretty high academic cred. Its founders and brewers count one molecular biology PhD, two chemistry PhDs, and an MFA grad who speaks multiple languages. Not that that ensures high-quality beer, but it sure works here. One of my favorite beers at the whole fest was Queen City's Duchess of Antwerp Belgian Blond. If you're a beer-loving traveler passing through Burlington this summer, stop by the brewery for a visit.
Squirrel Stash Nuts are possibly the most delicious spiced nuts I've eaten. Order them here and see why for yourself.
As burgers go, the Worthy Burger out of South Royalton, Vermont, is up there along with my favorite Shake Shack burger. Local meat is grilled over local hardwood. The burger, condiments and all, live inside a King Arthur Bakery-made bun. Don't forget the fries, which are cooked twice in beef tallow. This is a memorable burger.