Jon joined our family vacation a few days after Cecile and I headed north. Boy oh boy, were his two girls happy to see him. Like C and me, he flew into Burlington, Vt., so Cecile and I left New York and crossed Lake Champlain on a rainy Thursday to go pick up Papa. Lucky us, Jon had a whole day planned to help us forget the rain clouds, wet feet, and missed naps :) From Burlington, we headed south on I-89 and took the exit for Waterbury, where we stopped for brews and grub at Blackback Pub.
Blackback has a fine draft selection. What to choose?? Well, Jon had done some research (love that man), so we ordered a glass from the local Hill Farmstead. I got the "Edward," an unfiltered double IPA, and Jon ordered the "Grassroots Brewing the Bliss of Absence," which was a lovely blonde ale. It's possible that after two days caring for C without Jon, topped off by an hour-long ferry ride in the rain with a nine-month-old (where I forgot diapers ... yep), I really, really needed a beer. The Edward did not disappoint. And I can honestly say it is quite possibly the best beer I've ever had to date. It was so, so good. Seriously. The tragedy is that Hill Farmstead doesn't distribute south of the Mason-Dixon. Heck, Hill Farmstead doesn't even distribute outside of the state of Vermont. They sell their beers out of their farm and to a select few local pubs. Wah wah. Let me tell you, I savored every sip.
Blackback Pub also had a selection of tacos from the adjoining Mad Taco. Holy Moses, the eats were incredible. We ordered a full table: guac and chips and salsa, one tamale, and two specialty tacos--the colorado, which is chili, onion, avocado, and cilantro, and the straight-up, classic carnitas. Even Cecile couldn't get enough of the tamale!
With full bellies (and a little buzz) we headed to our main destination, the tasting room at the Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vt. The Alchemist is a small, family-run brewery that specializes in one type of beer: an unfiltered double IPA, named the Heady Topper. My cousin James told us about the brewery and how it's garnered a cult following of sorts. Then after Jon read Heady Topper has been rated #1 on Beer Advocate, we knew so long as we were nearby we had to checkout the place. Done and done!
Inside the brewery, it's pretty much what you'd expect--a countertop, a tap, stack upon stack of canned beer for sale, and a whole back room lined end-to-end with shiny silver brew barrels. Visitors are welcome to buy a taster and take themselves on a self-guided tour.
^^C loved getting out of the car and getting acquainted with Heady Topper's old brew tank.^^
The brewery cans their beer every Monday through Wednesday, and have been selling out of the goods before most every Friday. And I believe it. We were there at three o'clock on a Thursday and the place was packed. There is a two-case limit per person and most people were walking out of the brewery with just that. We bought two cases plus an extra four-pack for the ferry ride home.
Oh, wow: At risk of sounding like a broken record, their beer is good, people. Heady Topper super hoppy, but yet very drinkable. There's fruit, there's spice, and there's a whole lotta want to keep drinking more and more. If you ever make it up to Waterbury, bring a buddy because you're going to want more than two cases of the good stuff.
^^Cheers to my hubs and his excellent taste in beer!^^