By Bobby Bush
No this isnít an urgent plea for help. Three Needs Brewery Tap Room is the name of
the other brewpub in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Just a few blocks up the street
from Vermont Pub & Brewery, this rustic establishment has been open since November,
A scratched, worn hardwood floor sparsely cover by a few wooden tables, the
C-shaped bar in this small room was full. Afraid of a Liquor Board sting during the annual
beer festival, the nervous bartender carded everyone. Twelve tap handles offered Anchor
Liberty Ale, Saranac Mountain Lager and other micros, along with four of Three Needsí
own. The brewhouse was nowhere in sight - and I forgot to ask. We sampled an amber,
sweet-and-sour finishing ESB. My glass had to be completely empty before the paranoid
bartendress would serve another. Dortmunder Lager was weak gold in appearance. Its
flavor profile provided low malt visibility and a hoppy dry ending. Schwarzbier tasted of
crystal malt embellished with little sprinkles of chocolate and a surprising dry mouth as
each swallow ceased. Belgian Single was a contrast in sensations, beginning sweet and
saying a sour, dry goodbye. Triple Wit was available in 12 ounce bottles but had to be -
just my luck - consumed on premises. We left without trying this oddly named brew.
Though I met neither, Glen Walter is the owner and Dan Lipke the brewer for this
hole-in-the-wall brewpub which emphasizes beer and not much else. Donít forget, this is
a college town.
The next morning we were up bright and early and headed 25 miles south for the
10:00 opening of Otter Creek Brewing. This sizable micro was established in 1991 and
nine years later is brewing at an annual pace 23,000 barrels. Visible through glass
windows, the brewery complete with kegging and bottling line, was nicely appointed, but
idle this Saturday morning. However, the tasting room and merchandise shop were well
stocked and included a full fledged stand-up bar with six handles.
Beer in hand, we walked through the aisles examining shirts, hats, glasses and
more. Summer Wheat Ale was American style and crisp with little residual yeast effect.
Medium-bodied Otter Creek Pale Ale was hopped strongly and had a soothing bitter
finish. Slightly less hoppy, Copper made a nice session beer with its caramel finale. Judís
Falt Ale, so called because an unnamed assistant brewer screwed up the hops addition,
was a dry pale ale, while Stovepipe Porter, adorned with brown foam, was delicious with
roasted and chocolate malt in careful balance.
Otter Creek also brews a second brand of beer called Wolaverís Organic Ales,
which is certified organic by Oregon Tilth, a group that does that sort of thing. We
sampled a sweet, chocolate malty Brown Ale and learned that Judís had been intended as
Wolaverís Pale Ale. Not their fault, Lawrence Miller is Otter Creekís brewmaster and
owner. Franco Zauli serves as head brewer. Wolaverís and Otter Creek beers can be
found throughout New England and in Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina. See
We back-tracked a bit up to South Burlington to visit a much newer, though very
eclectic microbrewery. Magic Hat Brewing opened its doors in 1994 and moved into a
barn-like warehouse on Bartlett Bay Road three years later. Like Otter Creek, they do big
business in their gift shop/tasting room. A self-guided tour courses a catwalk above the
brewing area. The bartender at the tasting bar, as helpful as he tried to be, struggled to
keep up with requests for growlers-to-go. But we persevered.
Brewmaster Bob Johnson and his staff brewed 25,000 barrels last year. Ingenious
and unusual are the operative words for Magic Hatís beers. Hocus Pocus was a mild
summer wheat with citrus conclusion. Representing 22% of Magic Hatís sales, Fat Angel,
subtitled A Pale Shade of Ale, was a clean dry-hopped pale. Medium-bodied with caramel
notes, Bob 1st Ale was an Irish Red with dry tongue. Blind Faith, proclaimed by beer
bard Michael Jackson as one of his favs, was a powerfully hopped IPA. With a big 55%
of the volume, Number 9 was a pale ale made pleasant and soothing with apricot essence.
Nitro-charged, Humble Patience was malty sweet. And YMP was a light ale with - are
you ready - lemongrass and peppermint. Strange but good. See for yourself at
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush