By Bobby Bush
Though a handful of brewpubs waited in Vermont’s southern-most extremes, this trip had
time allotted for only two more central state craft brewers.
Founded in 1989, Long Trail Brewing Company moved into its beautiful
accommodations along the Ottuaquechee River in Bridgewater Corners in 1995. With its
40,000 barrel annual output, Long Trail qualifies as a regional microbrewery. However,
like most every other business in the Green Mountain State, it is very tourist-friendly.
Umbrella shaded picnic tables on the patio, a huge C-shaped wood hewn indoor bar and
huge restaurant area greet visitors along the backside of this still-new looking white
structure. That microbrewery’s bar is call Trailhead Pub.
Pushing the 6:00 p.m. closing time (they don’t want to compete with their local
bar and restaurant customers), we slithered up to the bar hoping that the three busy
bartenders wouldn’t give us the dreaded “closing-time” salute before we got started. No
one seemed in a rush to leave, so we ordered a sampler tray. Six tiny glasses, each resting
in a section of a tin muffin tray, were placed before us. A seventh rode sidecar.
Brewed in 60 barrel batches, seven days a week, 40,000 barrels annually, the beers
were impeccable. Blackberry Wheat was refreshing, semi-sweet with obvious berry taste.
Made with local honey, Pollenator boasts “no particular tradition,” though it was similar
to a dry, kolsch-like German ale. The brewery’s very first recipe, Longtrail Ale is
Vermont’s best selling Amber. To me, it was a satisfying pale ale. Long Trail IPA needed
more hops and bitterness. At 7.2% abv, Double Bag Ale had a powerful malt and alcohol
warming effect, while Tom O’Brien’s Stout was a smooth, classic dry stout. Topped by
frothy brown foam, this nitrogenized ale was big in roasted malt flavor though it departed
rapidly on finish. The seventh brew, seasonal Hit the Trail, was Brown Ale-style with a
heavy dose of caramel malt followed by sweet finish and aftertaste.
Privately owned, as the #1 selling craft brew in Vermont, Long Trail’s mission is
“to handcraft high quality, Vermont made alternatives to imported beers.” They proudly
boast “Made In Vermont” as a sign of that quality. What a shame that Long Trail’s beers
are distributed only in New England.
After checking into our White River Junction motel, we set out for dinner.
(Catamount Brewing resided in White River Junction until it closed in early-2000. The
sizable micro was later acquired by Boston’s Harpoon Brewing). Just a few miles
north we found The Norwich Inn in the town of the same name. Established in 1797 as a
tavern and rest stop on the coach road north from Boston, President James Monroe
stopped in for dinner in 1817 and probably had a beer brewed on site.
In 1993, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse began making beer within an out-building
at Norwich Inn, though its facilities were of homebrewing proportion. Two years later a
four barrel brewhouse was installed. Timothy Wilson serves as brewer, cellarman, kegger
and bottler. By 1997, he was brewing 135 barrels annually.
An old stately mansion-like house, The Inn has 14 guest rooms. The dining room,
with nary a vacant table inside or out, has a well-deserved reputation for fine food
incorporating local produce. The bar seats six and was full, so we waited briefly for a
table in the bar. After ordering a light meal, we began sipping the four small pilsner
glasses of ale before us. Whistling Pig Red Ale, done Irish-style, was a medium bodied
malty brew with slightly astringent finish. An “English Golden,” Fuggle & Barleycorn was
also malty with pleasantly bitter finish. The classic Mild, Oh Be Joyful was lightly hopped.
Malty without residual sweetness, this was a great session drink. Roasted malty with
underlying harsh coffee disposition, Second Wind Oatmeal Stout had low carbonation,
smooth mouthfeel and a pleasing warming effect. Other Jasper Murdock’s beers, which
rotate among the four tap handles, include Old Slipperyskin IPA, Stackpole Porter and an
We didn’t want to leave. Vermont is one great beer state!
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush