Today I am bringing you the “beer” highlights from my 18 day excursion throughout the Northeast coast. This trip for the most part was a family vacation with many awesome experiences. With my love for craft beer, it also was a hunt for some very elusive beers that are not available anywhere on the west coast. My trip included stops in Washington DC, Hershey PA, New York City, Jackson NJ, Providence RI, Boston and Salem MA, Portland ME and Burlington VT.
My beer-cation started in an unlikely place, The Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, WI. We had a layover there and needed some lunch. Without too many options, we stumbled upon a pizza place that had a couple of nice craft beers. I chose a nice IPA from Lakefront Brewery and Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing. This was an unexpected way to start the trip and was the first of many surprises. After landing in Washington we headed for the car rental center, which was an adventure itself. During my four nights in Washington I enjoyed beers from DC Brau Brewing Co., which included The Corruption IPA, El Hefe Speaks Hefeweizen, Daughters of Poseidon Black Oyster IPA and Pen Quarter Porter. These beers were full of flavor and I had never heard of them until now.
The next two nights were in the historical chocolate town of Hershey, PA. The highlight of Hershey, besides the amusement park and chocolate, was realizing we were staying two miles from Troeg’s Brewing Company. We went there for dinner both nights and I had the grass fed meatloaf both nights. The first night I paired the food with the pale ale and two of their scratch beers. The second night I had the Perpetual IPA. The beers were all amazing just like the food. What made Troeg’s so unique was the entire experience they offered. They had a really big retail shop with lots of merchandise and beer. They also had a very cool self guided tour (if you missed the guided one) which was very kid friendly.
After a memorable experience in Hershey, we packed up and headed towards New York City. We were about 5 miles from the border between PA and NY when my son informed me that he had to use the bathroom. We were literally in the sticks. I noticed a gas station sign and pulled off the next exit. My wife asked me “Are you pulling over for beer?” I was confused until I saw what she was referring to…a big sign that advertised craft beer! I felt like I had struck gold. In this little roadside store off the highway I discovered 4 beers on tap and a walk-in beer room that stocked brands I’ve never seen before. Jackpot!
The next noteworthy stop was The Lobster Shack in Ogunquit ME. I have to first mention that the lobster rolls and fish tacos were to die for! I enhanced my meal with a very tasty IPA from Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub. The beer started of hoppy and finished smooth and sweet. What a great beer to drink while watching the ocean waves crashing on the shore. We then headed up the coast until we got to the Portland area.
Maine Beer Company
Upon arrival, we headed straight for the Maine Beer Company. This brewery was brand new and looked awesome. The tasting room had a cooler full of Main Beer Company Lunch IPA, one of the most sought after IPA’s being made today. It did not disappoint. This beer had that traditional west coast IPA taste, very resinous and bitter. This beer easily earned the title of my new favorite beer. I sat down with the family and tried some other beers before purchasing some bottles to go and a nice t-shirt.
Beer in a tin cup
Our second night in Portland we ended up eating in a restaurant called Silly’s. The name should explain everything. The buffalo cheese fries were amazing and I also got to try the Rising Tide Zephyr IPA, in a tin cup. Ironically, this restaurant was located across the street from Maine Mead Works, which was unfortunately already closed for the evening.
The last leg and my personal favorite part of our adventure took us across New Hampshire and up Vermont to Burlington. While searching a small town in New Hampshire for a public restroom, we followed signs to a farm where we picked our own blueberries. Once in Vermont, we stopped at a maple syrup and cheese farm for tours and tastings.
Then came Waterbury, VT, where Heady Topper is brewed by The Alchemist Brewery. We decided to eat at The Prohibition Pig for a late lunch not knowing that this building was the original Alchemist Brewery. The burgers were on point but the beer was off the charts. I had Heady Topper on draft, Hills Farmstead Edward on Draft, and Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine D.I.P.A. on draft. You could not have had a better lineup than that. We couldn’t leave Waterbury without a factory tour and cones at the Ben and Jerry’s right down the road.
The next day in Burlington, I was on a very specific mission…to secure a case of Heady Topper. The planning of this began months prior to my trip! Through a series of phone calls to liquor stores in the Burlington area and the brewery’s website, I was able to determine the few stores that sell this exclusive beer and the anticipated time of their weekly delivery. This was key because Heady Topper will sell out within a few hours of delivery (even with each store’s 1 case per customer rule). I had set my alarm the night before so I could arrive at the beer store before it opened and get in line with the rest of the hop heads. It’s hard to explain my excitement at seeing those cases roll out of the truck after waiting an hour and a half. I had to drink one before boxing the rest up to ship back to Vegas. It was well worth the effort! The remainder of my time in Burlington was spent biking at Lake Champlain and touring and tasting at Lake Champlain Chocolates. The restaurants in Burlington were all about supporting local farms and most offered Heady Topper! What an impressive place!
This entire journey was so incredible for every member of my family. It was well worth the months of planning. I’m totally looking forward to returning to the Northeast coast again one day. But that’s not quite the end of this story. This beer-cation for me just happened to end the same way it began, in an airport. We arrived at the Burlington airport early and I was thrilled to find a bar right next to my gate. Why not enjoy a final beer before I leave? I of course chose the Heady Topper. For the first time in my life I actually followed the directions and drank it from the can. Life is Craft!