Further to my expedition to find the elusive Heady Topper, I participate in some extemporaneous activities in the beautiful green state of Vermont with my lovely sister-in-law April.
I remember from an Oprah episode where the von Trapp adult children were featured that they had settled in the United States in New England so I am pleasantly surprised that we are in Stowe, the very place they had settled. I anticipate some sort of gallery with photos of the family and a bit of their mythic story as we wind 2 miles up the mountain. All we find is a restaurant lodge where people are enjoying brunch overlooking the valley below. Loud laundry vents pollute the stillness so I snap a quick picture and we skedaddle.
In 2004 I visited Vermont for the first time. Aside from driving through Smuggler’s Notch and having a picnic by a river, our primary purpose was to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. Our return trip takes us back through Waterbury. As April was not with us on this adventure, I feel she needs to stroll the grounds and savour the flavours. We pull into a crowded parking lot and join the throngs of families and retirees up the steps to the factory and gift store. We opt out of the 30 minute tour since we would prefer to eat the ice cream than watch it being made.
Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream and a bunch of SNL themed flavours are on the menu, but since April indulged my beer cravings, I let her choose the flavour. US dollars being what they are, we opt for the best value: 1 pint of salted caramel blondie ice cream for US$6. We grab 2 spoons and check out the ice cream grave yard. I am sad to see the Creme Brûlée retired, but I can see why others have bitten the dust.
On our way out, we stop and create some spin art – dropping paint on a spinning piece of paper. It’s fun. Now we each have a piece of paper with wet paint on it.
Burlington, VT is a popular place. It is located on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain facing the state of New York. Church St. in particular is popular with trendy shops and patio restaurants and pedestrian traffic only. I want highly rated beer and local beer. Our lunch spot must be selected carefully. I hesitatingly select the Farmhouse Tap and Grill after a recommendation from April’s brother-in-law. It’s the right place. In fact, it is probably the best place in the city to try top beer.
Checking out the draught menu, I spot some top 100 breweries: Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Founders. We have a seat – which I guess is not the easiest thing to get at the Farmhouse, so we are lucky. I’m disappointed that I have to order food too, but my stomach insists.
I order six 6 oz glasses of Lawson’s Fine Liquids Hopcelot (IPA), Sip of Sunshine (Double IPA) (rated #16 in the world), Simple Roots Elderflower Saison, Hill Farmstead’s Conduct of Life (American Pale Ale), Hermit Thrush Green Street SIPA (sour IPA), Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout 2014 (KBS) (Cellar-aged Imperial Stout brewed with coffee & chocolate then cave-aged in bourbon barrels) (rated #7 in the world). Sip of Sunshine and Conduct of Life are outstanding! Amazing aromas and stupendous flavours and balance. The SIPA is fine, but a pointless blend since the IPA carries nothing to the table with the sour flavours taking everything over. Most disappointing is the KBS – while there are some gorgeous blends in the initial taste, all that I taste after that is alcohol. I am surprised that it rates so highly for being so unbalanced.
With more time, I would enjoy browsing the Pearl Street Liquor store much more. Being on a tight timeline keeps me from inspecting every beer bottle on the shelf, so I pick up three different brews that I know are not available in Alberta: Founders Old Ale, Lost Nation Mosaic IPA, Long Trail Farmhouse IPA. The first two are very solid, enjoyable beer.
Our primary reason for heading to the Green Mountain State is to collect April’s in-laws after their weeklong visit to their daughter in Burlington. We enjoy a lovely visit with them before packing up for Montreal. April’s 3-year-old nephew is highly entertaining as he shows off his toys. On the drive back, April’s father-in-law and I discuss the state of affairs in his home country, Syria. We also get stuck trying to get onto the Pont Champlain for 30 minutes.