Gotta have some super fresh Heady Topper while camping in Vermont

What’s camping without some craft cans?

Quick Swim at Niquette Bay

- The cool thing about the day passes at Vermont parks is that they’re good for every park in the state. Since we were staying the week, and there wasn’t any swimming at Mt. Philo, we made our way over to Niquette Bay. There’s a little bit of a walk through the forest to get to the beach itself but it’s worth it. The perfect place to take the pooch for a swim since it’s relatively shallow pretty far out into the water. This reminded me a lot of Log Bay on lake George.

A few brews and a few hours of sun later and we were heading back to our campsite at Mt. Philo.

Marble Works District in Middlebury, VT

Within walking distance of Two Brother’s Tavern is the Marble Works, a historic district featuring some pretty amazing architecture, shops, restaurants and great views of the Middlebury falls. We walked through here after our dinner at Two Brother’s Tavern and it was well worth the trip over the historic footbridge.

Grub at Two Brothers Tavern

We met up with Joe and his girlfriend* at Two Brothers Tavern after dropping off our massive haul from Hill Farmstead at our camp site. Joe had been talking up the cheesesteak at Two Brothers for almost a week now so you know I had to give it a shot. I’m a cheesesteak fanatic and I’m willing to go quite out of my way for a good one, so to find a decent cheesesteak in the middle of Vermont was A-OK with me.

The cheesesteak at Two Brothers starts with a hollowed out baguette (I like this move, no need for all of the bread get in the way) filled with shaved steak, onions, peppers, and american cheese. The cheese is melted and mixed in with the steak, and it’s served with hand cut fries on the side. It was good, albeit about half the size of what I’m used to at Tony Luke’s (but TL doesn’t include fries, either). It’s a totally different animal than a Philly cheesesteak, but this is not too far from the way I prepare it at home so no problems there.

I sipped on a Long Trail Brewmaster Series Double White and their IPA while Elise enjoyed her Santa Fe Tortellini with tomatoes, onions, spicy salsa cream sauce and blackened Vermont grilled chicken breast.

I do have a couple gripes I have about this place, both minor, but they bug me enough to share: A) don’t take fucking awesomely delicious cheddar scallion mashed potatoes and plate them with an ice cream scoop. These were outstanding mashed potatoes that deserve better than to be served like it’s a middle school cafeteria. 2) Don’t assume just because it’s a wheat beer that a dude wants an orange slice in it. Long Trail Double White isn’t the same thing as Blue Moon, and there shouldn’t be an expectation that the drinker is going to want the orange (I didn’t). At most, it should be served on the side.

Other than these two minor things, the dinner was great. Tons of local brews, great food, and they even hooked us up with a table outside where we could tie up Kuma right next to us. I didn’t get a chance to check out their lounge while we were there, but you know next time we stop, I will.

*These are two of the most hospitable people I have ever met in my life. Between all of the recommendations, introducing us to new people, and taking us around town I can’t thank them enough. Cheers!

Ice Cream Sandwiches at Vermont Cookie Love

This topic is really heating up in the Capital District this week so I figured now would be a good time to post this.

We found this gem not too far away from Mt. Philo. This was, no lie, the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever had. And that includes the ones I’ve made from scratch: cookie, ice cream and all. If featured their First Love Chocolate Chip Cookie and Wilcox Family Farm hard ice cream. The only thing I would have done differently was warm up the cookie just a smidge. Luckily for me, I can order these cookies online and make them at home, perhaps with some homemade Southern Tier Choklat or Creme Brulee ice cream.  <— (This is happening. ASAP.)

Quick Heady Topper Pit Stop

It wouldn’t be a Hill Farmstead trip without a stop for some fresh Heady on the way back. Good thing I picked it up then, too since they ran out on the day we planned on heading home from camping.

Snapped a couple of pics of their kickass delivery truck and the guys doin’ their damn thing. I some how resisted drinking some fresh from the tap, but I just had some the day before at our dinner at Prohibition Pig so I managed.

Growler Fills at Hill Farmstead

Wow, finally. I’ve been waiting with anticipation to make the pilgrimage to Hill Farmstead ever since I started hearing about them BeerAdvocate. It’s a little too far out of the way for a day trip so it was a perfect opportunity to go there while we were staying at Mt. Philo. I’ve heard some pretty mixed reviews about the brewery experience, but luckily our visit was pretty eventful.

The drive from Waterbury to Hill Farmstead is long and winding. Mostly two-lane roads that take you through Stowe, and if you don’t mind a little detour you can visit Trapp Family Lodge on the way by like we did. (The place is beautiful, by the way, but reminds me of the place they stay at in Dirty Dancing.)

Further down the road houses and stores become less and less frequent until you turn on to a road that no shit reminded me of someplace Schrute Farms might be on. It’s a dirt/gravel road that my car nor my passengers (Elise, Kuma) loved. A couple of turns later and you see this beautiful bastard in the distance and you know the entire trip was worth it:

Like I said, I’ve heard mixed things about visiting Hill Farmstead from people on BA and even the Vermont folks I met that week. Going into it, I was expecting it to be a mostly in and out affair:  get in, get my growlers, no bullshit, and get out of there. Fifteen, twenty minutes tops. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

Obviously we got the tasting flight (and then another when the first flight was drying up). There were about 6 beers on tap that day so we tried them all. While that was going on, Abner was brewing and I got to chat with Shaun Hill about it and Double Galaxy and even got to try some of the Abner wort (that was fucking badass). There was no Abner that day, but there was Nor so I settled on a growler of that (in retrospect, I’m extremely glad I did).

I also grabbed a growler of Double Galaxy I promised for Jon, and a bomber of Everett for Elise, the only bottled beer they had that day. While they were pouring my Nor, they mentioned it was on the way out. The growler of Nor after mine actually kicked their last keg of the stuff, so a new beer had to be chosen: Society and Solitude #4.

This beer was kegged just two days before. It was so new that Shawn hadn’t actually had a taste of it. I couldn’t NOT get a growler of this beer. After filling up a 750ml bottle, mine was the first half gallon growler of the brew. Ever. Pretty cool. After snagging a couple of glasses (necessary to bring for any of the festivals they have there) and a shirt for Elise, we were on our way to dinner with friends.

Actually making it to Hill Farmstead is a little bittersweet for me. I feel like each of my Vermont trips has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger, and now there’s not much else for me to do there but catch up on some of the “lesser” breweries I haven’t hit yet, and a festival or bottle release here and there. With any luck (hopefully) that’s not the case.

RealSticks and Smoked Pepperoni from Vermont Smoke and Cure

While at Cold Hollow I couldn’t help but pick up some goodies from Vermont Smoke and Cure. I’ve followed them on Facebook for a while, and I spent most of the week checking out to see if there were any diners or restaurants that served Vermont Smoke. I hadn’t had any luck yet until that morning.

I snagged the Cracked Pepper, the BBQ, and the Pepperoni. All were phenom. Take caution not to give any to your dog, as after Kuma had his first taste he followed me around the campsite like a weirdo for a least 10 minutes begging for more. Very good stuff.

Cider Doughnuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Food was in order before making our trek to Hill Farmstead. Our first stop, K C’s Bagel Cafe, was less than fulfilling. I understand that, being a New Yorker, I am accustomed to some of the better bagels available in our country, but these were literally the worst bagels we’ve ever had, even by grocery store and gas station standards. After taking a couple of bites and throwing the rest of my bagel out, we continued on our way to Hill Farmstead until we stumbled upon Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

Cold Hollow is very reminiscent of the apple orchards we have here in Upstate NY. It’s very “country-store” themed, with a focus on apple products (obv), jams, cheese, fudge, doughnuts, sauces and other odds and ends, all of which are made on premises or by local farms and businesses.

After shopping around for a few we left with a doughnuts, cider, dog treats and other snacks in tow, which we chowed down on outside at one of their several picnic tables out front. The cider doughnut itself was excellent, albeit missing the  granulated sugar we’re accustomed to around here (but I was later told that’s an available option we just happened to miss).

This was the perfect pit stop to start our day before heading to Hill Farmstead and as Elise puts it it’s a “required stop” now any time we head up that way.