Ah, another Draft Mag Top 100 list, another reminder to do more traveling outside the East Coast. Didn’t make much headway this year, as some of the bars I’ve hit in past (Bier Markt, Sunset Tap and Grill) are off this year’s list, so while I have hit four new places since last year, I’m only up to nine total.
I’m hoping to add ChurchKey to this list next month, Monk’s Cafe during Philly Beer Week, and surely Torst is in my sights later this year. How many of America’s Best Beer Bars have you been to?
EDIT: For clarity, I just want to reiterate, this is not my top list of bars, this is a personal recollection of the places I’ve visited that were featured on Draft Mag’s America’s Best Beer Bars for 2014. Please click through the link at the top or bottom of this post to see their full list.
Last month Team New England got together to pack our boxes to ship off to our target team, and before we got together I wanted to make a run to grab some great VT beer to include in our box, and also get a few Hill Farmstead growlers filled to treat the guys while we were hard at work wrapping our bottles and packing the boxes for shipping. Now I’ve done a quite a bit on my frequent trips to Vermont over the past year or so, from The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, the Lawson’s Farmer’s Market, and the Bobcat Cafe, to the Blackback Pub, Prohibition Pig, Hen of the Wood, and Farmhouse Tap and Grill. This is a pretty respectable amount of places to go on your quest for VT craft beer, but there has been one place on my radar that has always escaped me: Three Penny Taproom. I have no idea what’s taken me so long to get there. Montpelier is not that far out of the way and I’ve even made a few stops through as I’ve done beer runs to Hunger Mountain Co-op, so I really have no excuse. After walking in and bellying up to the bar, I started my meal with a healthy pour of Hill Farmstead’s Arthur and pork liver pâté, served with sweet onion jam on toast. In the past I wouldn’t normally order liver, but I’ve been getting a little more adventurous with offal ever since the Hill Farmstead Dinner at Armsby Abbey and the Offal Dinner at The Meat House. This was a great starter overall but the onion jam was absolutely decadent. The burger is served on a house-made bun and available with a rotating selection of toppings. Both the burger and the thick-cut bacon was cooked to perfection (I prefer bacon to have plenty of flex and a little fat to chew) and the house made pickles killed it, reminding me I need to get off my ass and can some more for Chez Fuj. The bun was a little more dense than I prefer on a burger but there was no doubt there was a lot of thought and effort put into its creation. Most of the beers I had just seen while doing growler fills at Hill Farmstead were also on tap at Three Penny, along with plenty of other great beer from other breweries in the Northeast including fresh cans from The Alchemist, Smuttynose, Allagash and Mystic Brewery. With this many great beers on tap, and even some ciders and mead available, you should definitely consider this a great place to stop for those of you making the pilgrimage up to The Hill.
One of the three owners of Three Penny Taproom, Scott Kerner.
One of the owners, Scott Kerner, was manning the bar that day and it was great to see him in action. He was attentive, quick with suggestions (although I’m not sure if the guy who ordered a Guinness but received several Old Rasputins through my stay instead knew what was in store for him) and had such positive enthusiasm about his bar and the entire craft beer scene. And he knew the name of just about every person who walked in the door, including my own. The time we had to chat was by far too short, but I walked away completely impressed with Scott’s passion for his craft and the humble way he talked about business. Three Penny Taproom has been on Draft Mag’s Top 100 for several years now, has earned praise from The Boston Globe to many local Vermont publications and has quite the following of beer nerds on both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, often touted as a must-stop location and one of the best bars in the nation. It deserves this praise. The small amount of time I spent at Three Penny Taproom did not do it justice, as this is the type of place to grab a spot at the bar, chat with the bar staff, split a few snacks, and strike up a conversation with a local sitting on the bar stool next to you while lingering over more than a few great craft beers. Next time.