Travel Guy: Craft brew scene overflowing in Stowe, Vermont

The hills are alive — with hops, barley and plenty of fermentation.
Stowe, Vermont, home of dozens of inns, miles of bike paths and hiking trails and scores of restaurants, is also a hotbed for some of New England’s finest and most active craft brew sites.
And it’s all just a short road trip away.
This northern Vermont town along Route 100 sits amid a swath of emerald between Mount Mans­field and the Worcester range. The Mountain Road, which takes visitors from the center of town near Stowe Community Church and up to Smuggler’s Notch and beyond, is lined with restaurants and shops, many of which offer some of the finest craft brews in New England.
For visitors seeking good suds, it’s easy to score early and often. To start with, try the Crop Bistro & Brewery (1859 Mountain Road, Stowe). Brewmaster Will Gilson has honed his craft at the Moat Mountain Smoke House and Brewing Co. in North Conway, New Hampshire, Squatters Brewpub in Salt Lake City and Snake River Brewing Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When Gilson came to Stowe, he brought recipes that stock the menu with brews such as a Maerzen lager, milk stout and Willie Vanilli (a vanilla porter).
The Crop’s biergarten is also now open for the season. The newly­ renovated backyard space offers authentic biergarten wooden­ tables set out on a patio, with a hops and herb garden nearby. The restaurant has also established a Crop Bistro & Brewery Mug Club: For $35 you get an 18-ounce in-house mug, 20 percent off food all day Wednesdays and special pricing on growler refills. Crop offers its brews — Helles Lager, Crop Weizen and Idletyme IPA — in 22-ounce bottles, and now also sells growlers and even kegs. (Go to
Stowe will soon be home to at least one new brewery, with another in the works. Just last month, the Alchemist Brewery — creators of the popular Heady Topper beer — applied for a construction permit to build a nearly 15,000-square-foot building just off Mountain Road in Stowe. If early plans pan out, the brewery will sit just next to the Sunset Grille and Tap Room (140 Cottage Club Road). Heady Topper — a much-loved double IPA describing­ itself as “so drinkable it’s scary” — can be had there, and sits perfectly alongside the Sunset’s outstanding barbecue offerings. Even the von Trapp family has been swept up in the craft brew world. The family known primarily for its connection to “The Sound of Music” and its Austrian-style lodge looking out over the town, is about to jump into the beer world with both feet. Construction of a new brewery, Trapp Lager Brewery, just down the hill from the Trapp Family Lodge, is just about complete.
Brewmaster J.P. Williams spends at least part of each day hustling between hungry guests at the Trapp Family Lodge’s DeliBakery, and is eager to talk about beer and specifically what the very near future will bring to the Trapp property. It’s obvious by his enthusiasm that there are some big things (forgive the phrase) brewing.
But first, the beer. A flight of four lands on the bar at the Trapp DeliBakery, each a different shade of gold or amber. Trapp Lager Brewery is currently serving four specific brews: The Golden Helles, a light lager (“helles” is German for “light”) and the only one of the Trapp lagers that is filtered. It’s also Sam von Trapp’s favorite and the brand’s top seller in the state of Vermont. Next is the Vienna Lager, featuring an amber color and a sweet flavor; the Dunkel Lager, Trapp’s darkest year-round beer; and Trapp’s Summer brew, a pilsner style with a great haze and a pronounced floral aroma. It’s similar to the Helles Lager, but with a different hopping profile. The Summer was whipped up using Williams’ personal recipe.
A tour of the small brewery below the DeliBakery reveals a series of highly polished, immaculate tanks, storage refrigerators and half-barrels, many of which are emblazoned with the Trapp Lager Brewery’s striking logo: a noble-looking ibex. An Austrian flag hangs in the back, watching over the more than two dozen 15-barrel tanks. Yet this is all temporary.
Later this year, Trapp Lager Brewery will expand from its comparatively modest digs to a massive, $13 million brewery under construction just a short walk down the hill. The brewery is only now awaiting delivery of tanks and equipment from Germany before being complete. Once finished, the 37,000-square-foot facility will produce 50,000 barrels of beer annually and will include a brew house system, a bottle packaging line and a keg packaging line.
Another nice detail is that the new facility will include a 150-seat beer-hall-style restaurant, a perfect pairing for the ice cold brews coming from just next door. The restaurant will eventually sit to one end of the building, looking straight over the treeline at nearby Mount Mansfield.
For a slightly different taste, visitors can find their way to Stowe Cider (1815 Pucker St., Stowe), Smuggler’s Notch Distillery (276 Main St., Jeffersonville) or the Boyden Valley Winery (64 Route 104, Cambridge).

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