by Mike Newman
Vermont has quickly become one of the hottest beer destinations in the country. It’s not just that the state has the most breweries per capita, it’s the fact that some of the beers they are churning out are world class. This week we’re going to take you inside some of those breweries. We’ll talk to the folks behind some of these glorious brews and maybe just help plan your trip to Vermont in the process.
With a wider distribution area than many Vermont breweries (VT, MA, NJ, PA and CT), Rock Art may already be a name on your radar or in your fridge. The brewery, which started up in founder Matt Nadeau’s basement, has grown considerably in its 16 years of existence and is one in a string of well-known Vermont breweries to open in ’97 (Magic Hat, Long Trail, Catamount, and Otter Creek did, as well).
What you learn about Matt while walking around the brewery is that the man is a tinkerer. The space is filled with older machinery he either rebuilt or just messed around with to fit Rock Art’s needs. Their bottling system isn’t some shiny stainless steel number, but a refurbished piece that looks like it belongs in a machine shop museum somewhere. These pieces mix with modern equipment to make the brewing area feel like you’re in some sort of living timeline of beer history.
It’s this tinkering spirit that you see in Rock Art’s beer as well. The guys over there are currently playing around with some Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels they got their hands on, aging one of their barleywines, Vermonster, and others in them. They’re also in the process of brewing different single hop IPAs that unfortunately are not being bottled at the current time. The brewers took the same beer base and used a different hop variety for each brew to really showcase different hop properties. We were able to sample the Amarillo IPA but they’ve done a Simcoe before and have others planned for the future.
Our trip and stay in Vermont was courtesy of The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. To find out how you can start earning points for hotel stays, airfare and awesome trips like this, click here.
What you’ll learn about the Vermont beer scene is, it’s somewhat incestuous. Rock Art’s old keg machine is now over at Citizen Cider in Essex and they trade grain and products with other local breweries often. They made note of it being a family atmosphere in the state, with different breweries doing different things but respecting each other and helping each other out. It’s a theme that extends beyond the beer scene to Vermont in general. Rock Art even tries to use as much Vermont ingredients and products as they can in their brewing, packaging and elsewhere.