We went to bed when the sun came up on Sunday in Montreal. After four days of Mondial de la Bière, including beer bars, brewpubs, tasting parties, a cookout, ethnic restaurants, bagels, poutine and a walk in the park, we were ready to hit the road. I couldn’t even bring myself to go see Lucy Saunders speak – we spent a quiet morning on the deck, and then slipped quietly out of town.
It wasn’t a long drive, however, to stop for another tasting. Bedondaine & Bedons in Chambly is both a microbrewery/pub and a museum of beer memorabelia. The beers we chose were all herbal in nature: La Grenouille (a Wit made with green tea), L’Ensorceleuse (made with wild flower honey, coriander seeds, orange rind and created for the brewer’s wedding; also tasted a version of it that was aged 7 months); and La Mentheuse (made with mint leaves, juniper berries and rye.) Charles and Lewis took great care of us, and we chatted with them about their upcoming trip to the Vermont Brewer’s Festival.
Then it was back to Burlington where Beth was resting up to take us out for work on our passport. In case I forgot to mention it, when we arrived there on Wednesday, we started working on our Vermont Brewery Challenge passport that night with visits to Magic Hat (where I really enjoyed the Orlio Organic Beer),American Flat Bread/Zero Gravity Brewing (mmmm…cask ale!), Vermont Pub & Brewery and Three Needs Brewery and Tap Room (NICE!) By collecting stamps from the 18 breweries/brewpubs in the state, we can claim “Drink Vermont Beer” related prizes – and who doesn’t like prizes? These four stamps earned us a bottle opener magnet.
(Beth or Jim’s completed passport scanned in below)
On this second night in Vermont, Beth had a plan – we were going to hit The Bobcat Cafe & Brewery, The Alchemist Pub & Brewery and The Shed Restaurant and Brewery. That would bring us up to seven stamps on the passport, and we could manage three more stops on the way home Monday (all of which didn’t serve more than a small taster.) Ten stamps are worth a t-shirt. We did all three that night, enjoying a great dinner and very nice pints at the Bobcat Cafe, and a couple of baskets of popcorn at The Shed, but forgetting a stamp there (grrrrrr…) and a single beer at The Alchemist.
Of the three, I was most looking forward to The Alchemist, but I ended up falling in love with the Bobcat Cafe. The town of Bristol, nestled in the Green Mountains, is so beautiful and quaint. The beers are very fine, the food menu offered a tasty assortment of snacks and meals, and the decor felt warm and welcoming. There were seven house beers on tap, and six guest taps – I particularly enjoyed the Appalachian Gap Simcoe IPAat 5% ABV and 69 IBUs. There were six beers on at The Shed, and of them, the Russian Imperial Stout, which I did not note the name of, was very nice. There were seven beers on at The Alchemist, but sadly, none on cask. I settled for the Broken Spokepale ale , weighing in at 5.3% ABV and 30 IBUs. This was an Amarillo-based ale, and lacked aroma but had a wonderful hoppy flavor.
To get between Bristol and Waterbury, we took Lincoln Gap Road, crossing the Long Trail – it was a beautiful ride, which we thought we’d never do again. With only a few hours of sleep, I found it difficult to fully appreciate these spots.
But in the morning, with the goal of hitting another three spots to get stamps AND needing to make up for the one we missed, we mapped out a plan which included another trip on Lincoln Gap Road. We said good-bye to Beth and the wonderful Molly-dog, fueled up with freshly baked Montreal-style Bagels from Myers Bagels (a facility that is expanding) and fresh-roasted coffee from Speeder and Earl’s before hitting our first brewery of the day.
We stopped in at Switchback Brewing Co.for a stamp and small tasters of their brews, which are available in kegs only, and chatted with Tony, the brewer. Next, we trekked back to The Shed for the missing stamp, stopping off at Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury (but not taking the tour), and then headed to Rock Art Brewery, which we found on the far edge of Morrisville. Andrea gave us a short brewery tour, and we bought some $3 bombers to go with our merch. Rock Art is doing a nice expansion project in the sales area, so things were a little dismantled, but the product was as great as ever!
Our final beer passport stamp was picked up at Otter Creek Brewing, where I especially enjoyed my taster of Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout from the organic line, and D had the Otter San from the World Tour Series. After getting a photo with the Otter and viewing the brewing operation through the large windows, we picked up a few bottles and some Vermont cheese there, and then headed to town for a late lunch at Tully & Marie’s. We we sat outside overlooking the water enjoying fresh Vermont food. With ten stamps on our passport, I stowed them safely away for mailing or perhaps a return trip to VT at the end of the month.
There was one stop more to make on the way home, and that was in Albany, NY. We were looking forward to cask ale at Mahar’s Public House. But this place was a real disappointment after a week of great beers and friendly destinations. They have a good thing going – I can’t deny that. There are at least 26 taps of rotating micros and imports, an extensive bottle collection (which probably suffers from being lightstruck, as I could see it through the window), and six casks. To my disappointment, all six were from Middle Ages Brewing Co. - a fine brewery, but thumbs down to Mahar’s for not mixing it up a little! My schizophrenic feelings of respect and dismay for the place are reflected in the comments of others, so I won’t waste space discussing the condescending and ignorant bartender. I should have expected so much from a place with a website that ”eShouts” every word, doesn’t care to mention it’s own name or address there, and has a distinct set of rules, but shame on me for not reading reviews first.
On the other hand, the place is very interesting – stark decor, but a great collection of tap handles, select-yourself cheese fridge and a self-serve database where you can print a beer list and maintain your Beer Tour membership (drink 50 for a Mahars T-shirt, 125 for a mug engraved with your choice image and good for 20% off future beers, 200 for a free case of your favorite beer, 500 for a brass plate with your name engraved – take THAT KClinger’s!!!) I didn’t take any photos, but check out this collection of photos by another visitor. I’m sure people who live there and love beer the way we do find a way to work out these issues, but I left thinking I’m so glad we don’t go through Albany often because I would have to go back often simply for the selection. I did very much appreciate that the beers come in three sizes: Imperial pint, 16-oz and 8-oz.
It was a great trip, and I have many more things I want to post about, but that will have to wait for another night. If you are looking for additional Mondial commentary, check out the many postings on the Liquid Solutions blog – his story is told so well, and I can’t find anyone else talking about it…