Clayton and I have been traveling a lot in the past couple months. In fact, this latest trip to Vermont allowed us to cover all four corners of the U.S.: Jupiter, FL + El Centro, CA + Anchorage, AK + Burlington, VT. Why Vermont, you ask?
Well his project in Shreveport has been victim to the severe flooding in the area so he has temporarily moved to Vermont to work on another job – by temporarily, I mean we’re going on two months and it’s TBD as to how much more time he spends there. Not to let opportunity pass us by, we booked a ticket and took a long weekend to explore the area. The job is based out of White River Junction, about two hours from Boston, allowing for a quick pit stop to see my summer sister, Hannah. She lives in a wicked cute Boston neighborhood, near BU and only a five-minute walk from Fenway Park [to be read in your best Boston accent].
True to form, Clayton’s schedule was a little unpredictable and we found out that he had to work from noon to 3:00am on Thursday for a concrete pour. Luckily I was able to get a behind the scenes look at the job and see the crew in action, total organized chaos.
After working all night, Clayton was ready to rock at 9:00am so we started our 2-hour journey to Burlington. Our original plan was ambitious – stop at a local cafe to grab sandwiches and bring them on a hike to a waterfall, take a pit-stop at the Ben and Jerry’s factory for a tour, close the day in Burlington with a tour of Magic Hat brewery and a walk around the waterfront. However, we’ve learned that the best way to travel (at least for us) is armed with research and ideas for what we’d like to do, but with no real agenda in mind. This worked out perfectly when we took a random exit off the highway for bathroom break… as we drove down a narrow road, surrounded by lush forest on either side, we spotted a gold dome off in the distance. We quickly realized that our well-timed pit stop had taken us on a detour to the Capital of Vermont, Montpelier. After finding a parking spot, we ducked into the closest restaurant we could find: The Mad Taco. We couldn’t have picked a better spot to grub with huge portions, fresh ingredients, local beers and some cheeky staff made for the perfect lunch.
We nixed the waterfall plan in exchange for taking some time to explore Montpelier. After lunch, we grabbed a coffee and walked around the quirky town. What Vermont has that Shreveport is missing is the immense amount of outdoor activities available, case and point, this adventure-ready and potentially dangerous set-up:
After departing Montpelier, we drove straight to the Ben and Jerry’s factory only to learn that the next tour wasn’t leaving for over an hour. With the afternoon quickly passing and our priorities lying in beer over ice cream, we made the executive decision to travel to Magic Hat Brewery. The 50-minute tour wait was easier to swallow with free beer samples calling our names.
The brewery is known for their unique style and funky recipes that they dream up – some of which are so crazy (think garlic + beer) they end up in the beer graveyard. The tour is mostly of the bottling floor, which bottles up to 400 per minute and gives cool insight into how the brewery came about: Bob and Alan met on the iconic Church Street in Burlington and dreamed up the idea. What started as a basement brewery, complete with a beer tap hooked to the kitchen sink, has turned into a huge success.
The brewery offers four free samples per person, sells growlers to-go and complementary tours but there’s one catch: they don’t sell pints. After your samples, you must take your thirst elsewhere. So we did. We ventured to the waterfront area and sampled B&J’s Americone Dream. Won’t give us pints of beer? Fine, we’ll take a pint of ice cream, please.
Let’s be real, we pretty much ate and drank our way through Burlington (per usual) and closed out the evening with dinner at The Skinny Pancake, a delicious crepery, per Clayton’s mom’s recommendation. On our way out of town, we walked around the quaint downtown area, including the iconic Church Street, and stopped in a local coffee shop with kombucha on tap and chocolate dipped macaroons. Aka my heaven. I overindulged and I’m not even mad about it.
The next day, Clayton had to work in the morning so after a nap we set out in pursuit of Harpoon Brewery. Nestled along a river and surrounded by forest, the brewery was an adult playground – with cornhole, badminton, an outdoor patio and fire-pit. Their neighbors included a Made in Vermont store (offering ice cream, cheese and maple syrups), a gear outfitter with kayaks, canoes and tubes to float the river and a distillery.
The food was amazing, my personal favorite: pulled pork nachos, and the brewery tour was the most involved that we’d experienced. We tasted dry malt, smelled fresh hops and sampled uncarbonated beer before it entered the filtering process. Best part, you could buy pints. Whoop, whoop!
On Sunday, Hannah and Dax drove over from Boston and we rallied the troops for a river float. After renting tubes, directing a few lost parties and scouting the course, we set off. About a quarter mile into our journey, we found a rope swing. Of course the Florida boys (Clayton and Jeff) immediately put on a clinic, back-flipping into the river. Not to be outdone and feeling the effects of liquid courage, their coworkers showed their small audience what not to do.
A while later, with our stomachs growling and our coolers empty, we realized that our two hour float had turned into a four hour adventure. Luckily, the finish line was in sight and lunch (Harpoon Brewery) was less than five miles away.
All in all, Vermont is pretty incredible. With more craft breweries per capita than anywhere in the US (helps when your total population is only about 600k) and some amazing outdoor recreation, we’ll definitely be back. Well, I’ll be back. Clayton is pretty much living there now.