Bourbon County Release Party at Top Hops Beer Shop: New York, NY

Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout is one of those beers that has made an incredible impression in the beer community year over year since its first release in the mid-nineties. In Chicago, each year that it has been released, the line to purchase it rivals that of getting Metallica tickets when the Black Album was released. Now that craft beer has taken off to new heights over the past couple years, the release has only gotten more intense.

After the InBev purchase of Goose Island in 2011, it was questionable of what would happen to the Bourbon County brand. There was speculation that the quality of the beer would suffer and that InBev would change the recipe. Personally, I was pretty happy to see what happened. I never was able to purchase Goose Island products in New Jersey and due to theInBev purchase; I was able to find Bourbon County in stores the following year. It took a little bit of calling around, but the quality was still there and the beer was delicious. Even the variants (Cherry Rye & Coffee) made it out to some of the new distribution areas.

Although the brewery produced more Bourbon County in 2012 than any other year before, it still wasn’t enough. This past years release marked a new strategy: multi-city Black Friday beer release. This was a first for the veteran brewery and marked the beginning of a new tradition. Goose Island produced more variations and more volume of Bourbon County this year than any of the years preceding. The releases this past year included:

Bourbon County Stout: The original bourbon barrel aged stout.
•Bourbon County Coffee Stout: With Intelligentsia coffee added. Goose Island has bottled this each year since 2010, using a different roast of coffee from Intelligentsia each year. The coffee used in the 2013 version was Los Immortales.
•Bourbon County Backyard Rye: Brewed with boysenberries, marionberries and mulberries. The original intent was that the brewery would use all local fruit for this variation, but after spending an entire day picking fruit in Chicago to only have a fraction of what was needed, it was realized that it’s only feasible option was to order more from elsewhere.
•Bourbon County Barleywine: An English style barleywine aged in barrels that carried the previous years Bourbon County Stout. Comparable to their previous Barrel Aged Barleywine release (King Henry).
•Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout: Brewed with toasted coconut and only available in the Chicago market.\

Three official release parties were organized in different cities across the country. There was still the usual release at the Binnys across the street from the Goose Island Brewpub in Chicago, but there were also official release parties at Top Hops Beer Shop in New York City and at City Beer Store in San Francisco.

The New York City release was organized very well and looked much like a typical Black Friday sale. People were lined up in front of a store front located on the Lower East Side of New York City, but instead of waiting to get a $50 Blue Ray Player or a Tickle Me Elmo, they’re waiting to spend that money on some of the finest and most sought after beers on the planet.

Although the line of people reached around the block, those in line were in great company. The brand manager for Goose Island was in attendance telling the tale of Bourbon County and answering all the questions people had while waiting in the cold. To sweeten the deal, he was giving away free bags of Intelligentsia Los Immortales coffee (the same coffee used in this year’s coffee variation), Bourbon County Brand glasses and a limited edition print Bourbon County release party poster (only 500 printed).

The brand manager also explained how the demand was in Chicago. Apparently over the past few years, local fans of Bourbon County in Chicago have been stiffed when it comes to this release. After receiving countless complaints, the brewery wanted give something back in the hopes to make it right. They decided to release the Proprietor’s variation brewed with toasted coconut and only make it available in the Chicago market. This quickly became one of the most sought after beers since its release.

Although it was Black Friday, no one was trampled when the doors at Top Hops opened at 9am. Everyone came in through the entrance, snaked around the back of the store and then back towards the front. Bags of each release were already available with the limits set (2x Barley Wine, 2x Coffee, 4x Original and a voucher for Backyard to purchase at a future date). Things ran smoothly as everyone was handed their bag, paid for it, and walked back out the door they came in through. There were also ballots available to make silent bids to purchase some of the previous year’s releases of Bourbon County while waiting on line.
Most people were in and out of the store in less than ten minutes: incredibly shocking considering that they were purchasing such a limited release beer weeks before anyone else in the tri-state area. Top Hops carried on with the release party at noon, when they opened the store again and put a whole array of different Goose Island beers on tap – including Bourbon County and variants.

The brand manager for Goose Island said that this was the first year the brewery has attempted to host a multi-city release party. In the future, they hope to expand to other major cities with the long term plan to have this be a nation-wide release. It was encouraged to take pictures and use social media to see how Chicago and San Francisco were celebrating while waiting on line. Although the New York City release was awesome, it couldn’t compare to the release in Chicago.

It’s pretty safe to say that the demand and popularity of this beer will continue to rise and the multi-state release won’t be a problem. If you’re in one of the cities that has a store selected to partake in this release next year, then it’s worth visiting – even if it’s for the glasses, poster and coffee alone. It’s certainly a better use of time than waiting in line at Walmart to get trampled for a crappy toaster or dvd player.

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Abraxas Release Party: St Louis, MS

The first time I encountered Perennial’s Abraxas was at Torst in Brooklyn, NY. I was immediately impressed with this beer and consider it one of few “HOLY SHIT” beers that I tried in 2013. It really was like nothing I ever tasted. Combinations of cinnamon and chocolate with a hot pepper background were something that made a permanent impression in my mind. I started looking for bottles throughout New York City the next day since Perennial is distributed there, but was unable to find this release. After doing a little more research, I realized that this one was pretty limited in availability and that I was fortunate to try it in the first place.

A few months passed after the night at Torst, and as the end of the year approached, I was looking for a way to boost up my airline status (My obsession with airline miles and hotel points is a whole other topic). I realized that I could do this by visiting St Louis. As always, I looked around for some type of beer events and other awesome places to visit. I know Perennial is located there and was hoping to visit the brewery, but when I saw that they were having their Abraxas release party the weekend I was visiting (November 9th), my plans were booked.

Fast forward a month or two and I was on my way to St Louis. I landed at the airport at around 10am and raced to get to the brewery. I’ve been to plenty of beer releases and I know that the lines can get huge quickly depending on the release. I didn’t know how this one would be since Perennial is a fairly new brewery. But with a beer so good, I just assumed the place would be packed. I arrived at the brewery by 11:00am and was pleasantly surprised to see that the place wasn’t a complete madhouse.

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While walking up to the brewery, I noticed a line of empty lawn chairs that were set up in the walkway leading to the tasting room. These were the place markers for the people that got there early to sit in line. The brewery has a large patio that was being used as a venue for a pre-release bottle share. Plenty of people from the area were there popping awesome bottles of some great beers and someone even brought some Mexican Chocolate donuts. I figured that one of these shares would be going on, so I opened some of the local New Jersey brews that I brought with me (Carton Brewing's Boat Beer) and threw them into the mix.

When noon hit, everyone scattered for their spots in line. Even though I got there late, one of the guys from the bottle share let me stand with him at his spot. We talked in line for a bit and the line started moving. There were a decent amount of people in line, but it moved quickly and everyone kept themselves in decent orer. It was surprising how fast I was inside the brewery and getting my allocations.

Put my bottles directly into my suit case.

The brewery was allowing everyone to purchase two bottles of Abraxas and one bottle of the special coffee Abraxas variation. From what I heard, there were only 300 bottles of the coffee variation produced, so pretty much everyone bought their share. Afterwards, you can put the bottles in your car and continue on with the rest of the celebration.

Since Perennial doesn’t sell any food, they had food trucks come by. Both of the food trucks made special dishes that used Abraxas as an ingredient. The food trucks took shifts and I ate at Completely Sauced. I was starving and didn’t want to start drinking until I had some food in me, so this was perfect. The meat dish I ordered was good, but what really stuck out was the beignets with Abraxas sauce. It was the perfect food to start the celebration and it certainly helped get me ready.

I stuck around until 3oclock for the tapping of the coffee variation. Those who weren’t able to get there that morning had the opportunity to grab some of the coffee variation on tap. It also worked out well so that I could try it without opening my bottle. I left shortly after drinking my coffee Abraxas only to come back later that night and grab some more bottles of the regular version.

This was a really fun event and surprisingly well planned. Everyone that got there early was able to grab their bottles of regular and coffee variations. The hospitality of the people visiting along with the great beer made it worth going to. Hopefully I can get over there again this year and participate in the festivities again. It wouldn’t shock me if the lines got much longer this year, so I’ll have to prepare accordingly.

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Black Tuesday Release Party: Placentia, CA

One of the benefits of joining the Reserve Society for The Bruery –aside from getting exclusive access to nearly all of their limited batch beers – is that you have the opportunity to go to the Black Tuesday release party. Living in New Jersey, I didn’t think that the chances would be too good for me to go to this event. First thing that you need to do is buy tickets. The only people that have the ability to purchase tickets are members of the Hoarders Society and Reserve Society but even with tickets limited to members only, the event still sold out within minutes. I was lucky enough to grab two tickets to the late Saturday session.

Although the tickets were $70 and seemed like a lot of money, the price included a bottle of Black Tuesday from 2012, unlimited Hottenroth, 7 tasters of different variations of Black Tuesday and a meal from a food truck that was catering the event. The food is a necessity considering that 7 tasters of an 18.3% ABV barrel aged imperial stout can really knock you on your ass if you’re drinking on an empty stomach.

I arrived at the Bruery and was surprised to see that the release party wasn’t taking place in their tasting room. Instead, they opened the garage door to the back of the brewery and were directing people inside through there. Patrick Rue (Bruery founder) was in attendance and mingling with guests and talking beer with everyone. The staff was dressed in 1920’s formalwear and greeting the guests at the door with a program of what was going on for the event. The program gave a bit of information about the release party itself and also acted as the voucher to give access to all tasters. As I received a sample of each variation, they crossed out the name on the list to keep track. The variations offered were:

• Black Tuesday 2013
• Black Tuesday Nitro
• Some Mo’ Black Tuesday (Black Tuesday with Caramel, Coconut and Cacao)
• Grey Monday (Black Tuesday with Hazelnut)
• Melange #1 (Black Tuesday & Oude Tart blend)
• Boysenberry Black Tuesday (Black Tuesday with Boysenberry)
• Raspberry & Cacao Black Tuesday (Black Tuesday with Cacao and Raspberry)

Of all the variants, my favorite was the decadent Some Mo’ Black Tuesday. The party lasted for close to three hours which was plenty of time to try all the variations and with a little time to grab a sandwich at the food truck. The event itself was pretty simple and everything ran very smoothly. When there were lines for beers, the wait was only for a minute. After the event was over, I took a walk over to the tasting room and picked up my bottle of 2012 Black Tuesday which was included in the ticket price and went about the rest of the day. It was a great experience and yet another reason why I love being a member of the Reserve Society. I’ll be trying to get tickets again next year.

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WHYM: Portsmouth, NH

While on my two week journey throughout New England, one of the stops included a two night stay my friend’s house in New Hampshire. I already knew that I would be visiting Portsmouth beforehand. Who could deny such a scenic town with a varied beer resume including the breweries such as Smuttynose, Redhook, Earth Eagle and Portsmouth – or well known pubs like the Thirsty Moose? What I didn’t know was that a new craft beer bar had just opened around Memorial Day – coincidentally the very week I was visiting. Thankfully, my friend tipped me off, prompting the addition of this new place to my “must visit” list.

I swung by WHYM right after it opened at 3:00 p.m. I was hoping that there would be no crowd at that time on a Wednesday, letting me take in the full experience and to see exactly what the owner intended for the location. I was correct in my assumption and was able to grab a seat right at the bar without problem.

The first impression from this bar was one of what I would term “enthusiast, yet efficient”. Nothing was extraneous – but that’s not to say that the bar wasn’t aesthetically pleasing – because it certainly was. I mean that physical composition of it all served a purpose: the hiking clips under the bar used as hangers, the old farm doors used for supporting the glass hanging rack (I believe all the wood for the tables was locally sourced) and perhaps most surprisingly was that there were only about 10 taps. Yes, that’s right – in the town that is used to Thirsty Moose’s 100+ taps, here’s a bar trying to get away with a fraction of that. Why? The photo tells part of the tale:

Yes, that’s barrel aged Old Rasputin on nitro being poured for me. WHYM skirts the line between local fare, non-local domestic craft beer and imports. Prior to the Rasputin, I enjoyed a Biere De Miel (Lunatique Homard) from Blue Lobster which hit the spot. Since I was not familiar with Blue Lobster, I began to throw relentless questions at the bartender. Alex, the bartender and also the co-owner of WHYM with his wife, Gretchin, were as open and friendly as one has come to enjoy in the craft beer world. We spoke about Blue Lobster’s partnership with WHYM as well as its history (the head brewer interned at Hill Farmstead – How did I not know about this place again!?).

The food followed the theme of “enthusiast, yet efficient”. There were only 8 apps and 8 entrees, but they represented a variety of flavors that complemented the spread of beers. Beyond that, the quality of the food seemed phenomenal. I am only using the word “seemed” because I only tried one appetizer and one entree (Spicy buffalo chicken fritter & IPA marinated shrimp with prosciutto, risotto and arugula). However, I significantly doubt that they weren’t representative of the quality of the rest of the menu. It was reminiscent of Armsby Abbey (see Armsby Abbey: Worcester, MA )a fine location in which Alex shares my appreciation. I can only imagine the gems that the chef, Melissa brings out for their specials.

Alex and I continued to speak at length on a number of topics. Given that his grand opening was the prior Friday and yesterday had been his first normal day of business, I was curious what challenges he anticipated. He’d been told by folks that he was crazy for not opening in downtown Portsmouth (the location is a few miles south on Route 1), but I understood WHYM’s location. Craft beer bars are still a unique and burgeoning business, particularly with the superb food pairing focus. The last thing Alex needed to deal with would be negative reviews from folks complaining about the lack of TVs for sports or about the prices for a snifter of barrel aged Old Rasputin when they’re looking for a Bud Light Lime.

The entire time we were conversing, Alex was meticulously drying glassware and sorting it appropriately. When speaking with a new hire, his direction as to which glassware to use with which beers came from someone who clearly espoused close testing and comparison. As I’d informed Alex of my trip, he was not terribly surprised when I offered to share one a bottle of Chinooker’d IPA from Lawson’s Finest with him in celebration of his opening. He declined at first, but after a more of his staff showed up it was clear that he could step away for a moment. He told his wife that he was taking his break and took me up on my offer.

Alex took me to the back room in the restaurant, something of an alcove that his friends had apparently termed “the grotto”. There, we partook in fine meats and cheese while discussing the evolution of the craft beer scene and his intentions. For starters, I was curious about “the grotto” – what was the intent for this portion of the restaurant? He wanted it to be something of a “members only” area where he could conduct tasting or pairing lessons. I chuckled and informed him that I had full faith in his instructional capabilities, given what I’d observed earlier with the glasses.

Alex nodded and responded that he felt it was an undervalued aspect of appreciation. He observed that when most folks become interested in craft beer, it would not be uncommon for the trigger to be a wheat beer. When that Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is first served in a weizen glass to someone, interest is piqued. He wanted to ensure that he nurtured that curiosity and let folks know that it was more than simply a gimmick. This was another example of how his approach differed from that of downtown Portsmouth. I love the Portsmouth Brewery, but when I had visited the previous day, I was slightly disappointed to have their wheatwine served to me in a pint glass.

It made more sense when Alex told me a bit more about his background. Significant time spent in both ME and VT? Even more significantly, time spent learning from the folks at sister bars Ebenezer’s and Lion’s Pride? He was clearly quite serious about bringing that same spirit back home to NH.

WHYM’s motto is “good people drink good beer”. Mottos can be hollow phrases, but Alex and WHYM understand that actions speak louder than words. Their passion is palpable, their sincerity obvious, and their goals admirable. If you’re visiting Portsmouth, take a trip outside of the city to visit this place. The 10 minute drive is well worth it.

Written by Gene Shevchuk

3548 Lafayette Rd
Portsmouth, NH 03801

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Hill Farmstead 3rd Anniversary Party: Greensboro Bend, VT

There are plenty of bars and places that I’ve visited and really want to write about over the past couple months – I’m actually in a backlog – but I really wanted to write about this recent event because it was such an experience.

Hill Farmstead turned three years old this past month and held their anniversary party at the brewery again. I went to this party last year and it was such a good time that I decided to grab some tickets for the festivities. I had it all pictured in my head – a beautiful Vermont landscape, friendly people, and some of the best beers on the planet being poured outside on a nice spring day. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans.

I was working in Portland Maine the week preceding the anniversary party and kept an eye on the weather channel each day to see how things would pan out for the weekend of the party. I knew it would be cold, but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced when the day came. The drive from Portland to Vermont is roughly 3 hours and throughout the ride I watched the temperature gauge of the car I rented continuously go lower into the 30s as I approached my final destination at the hotel in Waterbury. When I woke up the next day to leave for the Anniversary Party, the temperature was in the high 30s/low 40s and it was windy.

The drive from Waterbury to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro Bend is approximately an hour. Once again, the temperature gauge kept showing the temperature drop as we approached the brewery until we hit 28 degrees upon arrival. It seemed that as soon as we turned onto the long dirt road where the brewery is located, the gusts of wind became even stronger, the rain froze and it started to snow. I couldn’t believe that it was snowing in the middle of May. What shocked me more was the contrast of the previous years conditions which were 75 degrees and sunny – literally the polar opposite of this year. We parked the car and took it all in –but not for too long since it was snowing sideways and it actually hurt to stand outside without cover for too long.

We approached the tent to present our tickets and checked in. The event was similar to how it was last year in the ways that you were required to drink from the Hill Farmstead glassware and a ticket system was used to distribute beers. The purchase of the $40 ticket gave you 5 tickets and the tasting glass, but you can purchase more tickets for $5 each. I always thought using actual glassware adds a bit of class to the event and it certainly beats drinking out of a crappy plastic cup. Checking in went smoothly and we were able to walk right into the tent to start tasting.

The first tent was one of the most crowded – not because they were selling bottles or the constant supply of Double Citra – but because there was a space heater directly in the middle. Loads of people were holding their beers and crowding around it to keep warm. The most remarkable thing that I saw was someone that took their shoes and hat off to watch the steam come pouring off while holding it to the flames. Yeah, it was THAT cold. Surprisingly, even though everyone was frigid and wet, we were still able to have a good time. It became humorous and we all joked around as we huddled around the flames to keep ourselves warm.

Although it was warm in the first tent, I knew that there were other beers being poured in the other tents out in the distance. Curiosity got the best of me and I gave up my spot near the heater to venture off to the larger tent. I was pretty glad that I did, because the other tent was pouring some great beers. Ephraim, Birth Of Tragedy, Earl, Everett and some others were all being poured. The line was huge, but I was fine with standing in it for a while. I really enjoy Hill Farmstead’s IPAs, pale ales and saisons but the cold weather was really making me crave something dark and roasty.

I was next in line for Earl (coffee oatmeal stout) and was about to get a pour when the servers were given orders to take the entire table and jockey box outside. “WHAT?!” was pretty much everyone’s immediate reaction. The entire line of 50+ people followed the Hill Farmstead staff outside into the cold. After getting outside, I realized the reasoning for this decision. There were bands playing on the stage set up. Everyone was so occupied with keeping themselves warm that they were neglecting the bands playing.

The jockey box was set up facing the stage with the hopes that people would stick around and take a listen. It actually worked to an extent. I looked over at one point and there was a heavy metal band all decked out wearing gauntlets and leather pants shredding to a group of people head banging. I’ve been to A LOT of metal shows (I used to write and edit a metal magazine for 10 years), but I never saw anything like this. Snow was falling, yet the band was still killing it. I can appreciate them putting this outside. I used to play in a couple metal bands for a few years and know the pain of playing a concert that no one is watching. It was a nice move by the HF staff to bring it outside. It also caused that line to drop down to only a 5 minute wait. No complaints from me.

We hung around the party until the end and continued to talk to new friends that we made throughout the day until we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. It was cold, we were soaking wet and I feared getting sick. A lot of those who were planning to camp at the brewery gave in and decided to head back into Waterbury. Those who came back to the Best Western in Waterbury held a huge bottle share and made the best of the situation. We continued to have a good time throughout the night at the hotel and make new friends.

That Saturday was a real eye opener as to why I continue to go to these events. It’s not so much about trying new beers. It’s the experiences while there. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would have been drinking beer outside in a snow storm in rural Vermont while listening to a metal band playing, but there were a couple hundred of us there sharing that experience and having a good time. The combination of incredible beers, awesome people and crazy weather made this a truly memorable event. I’ll definitely be back again next year. Heck, maybe it’ll snow again. I’ll bring a sled just in case.

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The Worthy Burger: South Royalton, VT

There’s always a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever leaving Vermont. It’s usually because I always have a great time visiting and I don’t want to go home. I’ll have a car full of great locally brewed beers and a mind that is still not looking forward to getting back to the reality of the work week. To help ease the pain on the way home, I try to find a place worthy of stopping and spending a couple hours. This is why I was so glad to find The Worthy Burger.

I heard about The Worthy Burger while visiting Blind Tiger in New York City. One of the bartenders and I were chatting about Vermont and how it’s the perfect beer getaway. She then mentioned the relation between Blind Tiger and The Worthy Burger and how Dave Brodrick is the founder of both bars. I guess that it makes sense considering that Blind Tiger will occasionally have Vermont farm to table events and will get Hill Farmstead beers fairly consistently. My curiosity grew on me so I knew I had to stop at Worthy Burger the next time I was up in that area.

The Worthy Burger is located in the small town of South Royalton Vermont, about an hour south of Waterbury. It’s also a short distance off of Route 89, so it’s an easy stop and only takes about 15 minutes off my trek back to New Jersey. The drive from Route 89 is very easy, but has a couple windy roads and after 10-15 minutes, will leave you in South Royalton. When arriving, you wouldn’t imagine that there was much to the town, as it’s very small and appears to be very quiet. If you drive over to the railroad station, you’ll find The Worthy Burger located immediately next to the tracks. You can smell the awesome burgers after stepping out of your vehicle and you know you’re in the right place.

The entrance is on the side of the building away from the train tracks. There is a heavy curtain surrounding the inside of the door to keep the cold air out. The bar is right as you walk in and has roughly 20 stools surrounding the cement bar top. To the right along the wall are a few high top tables l with a condiments station at the end of it. The left has a few tables set up with a large flat screen television. Although everything is an open concept and in one full room, the side with the televisions feels a bit separated.

What really gets my attention upon walking in isn’t the set up – it’s the tap list that’s on the chalkboard behind the bar. The Worthy Burger has a 10-15 tap set up which is very heavy in Hill Farmstead beers. I’m pretty sure that this is the largest selection of Hill Farmstead beers available so far south from the brewery itself. Although the list isn’t large, it’s very well selected and has something for everyone. On a wall to the right of the bar is the food menu.

The food at The Worthy Burger is – you guessed it – pretty burger heavy. There’s a variety of choices between chicken, beef, tuna for a burger patty that can be topped with a variety of different Vermont cheeses and other toppings. My choice while there is usually the beef burger with bacon, sautéed onions, fried egg and Vermont cheddar. I’ll usually get this with some hand cut fries and top it off with some of the various condiments offered (spicy mayo, mustard, spicy ketchup etc.). I can’t speak of any of the other food there since I’m pretty stuck on this combo. I mean, why mess with a sure thing?

This is – and will continue to be – my therapy in dealing with the six hour drive home when visiting Vermont. It’s well worth the 15 minute drive out of the way and is a classic example of how well beer and burgers go together. It’s a simple combination bringing an awesome experience.

http://www.facebook.com/TheWorthyBurgerSORO

56 Rainbow Street
South Royalton, VT 05068

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Prohibition Pig, Blackback Pub, The Reservoir: Waterbury, VT

I was working in Connecticut for the entire month of January so figured that since I was only a few hours away, it would probably be a good opportunity to head out to Vermont for a little weekend relaxation. I wanted to stay in a town that gave options for skiing, but even better options for beer. After doing a little research online, I decided that Waterbury would be the place to go. Aside from being minutes away from a few awesome ski areas, and being the town where the Alchemist cannery is located, Waterbury also boasts three really awesome beer bars.

After visiting the good beer spots, I couldn’t make up my mind of which one to write about. Each of them offer something different, so why not tell a little bit about all of them? All of the bars are located in the downtown area of Waterbury and are so close together, that you can see them from each others windows. Although located so close together, they each offer a different type of atmosphere.

The first place I stopped was Prohibition Pig. It’s a newer place that has only been around for a couple years and is located on the site where the Alchemist Brewpub used to be. The atmosphere is intimate with dimmed lights, exposed brick walls and candles lit at the tables and along the bar. As you walk in, the bar is on the right and the main dining area is on the left. Behind the bar is a tall group of wooden shelves that house a selection of high end spirits with a concentration on bourbon. Although there’s a large bourbon concentration, they still offer other mixed drinks. If you’re visiting over the weekend, I’d recommend heading in a little early so that you can grab a Bloody Mary. It’s served in a large Mason jar and garnished with a celery stick and pickled vegetables. It also comes with a small glass of Schlitz 60’s Formula Lager to wash it down. Even though the cocktails here are top notch, I mostly come here because of their 20+ taps.

The beer selection features a good amount of local Vermont beers. I was able to find at least 3 Hill Farmstead taps, two from Lawsons and Heady Topper from Alchemist. The rest of the taps were filled with other various American craft beers and a few Belgians. What I liked about this place was that they allowed half pours. Since Lawsons can be pretty hard to find – even while in Vermont – I was glad to get to try a couple while there without getting a full serving. I still had 2 other bars to visit afterwards and wanted to make it through the night.

Before getting into the beers, I had to eat something. I heard that Prohibition Pig has great food and I was pretty hungry after being in the car for 4 hours. The menu wasn’t as pork heavy as I would have expected it to be. Although it featured a number of smoked meats and BBQ, they also have a few outliers such as Bahn Mi, Tempeh, and even a little bit of sea food. Even though I didn’t order the Bahn Mi, someone next to me at the bar ordered it, and it smelt incredible. As good as it smelt, I was still very satisfied with my choice of brisket with mac n cheese. They try to keep everything on their menu as locally sourced as possible and there are typically specials available. After devouring my meal and drinking a few samples, I took a quick walk up the street to the next place.

Next on the list was Blackback Pub. Even though it’s located across the street from Prohibition Pig, it still offers a different type of atmosphere. Walking into Blackback, you could mistake it for being in a basement due to the low ceilings. It’s actually located on the first floor of a larger building, but in the side of a hill so I guess it’s sort of partially underground. There are two bars areas inside which are separated by a wall with a walkway between them. The wall makes the bar feel significantly smaller, but it really didn’t matter much for me since I was by myself. It wasn’t too busy, so I was able to walk right up to one of the bars and take a seat.

I took a look at the chalkboard on the wall and examined the beer list. The selection here is predominately Vermont beers and dominated by Hill Farmstead and there were a couple of Lawson’s on tap too. The rest of the beer list was a mix of well chosen American craft and European beers. I ordered Double Galaxy from Hill Farmstead, and it was served to me in the Hill Farmstead glassware. If beer isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for mixed drinks then this place probably isn’t for you. They don’t make mixed drinks, but you can still order Bourbon neat or a glass of wine.

Blackback has one television in each bar area and although it was playing some football game while I was there, it’s by no means a sports bar. You couldn’t hear the TV, but that’s perfectly fine considering there was a nice mix of Led Zepplin and Johnny Cash playing over the stereo. It was great to sit back, relax and drink some awesome beers while listening to some of my favorite Zepplin songs. But after a while I figured it would be best to leave so that I could make it over to my last stop of the little pub crawl: The Reservoir.

The Reservoir was the liveliest of the three bars I visited and also the largest. Walking in through the front door, it looks like it’s just a restaurant. There are a number of tables set up and there is a small stage to the right. When I arrived, there was a cover band playing Dropkick Murphys, and I was pretty happy that I didn’t need to pay a cover charge. I headed to the back and into the other section of the restaurant which is where the bar area is located. The bar sits 15-20 people and there are high top tables scattered around the room along with a couch. There are a couple TVs on the walls which usually play some type of sports game.

Although I was sitting in the bar area, I could still order food. The menu was mostly bar food, but made primarily with locally sourced ingredients. I’m not sure when they serve dinner till, but I was able to grab a half pound burger after 9 o’clock, so I’d assume that you can eat there pretty late. They’re supposedly known for their wings, but I didn’t order any and immediately regretted it after seeing the waitress walking by with some.

The tap selection is pretty large (20-something taps) and has the most reasonable prices of the three places I visited. They always have beers from Hill Farmstead, Lawsons and Switchback on tap, but if you had your fill from the other two bars, then some other notable breweries on tap were Founders, Ballast Point and Oxbow. The day I visited was unusually warm, so I was able to drink a beer on their deck outside and get some relief from the loud music from the band playing. It looks like they have live music pretty consistently.

I can’t really pick a favorite of the three places visited that night since they all had something different to offer. I guess that you can’t really go wrong though considering that they all offer beers from local Vermont breweries. I’d recommend checking them all out and making the decision yourself. Since they’re located so close together, you can always switch it up if one isn’t your cup of tea. Heck, I’d say they’re all worth checking out just for their tap lists alone, but that’s for you to decide. Regardless, I’ll be back to them all next time I’m in Waterbury.

Prohibition Pig
23 S Main St
Waterbury, VT 05676
http://www.prohibitionpig.com/

Blackback Pub
1 Stowe St
Waterbury, VT 05676
http://www.blackbackpub.com/

The Reservoir
1 S Main St
Waterbury, VT 05676
http://www.waterburyreservoir.com/

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