Lost, then Found: The Smallest Brewery in Vermont
There are unique challenges to driving around small towns when you’re relying on your GPS with the original 2009 map loaded on it. Namely, it really doesn’t have any idea where you are. Such was the case this past weekend when my family and I were up in NH visiting my wife’s aunt in Piermont, NH — a small farming community just east of the Connecticut River that divides NH and VT. During the day on Friday, on our way to Woodstock, NH for breakfast, we ended up passing through the center of Bradford, VT — which is just west of the Connecticut River — trying to make our way to the Woodstock Inn. When we hit an intersection that would eventually lead us through the town center, we spotted a simple yet very unexpected sign outside of an old mill building: Vermont Beer Company.
You could equate it to finding a needle in a haystack, except for the fact that we weren’t looking. In this quaint Vermont town with a population of just around 3,000, we happened upon the smallest brewery in Vermont.
After a successful and delicious trip to the Woodstock Inn, we slowly made our way back towards Bradford and eventually pulled into the lot where we’d seen the VBC sign. As we would come to learn, the Vermont Beer Company is contained with the Perfect Pear Cafe. While the rest of the family waited in the car, I went in to see if they had food available for us to grab an early dinner. In the cafe, I met Zach who told me about how the brewery had just started operations last May, and we continued talking for a few minutes about the beers that were available on tap and some more history of the brewery. After going back outside the get the family, we settled into the pub downstairs, nestled nicely along the banks of Waits River.
In talking with our waitress, we learned that they brew on a 10-gallon system, allowing them to rotate their lines often and permitting uninhibited creativity. This, as you can imagine, puts them square on the map as the smallest production brewery in Vermont. On draft in the pub were four lines; Dogfish Head My Antonia, Wolavers IPA, Sam Adams Noble Pils, and the VBC’s own Waits’ River Red. My wife opted for the Dogfish Head My Antonia, and I had a pint of the Red.
Per Adam Coulter, the brewer at VBC:
“Wait’s River Red Ale is 5.8% ABV with cluster hops for bittering and several small additions of cascade throughout the boil. It is inspired by west coast style of hoppy red such as North Coast Red Seal with a little more maltiness.”
It was indeed a hoppy red with really nice, while subtle, resinous aromas and a moderately bitter and creamy, almost chewy, flavor and mouthfeel.
While we were talking, Zach had mentioned that they had a Smoked Maple Porter upstairs in the cafe, so I asked for a sample of that brew.
Again, per Adam:
“The Smoked Maple Porter is made with maple syrup from Bob Sandberg’s place in Corinth, VT. One town over from Bradford. It is 6.5% abv and is a variation of our Devil’s Den Robust Porter laced with Beechwood Smoked Malt, Munich and Carafa 2, one hopped with Northern Brewer.”
The smoked malts were abundantly evident in the aroma with fairly moderate intensity, but the smoke didn’t carry over into the flavor, instead allowing the sweetness of the maple syrup come through and create a very enjoyable, drinkable brew.
The cafe has been putting on a series of beer dinners during the course of the winter, and tonight will be their last in the series, but also the first featuring beers produced solely at the Vermont Beer Company.
If you do find yourself near Bradford, VT, I highly recommend stopping in to visit the VBC and trying whatever they have on tap. In addition to drinking some great beer, you can join me in telling your friends you had a pint at the smallest brewery in Vermont.