Back into the fray: It seems like it’s been forever since I last had an opportunity to visit some of Vermont’s finest breweries but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, our quest has returned better than ever. First stop: The Shed. I didn’t have a chance to blog about my last visit to The Shed (ok more honestly I didn’t take the time to) but let’s just say I was underwhelmed. The beer and food were great, but the service was horrendous. We ate in the pub side not the restaurant side and the place was empty, usually a good sign that you’ll be well taken care of, but that wasn’t the case at all. Our waitress looked annoyed that she had to wait on us and took her sweet time to do so. Once she did, she sat down in a booth and began to socialize with one of her friends that came in after us. I finished my pint and she never came over to ask if I wanted another one, even though our table was in her line of vision. I turned to meet her gaze and she glared at me as if to say I was inconveniencing her by being there. It was more than obvious that she’d much rather talk to her friend than do her job, and The Shed left me with a bad taste in my mouth because of this individual’s actions.
But rather then write The Shed off completely, I decided to give the restaurant side a chance and what a great choice that turned out to be. The food was once again excellent, the beer was great and the service matched. We were doing the Brewery Challenge this time with some friends so this was their first Shed experience and they were both pleasantly surprised. We started with a round of samples and The Shed Sampler for our appetizer; the Shed Sampler consists of ribs, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and potato skins. This was a great choice because I was having a hard time deciding between The Shed Smoked BBQ Ribs and The Shed Hot Turkey Sandwich. I will say, as much as I love the Hot Turkey Sandwich I will have to go with the Smoked BBQ Ribs next time because they’re amazingly juice and the BBQ sauce has just the right sweet tangy flavor, but you can’t go wrong with either choice. Now let’s talk about the real reason we went; the beer. We ordered a sampler not only because it’s the best way to try all of The Shed’s offerings but also because they have one of the best presentations for a sampler: it comes out on a miniature ski.
It’s fun and practical and makes the experience enjoyable since you are at the base of the Mountain. Speaking of Mountains, Shed Mountain Ale has always been my favorite; it’s their flagship beer and a great offering of an English style strong ale that drinks as advertised, smooth even though it boasts a 7.0% ABV. But this time I really found myself falling in love with Shed Amber Ale. There is something about Cascade hops that I’m just head over heels for lately and Shed Amber Ale is no exception. It’s sweet aroma and smooth flavor won me over, and I cannot wait to return to The Shed to pair it up against some of their Smoked BBQ Ribs. But it was getting close to 2:00 p.m. and we had to be on our way to our next stop, Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville.
It had been six months since I’d last made the trek to Rock Art Brewery; last time I made the quest with parents in tow but sans Jaclyn (see previous blog) and we missed the tour. This time I was going to get the tour so I could cross it off my bucket list. And I’m happy to say that we made it with minutes to spare. I knew Rock Art was a smaller brewery in comparison to Switchback or Otter Creek but I had no idea just how small until I got to follow the brewery behind the magic door and into the brewery itself. In this oversized garage is where one of my favorite beers, Ridge Runner, is crafted on some of the same brewing equipment that was first used when Rock Art came alive in a basement back in the late nineties/early two thousands. The tour was quick because they were in the middle of brewing but it was neat to see the facility finally and get to see the 1940 bottling line that came from an old Dr. Pepper plant. All of this was just proof to me that with a dream and enough heart in Vermont you can do anything. On the other side of the wall we then got to stand at one of the most beautiful hand crafted bars I have seen to this day and sample some of Rock Art’s fantastic beer. On tap this time was Sunny & 75, IPA, Ridge Runner, and Stump Jumper. Sunny & 75 is their Belgium White offering that is rich with a spicy coriander that is unique to this style of beer. It is one of Jaclyn’s favorites but not a style I’ve ever gotten into. I have previously reviewed their IPA and Ridge Runner, two of my personal favorites, so I’ll skip right to Stump Jumper. Stump Jumper is billed as their Gnarly Stout and it lives up to its name. Not quite as strong as some of their other offerings weighing in at 5.8% ABV, Stump Jumper still packs plenty of punch as far as flavor is concerned. I like the rich malty flavor that instantly floods your mouth as soon as you take a sip. This isn’t a Guinness Stout, but a Gnarly Stout that can only be described as a “chewy” and delicious beer. This past Father’s Day my friend and I did our best to drink the Islands dry of Stump Jumper and I can see it easily happening again. So with our palates quenched and tour complete, we left Rock Art behind for the final stop on today’s tour.
Thirteenth Stop: Trapp Family Lodge Brewery
Beers: Golden Helles, Vienna, Dunkel, & Trostenbier
Trapp was a new adventure for us and actually a new beer as well. I’ve heard places in downtown Burlington carry it but I wanted to try it at the source before I had it out on the town. We drove back past The Shed and I will admit I was almost tempted to beg Steve to stop so we could imbibe on some more Amber Ale and mouth watering Smoked Ribs, but we were on a mission and I was still quite full from my Thanksgiving-esque meal. I’ve never been to the Trapp Family Lodge before and even though I was born and raised in VT all I know about the Trapp family I learned from The Sound of Music. I was excited by the pictures on the internet of the large Austrain-style mountain resort but I should’ve paid more attention to the fine print. Brewing was new to Trapp, and I had imagined a small pub fashioned after a ski chalet with mounted goat heads and large beer steins overflowing with the frothy head of a German inspired brew. But alas the presentation wasn’t what I had imagined; their taps are located in the Deli Bakery, which was nice for the ladies because they could snack on desserts while we got to sample our beers. Trapp is new to the brewing game (a 2010 addition to the Vermont Brewery Tour) so I’ll give ‘em a pass. Hopefully after their beer takes off they’ll have a dedicated brewpub on the property. I will say their taps are pretty awesome (they’re goat horns) and I wish I would’ve taken a picture of them but there were families in line behind me and I didn’t want to be “too” touristy. I did get a four beer sampler which included their Golden Helles, Vienna, Dunkel, & Trostenbier. We found a table by the door and sat down to try Trapp Lager for the first time. First on the list, Golden Helles was a light golden lager that I could see myself enjoying more in the summer months but it still had a nice crisp flavor to it. Next was the Vienna, and much like The Shed’s offering I found myself really liking the Amber lager. With its smooth malty flavor and slightly hoppy finish I could see myself enjoying quite a few of those. Next was the Dunkel, which I had heard was their best offering, and I can’t say I disagree. And finally we finished with the seasonal Trostenbier, which according to Trapp translates to comfort beer and lives up to its name. Being a new brewery and already having three beers I really enjoy I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Trapp Brewery (I do have my fingers crossed for a future brewpub though). With our third stop complete and our group re-energized we headed off towards home, bellies full of good food, great beer and looking forward to future brew tours.Stops #12 & #13 Complete!