If you don't have tickets for the sold-out Vermont Brewers Festival on Burlington's waterfront this weekend, you might want to stop reading — unless you're a glutton for punishment. As usual, the line-up is amazing, and the few thousand people who were on point enough to buy tickets (they sold out in 34 hours) will soon be marinating in liquid goodness. Some highlights:
The festival virgins
Of the 43 breweries taking part this year, at least four began brewing in the last year: Covered Bridge Craft Brewery in Lyndonville; Foley Brothers in Brandon; Lost Nation Brewing in Morrisville; and Whetstone Pub & Brewery in Brattleboro. Covered Bridge is offering up what they're calling "the result of a one night stand between a blonde and a pale ale." Foley Brother's Ginger Wheat is brewed with Vermont-grown Cascade hops. And tart, German-style gose (among other brews) will flow from both Lost Nation and Whetstone.
"Pilot brews" from the bigger guns
"One thing you'll see a lot of is pilot brews and small-batch series," says festival director Laura Streets. Otter Creek Brewing and Long Trail Brewing Company plan to pour experimental beers that will be tweeted each time they're tapped. "It's kind of a big thing that they're going back to where their roots are, rethinking their beers and focusing on smaller batches," Streets adds. One of Long Trail's small batches is a Lemon Pepper Kolsch; Magic Hat Brewing Company is pouring a fall seasonal saison called Séance.
Side-by-side beers from Trapp Family Lodge and 14th Star Brewing
Stowe's Trapp Family Lodge Brewery and St. Albans' 14th Star Brewing collaborated on a beer, but not in the usual way: They've taken the same recipe but brewed it with two different yeasts, a lager yeast for Trapp and an ale yeast for 14th Star. "It's nice and refreshingly hoppy with fruity esters that you don't find in the lager version," says 14th Star's Steve Gagner of the IPA he and his colleagues created (Trapp is calling theirs an IPL). "The German malt gives it kind of a nice backbone."
Vermont Spruce Tip IPA, gluten-free beer and other anomalies
Then there are all the saucy one-offs. Fiddlehead Brewing Company will be pouring a vanilla, chocolate and coconut porter. Lawson's Finest Liquids will tap two collaboration beers: a Vermont Spruce Tip IPA, brewed with the Vermont Pub & Brewery, and a Smoked Maple Lager brewed with Massachusetts-based Jack's Abby Brewing. Hill Farmstead Brewing paired up with Denmark's Kissmeyer Brewing for a chamomile, lemongrass and citrus blond ale, The Bliss of Absence. Massachusetts' Wormtown Brewing has made a Hefeweizen with malt and hops from their home state. A tripel aged in apple brandy barrels will flow from New York's Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. And southern California's Stone Brewing Co. will tap a perishable, "devastatingly fresh" double IPA called Stone Enjoy By. The excellent gluten-free beers from Montréal's Brasseurs Sans Gluten, whose Glutenberg Red is imbued with roasted chestnuts, might make the lives of gluten-intolerant beer lovers a little bit brighter.
And the list goes on. The festival begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.