"It's kind of weird sometimes," said Travis, one barside regular at the Prohibition Pig brewpub in Waterbury, Vermont. "People come in from Massachusetts, from New York, and it's like all they can think about is how many cases of Heady they can get before they return. I want to tell them, like, there's 30 other breweries in Vermont, man."
There's no doubt that Heady Topper, an 8% alcohol-by-volume IPA produced by Waterbury-based brewery The Alchemist, is Vermont's most widely-known craft beer. Originally brewed 12 years ago for The Alchemist's now-closed taproom (which the Prohibition Pig currently resides in), Heady's popularity shot skyward once the brewery started canning it in 2011. Now it's to the point where The Alchemist's website lists the individual days it delivers Heady cans to liquor stores and supermarkets across Vermont—and even then, you better arrive early in the day if you want a chance at a $14-ish four-pack. (It's much easier to find in bars, with tall-boy cans slung around Burlington's college dives like $2 PBRs.)
How is it? Great. Maybe not stand-in-line great, but an excellent IPA that's highly reminiscent of Boneyard's Hop Venom, boasting West Coast-style tropical hoppiness and an utterly dank and addictive scent. A competitive taste test is definitely in order.
But Vermont's beer scene goes far beyond Heady. In fact, it's now at Bendian levels of density. Other in-state breweries like Fiddlehead and Lawson's Finest Liquids have gained enormous fame for their own fruity IPAs. The von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame built a Swiss-style lodge in the mountains of Stowe, complete with a lager-only brewery. And up north, in the rural hills near Quebec, there's Hill Farmstead Brewery, another world-famous outfit where brewer Shaun Hill creates delicate saisons and experiments with adjuncts and barrel-aging to amazing effect. Much like Central Oregon, a trip to the state just to dig deep into the beer scene will reap you copious rewards.