By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
If you are ever looking for a fun and inexpensive day trip, why not give a brewery or two a visit?
New England has become a region rich with a vast array of breweries, ranging from large-scale operations to one-man operations and many of those are easily accessible to the public. For Reminder readers, day trips can consist of a host of beer making venues along the Interstate 91 corridor from the Long Island Sound through New Hampshire.
While most breweries have limited hours for guided tours mostly weekends many offer viewing areas or self-guided tours through which visitors can see the process at work.
For my birthday, my wife, Eileen, took me on one such excursion, visiting four breweries within approximately 30 minutes of I-91.
First on the list was Long Trail Brewing Company (www.longtrail.com), located on Route 4 in Bridgewater Corner, Vt.
Long Trail has a beautiful location nestled in a rural setting on the banks of the Ottauquechee River. It offers a self-guided tour where you stand above the working areas of the brewery for a bird’s eye view of the brewing and bottling process. Placards line the railings detailing each step.
While the process of brewing beer is essentially the same, Long Trails prides itself on using ecologically conscious procedures and materials in its beer production, making this stop an especially interesting one.
At each brewery, we took the time to try a sampler flight to get a better idea of the full spectrum of beers each brewery offered. Long Trail’s sampler was reasonably priced at $6 for six two-ounce samples of the Long Trail Ale, Blackberry Wheat, India Pale Ale (IPA), Pale Ale, Double Bag Ale and fall seasonal Harvest. The only unfortunate thing about Long Trail’s sampler is the fact that they do not allow substitutions.
In addition to the bar area where you can watch the beer being bottled through a window looking out onto the brewery floor, Long Trail offers an dining room and an outdoor deck overlooking the Ottauquechee.
With a sampler and a basket of fries that would have been enough to serve four, our total bill came to $10.
About 40 minutes southeast of Long Trail is the Windsor, Vt., brewing location for Harpoon Brewing Company (www.harpoonbrewery.com). While the original Harpoon remains in Boston, the business expanded to Windsor to keep up with demand and now the Vermont location produces approximately one third of all Harpoon sold.
While Harpoon only offers their full tours, complete with tastings, on Friday evenings and the weekends, it does have a viewing area where you can read up on how the beer is made and see the crews in action.
It also has a large bar and seating area as well as an outdoor beer garden. It was under construction while we were there, but most of the time folks can sit out on the patio and look out at the Green Mountains and the hops Harpoon is growing on site.
An appetizer of spinach and artichoke dip with fried pitas and a sampler of UFO (UnFiltered Offering) Hefeweizen, UFO White, Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Munich Dark, cost a grand total of $14.
In stark contrast to the larger-scale breweries, Element Brewing Company (www.elementbeer.com), located on Route 63 in Millers Falls, is a three-man crew, operating out of an unassuming building on a corner in the center of town.
Element is open to the public until 6 p.m., even while in the midst of a redesign of their facility that will triple their output. Co-owner Dan Kramer personally invited us in and gave us free samples of the Extra Special Oak, Red Giant and Dark Element, then brought us to the back to take a look at their set up.
After seeing much larger outfits, it was very interesting to see a company of this size and the differences in how they handle volume. Element is confined to a small space, but it is currently served throughout Massachusetts from the Berkshires to Boston. Everything offered to us on this stop was free, but we bought a growler of Dark Element for $16, including deposit.
The People’s Pint (www.thepeoplespint.com) on Federal Street in Greenfield is more of a beer house than a brewery and does not offer tours of its brewing facility, which is actually on Hope Street. However, it is in a great location and has a ton of character. It’s the perfect location to grab a beer and a pickled egg. That’s right, pickled eggs are on the menu, but more appetizing is their sampler, which can consist of any beer on tap. With a sweet and not overly spicy salsa and chips to go along with it, we walked out with a $10 tab.
One thing to note is the People’s Pint does not accept plastic, but interestingly, they believe that people are generally good and do take checks along with cash.
Spending no more than $16 at any one location, this trek through southern Vermont and Massachusetts proved an affordable and fun way to spend a day and is highly recommended for fans of beer and even their families. All of these places listed above are open to all ages, though obviously sampling is restricted to those of legal drinking age.
The Amherst Brewing Company (ABC) opened its new location on University Drive in Amherst on Aug. 15, taking over the spot that Gold’s Gym used to occupy.
While not part of our magical brewery tour last week, Eileen and I were sure to check out the new digs. Color me impressed.
The beer at ABC already has a quality reputation and now has a monumental facility to go along with it. The bar, which is decorated with copper forged with the imprints of leaves in it is absolutely massive, extending nearly 100 feet.
From the front door, there are pool tables and video trivia games to the left, as well as a separate function area. To the right and extending behind the bar is an extensive dining area.
We decided to first grab some food and a sampler, which proved to be a very good decision. With a Cajun-style cheeseburger for me, a cup of seafood chowder and mozzarella sticks for Eileen and a six-beer sampler for each of us, the check totaled at a mere $40.
The burger, smothered in Cajun spices and topped with bleu cheese and bacon, was cooked just as ordered and flanked with crispy fries. The mozzarella sticks were baked, not fried, in dough and served with marinara sauce and the chowder was chock full of all manner of edible sea creatures.
Overall, ABC is a tremendous value. Pints run somewhere between $4 and $5, on par with what one would pay for a Samuel Adams at the local watering hole. Sampler flights come in two sizes four and six glasses. Four-pack samplers run $4 apiece, while six-pack samplers cost $5.
Beer is also available for carryout at this location until 11 p.m. with their regular beers going for $9.35, plus deposit, for a growler. Specialty beers are available in 33-ounce bottles for $7.
More information on ABC can be found at www.amherstbrewing.com.
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