Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Heady Spotting in Burlington, Vermont

what the insides of a vermont themed treasure chest might look like
A friend taught me an excellent word recently: schnapsidee. It’s German (clearly), and means “booze idea”—so, one of those plans you make when you have had a few pints. They always seem fun until the next morning, when suddenly they seem to require A LOT of energy. The key to turning schnapsidees into reality (and in turn into great stories) is someone who will hold you to your word. And so, on the coldest weekend of this or any recent year, a plan hatched over Grimms at Proletariat in the East Village became a drive from New York City to Burlington, Vermont in search of the elusive Heady Topper.

Heady is one of those beers that inspire a sort of mania. Its deliciousness is storied, and it’s not distributed outside of a 25-mile radius from where it's brewed in Waterbury. Plus, the brewery is closed to the public, and retailers limit the number of cans you can buy (sometimes it’s as low as one four pack). Stores all over Burlington still sell out of their weekly delivery within hours, so you have to know who is getting Heady and when so you’re ready to pounce. Um, or walk in calmly like a normal person.

Our first morning in Burlington, it was negative ten degrees. If you have never been in negative ten degree weather, I am jealous of you and you will probably live longer than me. Negative ten degrees makes your ears feel like brittle glass. Jared’s beard frosted over immediately. Really, the only good thing about weather like that is you can drink all the beer and eat all the cheese you want, and tell yourself it’s protection against the cold. We had a ridiculously delicious brunch at the Penny Cluse around 11am, where we ordered two Heady Toppers. “Each?” our waitress asked, because she was a reasonable and excellent waitress. But no, two Heady Toppers to split between the four of us, because we had a big day of Beer Field Trips planned. (When this blog takes off and makes me very famous and wealthy, I think I will start a travel company called Beer Field Trips. Let me know if you’re ready to invest.)

cute husband at Winooski Beverage Warehouse, not so into photos
Our first stop was Winooski Beverage Warehouse, where I felt a sort of glee that I usually only experience during very large tap numbers in Broadway musicals, or in Parisian bakeries. Shopping for esoteric beers is my very favorite kind of shopping (although recently I have been really into buying rugs, and now we have so many rugs we have started hanging them on our walls.) I was dancing through the aisles of the Winooski Beverage Warehouse, but fortunately no one could really tell because I was wearing so many layers.

Then it was time to make one of the most important and remote American beer pilgrimages one can make: to the hallowed Hill Farmstead brewery in Greensboro Bend, Vermont. Greensboro Bend is an hour and a half from Burlington, which is to say, it’s out there. It started to snow as we drove, and we entertained the idea that the brewery might actually be closed due to weather. Don’t ask me why we didn’t use our Power of The Internet and Phone Communication to determine if that was actually the case; our brains and the world wide web were both frozen.
Hill Farmstead tasting flight
We should never have doubted the cross section of hardened Vermonters and serious beer freaks, because Hill Farmstead was packed. It’s a concrete warehouse in the middle of the field that is supposed to be gorgeous in the summer, but in the winter just seems like a long way to walk through howling, cutting winds. Inside, you take a number to wait your turn for growler fills; the next number was close to 700. They were currently serving number 430. There were so many people in this place that the windows were open to cool things off, even though that handy Snapchat filter that puts the temperature on your photos told me it was currently -16.

After an increasingly snowy and dark drive back to Burlington, we called an Uber because we all live in the future and went to dinner at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, which is an excellent establishment that used to be a McDonalds and now has one of the craziest beer lists you could ever hope to stumble across. There is also a hidden log cabin themed bar called The Parlor in the basement where you can play darts. Don’t all leave for Burlington at once!!

Then the next day was Valentine’s Day, so we bought twenty five Vermont cheeses and ate them all. It was the best Valentine’s Day ever.
a small representation of our cheese haul
Our drive home on Monday did take us eight hours, but on our way out of town we hit every shop on the Monday Heady Spotter distribution list, until we found our mecca at Shelburne Meat Market, where each couple bought a case (!). As I rationed them carefully for the next two months, I was pretty schnapsidee-lighted. (Gonna go give myself a real good talking to about that pun, bye!)

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