Over the past two decades, Vermont has evolved into an epicenter for innovative breweries, with the burgeoning Waterbury craft beer scene leading the way. The Alchemist Brewery’s award-winning beers, since their 2003 debut, have prominently placed Waterbury craft brewers on the map. Beer enthusiasts now flock to the area, eager to explore the extensive tap lists at local breweries and brewpubs.
With The Old Stagecoach Inn’s convenient location in downtown Waterbury, you can walk from one pub or brewery to the next, sipping some of the best beers in the world. And when you’ve exhausted the walkable scene, you’ll find over two dozen breweries within an hour’s drive.
Start your exploration just a block from us on Main St at the Blackback Pub, with a gastropub atmosphere upstairs and beer cellar feel downstairs (but the same fabulous food and drink menu throughout). Often rated as one of the best beer pubs in the state, Backpack’s 30+ beers on tap are the ideal way to dive into the wide world of Vermont beers (fun fact: Vermont has the most breweries per capita of any state and the number of craft breweries quadrupled between 2011 and 2021). The beer menu rotates but commonly features local labels like Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, Foam Brewers, Frost, Ten Bends, and Schilling… If wine or spirits are more your speed, their beverage menu features eight innovative, whimsical (and delicious!) cocktails, a range of spirits, and a broad wine selection sure to please. And don’t leave without a taste of their inventive seasonal food menu. Local favorites include mac and cheese and pub nachos with blue cheese and maple syrup. (Yes, it sounds odd, but it’s fabulous!) Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Directly across the street, The Reservoir offers 35 beers on tap, the most of any brewpub in the state, and recently started brewing and selling their beers under the Big Tree Brewing label. Since opening its doors in 2009, The Reservoir has focused on curating an always-evolving and wide-ranging offering of taps with a beer suitable for every palate, from the light and easy-drinking (Fiddlehead lager) to the ultra-hoppy and full-bodied (Ten Bends double IPA). Their fresh, creative menu is locally sourced as much as possible (they are a member of the Vermont Fresh Network). Try their bruschetta mussels or poutine (a nod to our Canadian neighbors) as a starter, meatloaf, or one of their smash burgers if you’ve worked up a bigger appetite. And if you’re looking for a veggie option, you’re in luck – their kale caesar, falafel bowl, and homemade Rezitarian patty are all delectable! Open during the evenings, Monday through Friday, and all day on the weekends.
Just one block down on Stowe St, Freak Folk Bier has quickly developed a reputation for their unique mixed culture fermentation brewing method, an 8-11 month process of aging beer in oak barrels before carbonating it in bottles. It’s a labor of love by a husband-and-wife team who met through a shared passion for homebrewing, developed their beer-making chops at several breweries, and finally brewed their first beer together in 2018. In the wake of the pandemic, they followed their long-held dream of opening a brewpub, pouring everything from a Czech-style dark lager and cultured saison to a pineapple and lime zest IPA. Their tap room is welcoming, with great music playing and the beer brewed only a few feet away – stop in Wednesday through Saturday, and the owners/brewers will likely be serving your beer, perfectly embodying our tight-knit and grassroots brewery culture.
A Waterbury beer tour would not be complete without a stop at two locations directly across the street from each other. Prohibition Pig is known for its smoked meats (smoked on site, to the olfactory delight of passersby both two and four-legged) and its beers (brewed onsite, in the aptly-named Brewery building – the original home of The Alchemist). The restaurant, right on Main Street, serves up house-smoked meats with a Southern influence, nodding to the owner’s Carolina roots, and is also known for its collection of over 100 whiskeys. Behind the restaurant on Elm Street, you’ll find the Brewery, which features a more casual menu of sandwiches and sides. Come on a Wednesday night when they host live bluegrass and have $5 beer specials. Afterward, make your way across the street to the Craft Beer Cellar, where two self-proclaimed “beer geeks” stock over 800 craft beers spanning 20 states and 17 countries on their shelves. In addition to rare and exclusive beers, all conveniently organized by the region where they are brewed, you’ll find ciders and meads. There’s no better place to discover a hard-to-find brew or bring home some newly-discovered Vermont beers as souvenirs of your stay in Waterbury.
The Alchemist – The Beer That Started It All
Alchemist Brewing celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, growing from humble brewpub roots in Waterbury to one of the country’s most celebrated breweries. Their Heady Topper double IPA is the pinnacle of beer perfection, with a renowned 100% score on the most popular beer rating site, its fragrant and hop-forward profile setting the standard for the ever-popular IPA beer category. After a flood shut down their location in Waterbury, husband-and-wife team John and Jen Kimmich switched over to canning, brewing thousands of barrels a year of their standard-bearer brew, Heady Topper, and a newer but equally sought-after ale, Focal Banger. Their outdoor beer garden and indoor beer cafe, just a 20-minute drive from your room at our historic Waterbury bed and breakfast, are open Thursday to Sunday, so make the pilgrimage to the brewery that brought Waterbury into the IPA craze and where Vermont beer-making continues to reach new heights.
Hill Farmstead - The Best Brewery in the World?
For six years in a row, RateBeer.com listed Hill Farmstead Brewery as the best brewery in the world, and anecdotal evidence would seem to support that claim. Ask Vermont restaurants what their top-selling beer is, and the name you will hear over and over is Hill Farmstead (Edward, to be specific). Ask owner and brewer Shaun Hill how he got started, and he’ll tell you it began with a high school science project… A couple of decades later, Shaun has applied the lessons he learned at breweries worldwide to creating elegant, hand-crafted beers of all styles. Fans follow their release announcements religiously and travel from far and wide to purchase their seasonal and limited releases directly from the brewery. (They’re known to fill up inns for miles around, our classic Vermont bed and breakfast included, so don’t wait to book your room when you get that next release notice!) Just an hour’s drive, their brewery and taproom are located on the eponymous farmstead passed down across eight generations. Take an afternoon to get away from it all (limited onsite cell reception is your perfect excuse to unplug for a few hours!), breathe the mountain air, and taste the latest offerings from “the best brewery in the world” straight from the source. Open Wednesday through Saturday afternoons.
Stay with us and explore the exciting and always-expanding Waterbury craft brewer scene!