Vermont is a paradise for the New England craft beer drinker — there are literally dozens of great breweries all along the state, some brewing up what can be argued as the best beer in America.
We found ourselves up in Woodstock, VT as part of a birthday weekend celebration, just two hours north of Massachusetts and — as luck may have it — 30 minutes from Long Trail Brewing Company.
Full transparency here: I wasn’t overly excited to go see Long Trail.
That is not to say that I didn’t want to go — I very much did. I just didn’t think there would be much to write about.
Long Trail has always been that “around the campfire 12-pack for $15” middle-market craft brewery to me. Their beer is good, but it doesn’t have that wow factor — at least not the ones I see most often in the store.
I respect the Harpoons, Long Trails and Magic Hats. I don’t want you to think that I don’t. They fill the void between coveted small batch brewers and megalithic piss water processors with passable styles of craft beers at an affordable price. Without them the beer scene would be a maddening trip from small brewer to small brewer.
I just don’t jump up and down in excitement about getting a 12-pack of their beer, and I wasn’t jumping up and down about going to see the brewery, either.
Thankfully, my visit to Long Trail was a bit of an eye-opening experience.
Roy was our server at Long Trail — a gregarious grey-haired gentlemen with an encyclopedic knowledge of the brewery, craft beer, and Vermont itself. Roy is the exact guy you want leading new customers through the brewery experience, so I would be remiss if I did not start my review with him. There are certain servers who make you feel like you’re just another potential tip walking in — and then there are guys like Roy.
The draft board had some great options, and we found ourselves very interested in trying a small amount of…just about everything, really. This is where a great server like Roy comes in handy, as we were given the “Sample Flight Plus” option, which allowed us free rein of the Farmhouse series beers alongside the standard sampler.
Roy hooked us up with a sample flight that spanned nine total beers: six of Long Trail’s classic lineup, and three Farmhouse series brewery-only offerings.
Incidentally, Long Trail provided us with the best sampler sheet/note taking space that I have encountered when sampling beers to date. Seriously, other breweries please take heed: this should be the standard for note taking!
Our lineup consisted of 6 oz pours of the following:
- Mostly Cloudy
- Summer Ale
- Long Trail Ale
- Double Bag
- Limbo IPA
- Berliner Weiss
- American IPA
- Imperial Stout
Of these many different styles, each one stood on its own merits and wound up being a tasty brew. I enjoyed each one, but quickly decided upon my favorites of the trip.
#3: Summer Ale – 4.3% ABV / 32 IBU
This one shocked me — I had never tried it before and wrote it off as yet another “seasonal” beer. I was pleasantly surprised with a nice hoppy-smelling beer with an added touch of dankness. A bit of biscuity-malt started out the first sip, and it settled into a bitter but balanced hoppy finish. I’d readily compare this beer to Eureka W/ Citra from Tree House, a nice warm-weather mowing your lawn kind of beer.
#2: Double Bag – 7.2% ABV / 39 IBU
Double Bag is my go-to “something different, but not crazy” beer. This one is great when you’re hopped out and just want a nice easy drinking lager-style beer. Double Bag on draft here was just a delight. Smooth and creamy with a strong alcohol kick, you might think you’re drinking a cream ale on steroids. Heavy malt flavor balances this whole thing out.
#1: Limbo IPA – 7.6% ABV / 80 IBU
Limbo IPA is not even fair. I say this because it is so hit or miss when you buy the bottles. You’re either going to get a wonderful grapefruit IPA, or a bitter IPA that tastes like bottle. Having this on draft, however, is simply divine. It had a sweet really dank and grapefruity smell that made me think of Fiddlehead meets Grapefruit Sculpin. I was shocked at how good this was.
One thing I did not expect at Long Trail was how good the food was going to be. People told us that the wings were great there, but to be fair, people tell you the wings are great everywhere.
Sometimes that information pans out — other times it leads you to some disgusting baked and slathered in cheap hot sauce tragedy.
Pro-Tip: the wings at Long Trail are pretty great.
I wont spend any time telling you why. Just order the Jonas wings and enjoy.
With Foley Brothers as the next destination in our sights, we bid Roy adieu and thanked him profusely for the great service he provided. He clued us in to a couple new styles that should hit the market later this summer and we departed — after snagging a six-pack of their Farmhouse American IPA of course!
I left Long Trail with a lot of respect for what their brewers are doing.
They are balancing being a productive and well-distributed company with letting their creative spirits run free, and it shows in their beer — both their standard offerings and especially their Farmhouse series.
In the modern “everything new is great” craft beer world it’s tough to come out and make a name for yourself. When you’re a 25 year-old operation you’ve already paid those dues a long time ago, but it still must feel nice to bring something exceptional to the table after all this time — just to show the new dogs how to bark.