January 4th, 2009

We drank Stowe, VT

Even though Scott and I have lived pretty much our entire lives in New England, we had never been to the cute ski-resort town of Stowe, VT until this past Christmas-New Year’s holiday. We did all the things one does in Stowe: ski (downhill and cross-country), skate, shop, eat cider donuts and drink lots of local beer, mostly Switchback and Rock Art.

The Alchemist, Waterbury, VT

As is the case in most touristy areas of the world, the best (and best-priced) eats and drinks are a bit off the beaten path. In our case, that meant driving to the neighboring town of Waterbury. We arrived at the Alchemist, a brewery-restaurant, on the Sunday after Christmas at around 7 p.m. and were told there’d be an hour-long wait for a table. A good sign, of course, but very bad news for our hungry group. Lo and behold, after our first round of beers, a few seats opened up at the bar.

The Alchemist has a lot of the traits that make Vermont so loveable: a charmingly hippy vibe, local art on the walls, a dedication to using local ingredients, and fresh, well-made beer — some of the best New England beer I’ve had, in fact. The Pappy’s Porter was a nice cross between the English-style brown and robust, roasty versions of this style. The Nightstalker, a Belgian-style dark wit, had a malty complexity on top of the traditional coriander and orange peel flavors, and the Holy Cow IPA was a pleasingly herbal, resin-y hop bomb.

Cider House BBQ & Pub, Waterbury, VT

Wandering around looking for lunch on a freakishly warm, rainy day, we stumbled upon another place in Waterbury, the Cider House BBQ & Pub. The establishment, only about a year old, specializes in southern-style cooking and hard cider (on draught and in bottles). Although barbecue aficionados would turn their noses up at the distinctly sweet, New England-type sauce on the ribs and pulled-pork, the food was tasty and, as at the Alchemist, as local as possible. The sides and appetizers — cornbread-and-Andouille-sausage stuffing, Vermont cheddar mac and cheese and, my favorite, fried dill pickle chips — were reason enough to seek the place out. That, and the warm, cozy vibe and sassy waiter, who teasingly anticipated a big tip after hearing that we had splurged on a rental in the heart of Stowe Village.

Ye Olde England Inne, Stowe, VT

A really good place to drink beer in Stowe has an unfortunately twee name: Ye Olde England Inne. But the inn’s restaurant, Mr. Pickwick’s, is a warm, welcoming homage to an Old World pub, and the draught beer selection includes hard-to-find specimens like Anchor Christmas (both 2007 and 2008 vintages), Belgian abbey ales and a rotating selection of cask ales. The beer-selector and owner, a Brit named Chris Francis, walks around the place unobtrusively checking in on customers and engaging them with a sly sense of humor.

Cliff House, Stowe, VT

Finally, a shameless but honest plug for one of the best-known places in Stowe, which happens to be managed by my cousin, Brian Clark: the Cliff House. It’s a grand dame of a restaurant perched on a cliff at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort, and you have to take a gondola to get there. Like the Alchemist and the Cider House BBQ & Pub, the Cliff House is part of the local-ingredient-espousing Vermont Fresh Network. It stocks Otter Creek, Magic Hat and other Vermont beers, and serves cocktails made with local maple liqueur. While it’s as pricey as you’d expect a mountain-top restaurant at a major ski resort to be, the range of options includes affordable items like soups, sandwiches and salads, plus you can always just order a drink at the bar. If you happen to be skiing at Stowe, it’s well worth the splurge. Nothing like lunch with a view.

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3 Responses to “We drank Stowe, VT”

  1. Gareth

    I’ve heard really good things about the beers at The Alchemist. I’ll be making some trips to VT this winter, hopefully I will be making it up that far so I can try it out.

  2. Joel

    Love Stowe. We go there each year in August. Farmers markets, bike trails, hiking, alpine slide and waterfalls are just a few of the things we enjoy @ Stowe in the summer. Love The Alchemist. One of the top 3 breweries in New England IMHO.

  3. ljclark

    Yes, the quality of the Alchemist is well known. Would that the Boston area had a similarly funky brewpub. I forgot to mention regarding Ye Olde England Inne: they stock Red Breast Irish whiskey — OMG!

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