Think this state's too small for a big craft beer presence? By the end of 2010, Vermont had 21 breweries for more than 625,000 residents -- the most breweries per capita of any state in the country.
Perhaps the most idyllic and unquestionably vermonty of the bunch is the Bridgewater Corners home of Long Trail Brewing. It sits along the junction of Vermont's routes 4 and 100A between Rutland and Woodstock amid rolling hills and rustic homes, town squares and farmhouses and lets guests sip its Blackberry Wheat, Double Bag strong ale and Belgian White witbier on a deck outside the brewery and brewpub overlooking the Ottauquechee River just behind the brewery.From there, it's quick right turn onto Interstate 91 South and stop into Harpoon Brewery's Windsor facility for guided tours, a beer garden with outdoor views and live music and tall glasses of Raspberry or White UFO hefeweizen. Darker fare can be found just north on Route 7 in Middlebury during a minimalist tour and tasting at Otter Creek Brewery, where the Copper Ale, Solstice Ale, Stovepipe Porter and Wolaver's IPA and Witbiers steal the show. If you're looking to limit your stops a bit, Burlington keeps things easy by clustering Magic Hat, Switchback Brewing, Three Needs Taproom and the Vermont Pub and Brewery within a short distance. That collection only gets broader in late July, when some of the state's more far-flung brewers, including Morrisville's Rock Art Brewery, Lyndonville's Trout River Brewing and Bennington's Madison and Northshire breweries descend on Burlington for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. The real gems require some digging, though, as Hill Farmstead's fantastic Double Citra IPA requires a trek out to a sprawling farm in Greensboro Bend and a can of The Alchemist's brutally bitter Heady Topper Double IPA is best found just a bit down I-89 in Waterbury.