Hey, Lehigh Valley! Looking to take a beer-inspired vacation in Vermont and Maine? We have a plan for you to make the most of your trip, including where to stay, what to do, and of course, what to drink. We took a trip a couple weeks ago and whittled down our adventure to the perfect plan for a 5-7 day beercation in beautiful New England, home to the best of the ubiquitous NE-style IPA. If you time it right, you can also get some great hiking and fall foliage in, or you can hit the slopes at one of the many nearby ski resorts. Here’s your itinerary:
Day 1: Hit the road and head up to Woodstock, VT. Look for a historic New England-style bed and breakfast, a local ski resort, or even one of many campgrounds in the area. If you have enough time, you’ll be able to hit some breweries on your way north. Newburgh Brewing Company and Keegan Ales are just a few minutes off 87, as well as a flurry of other breweries in New York State. Choose your pit stops wisely since you have to get back in your car and drive a few more hours. Don’t drink and drive, kids.
Enjoying the Rock Art Brewing’s Ridge Runner at the top of Mt. Ascutney
Day 2: Enjoy the village of Woodstock! Woodstock is quaint, historic, and full of New England charm with a heavy dollop of artsy, free-range organic pottery types. They are also home to a noteworthy beer store that has lots of unique finds and a load of local Vermont beers – Woodstock Hops and Barley. Once you’re stocked up on beer, cruise over to Mt. Ascutney and either hike the full climb or drive up the mountain and hike the 1 mile to the summit and observation tower for stunning 360 degree views. If you are interested in museums, the Billings Farm & Museum offers history on Vermont’s rural life, with farming demos and livestock. After your exercise and/or education, Head over to Harpoon Brewery Riverbend,, which is about 20 minutes southeast of Woodstock.
This is an outpost from Harpoon’s main gig in Boston, MA. It sits right along the Connecticut River at the border of VT and NH. It is delightfully quiet and low-key during the mid-week, off-season time and has excellent beers and delicious house-made soft pretzels (mmmmbeercheese). Head back to Woodstock for dinner at Worthy Kitchen which focuses on farm food and craft beer. We sipped on some local New England beers and Vermont hard cider while munching on poutine and wings.
Another Vermont brew at the Quechee Gorge
Day 3: Head east and visit the Quechee Gorge, which sits along the Connecticut River at the divide between Vermont and New Hampshire. Pull over and walk onto the bridge that spans the gorge for a beautiful (and slightly terrifying) photo opportunity. The Quechee Gorge Village is adorably kitschy (and it’s fun to say “kitschy Quechee”) and houses a Cabot cheese store (yum!), alpaca store (with live alpacas you can pet), bakery, souvenir shops, and most importantly, Vermont Spirits distillery. We were impressed by the distillery’s unique gins and spirits infused with Vermont maple syrup and honey. Once you get your fill of kitsch, cruise a bit farther east to River Roost Brewery, which is a small brewery with free (!) samples of 4-5 beers on tap. They had a great selection of NE IPAs when we visited. They don’t pour full pints, but across the road at Big Fatty’s BBQ, you can grab a pint and some amazing barbecue – we recommend the brisket mac ‘n’ cheese.
Day 4: Time to make your way over to Ogunquit, Maine. We found a great bed and breakfast in the oldest building in Ogunquit and had a wonderful stay – Black Boar Inn. Heading east through New Hampshire, you can make a pit stop or two at some fantastic breweries on the way. Don’t miss Henniker Brewing Co. which was one of our favorites of the trip. It is tucked away in rural NH and we loved its friendly staff, cozy and comfortable vibe, and delicious brews. You can also find a number of breweries in Manchester, NH — however note that many of them don’t open until 4pm, so you’ll have to time your visits accordingly. Once you’re settled into your room in Ogunquit, you can ditch your car and get around the town and beach on foot. It has a stunning walking path right along the water that takes you through Ogunquit and up to Perkins Cove, where you can find the ultimate lobster roll for a classic Maine meal.
Day 5: Depending on the length of your stay and willingness to drive around Maine, one option would be to spend the day in Ogunquit and enjoy the boutique shops, restaurants, and ice cream shops while relaxing on the beach. Another option would be to make the 50-minute drive up to Portland, ME, which is one of the meccas of craft beer in New England. There are loads of them — you could spend a whole weekend there and not run out of breweries to sample. Prior to heading into Portland, we had chatted with some locals about their favorite breweries to visit in Portland, and Bissell Brothers was mentioned quite a bit. One local said that it will probably be mobbed, as it is the “hot brewery” this year. Portland apparently has one brewery every year that all the cool kids go to, and this is the year of Bissell. Well, sometimes we want to feel like cool kids, so we planned our first stop to be Bissell Brothers. We arrived five minutes after they opened, walked in the door, and immediately walked back out. It was a big, airy space that was positively swarming with customers. If you’re up for a long wait and crowds to get a killer pint, it may be worth it. We didn’t want to spend half the day waiting in line so instead headed into Old Portland. We grabbed a lobster melt (so good) at Eastender and imbibed from their small but mighty list of Maine brews, finally getting a pint of Bissell Brothers (it was delicious) and an IPA from Maine Beer Company (also delicious). We then made our way to Liquid Riot Bottling Co. in Old Portland along the waterfront and nabbed seats that overlook the wharf. They had an awesome DIPA – the Beer Has No Name (+1 for Game of Thrones reference) that went down perfectly with a bowl of New England mussels and cockels. You may run into signs for Sebago Brewing Company — this would be one to skip. It was impersonal and felt like the Applebee’s of craft beer, housed in a Comfort Suites in Portland. Driving home from Portland we’d recommend two pit stops – one for lobster rolls, and another at Barreled Souls Brewing Co.. We loved the atmosphere at Barreled Souls — cozy, dark interior and a lawn area outside with Adirondack chairs and cornhole. They boasted some of the most unique beers we saw on the trip, with lots of funky sours and barrel-aged monsters. Finish up your evening with artisanal pizza and craft beer at Cornerstone, a walk on the gorgeous Ogunquit beach at sunset, and some hilarity at the local piano bar.
Day 6: Try to quell your state of depression when realizing it is time to head home after such an idyllic beercation. Heading back down to PA, you can make one or two more pit stops at breweries in NH. We visited the largest brewery of the trip, Smuttynose Brewing Company. It’s a great choice to stop if you are in the area and interested in checking out a larger production system and a range of high quality beers (and lots of cute merch with the Smuttynose seal logo). They have a great on-site restaurant which is perfect for lunch. If you have more time, you can also visit the fishing village town of Portsmouth, which is home to a few craft breweries and a lovely waterfront. Five hours later, you’ll arrive back in the Valley, ready to brag to your friends about your amazing beercation.
This trip is easily adjusted for length of stay/activities/time of year. We can’t wait to visit the area again, especially Portland, ME to check out more of their craft beer scene. Thinking of having your own NE beercation? Tell us about it below!
Local beer and beautiful beach. What more do you need?