I spent nearly two years living in Vermont’s hippest little northern city, and I gotta tell ya, it was a blast. Burlington, VT is the state’s biggest city, though ringing in at just over 40,000 people, it’s still quite small. Just 90 minutes from Montreal, this mountain-fringed locale, perched on the shores of Lake Champlain, is a definite gem in New England. When I lived in Burlington, I was in my early to mid-20s. In other words, I was young, single, and had lots of free time to spend in a lively city where I had great friends. Every weekend we’d enjoy some of our favorite Burlington VT breweries and bars, drinking, laughing, dancing, and having a downright fabulous time.
I moved away from Vermont when I went to grad school in Scotland in 2012. While I no longer live in Burlington, it’s still a place that is near and dear to me, and it’s home to several friends and family, too. Recently, I returned for a weekend, and paid visits to some of my favorite old haunts, from yummy restaurants to local bars. I also tried out a couple of the city’s awesome new spots. Those experiences have been distilled (pun intended) into this blog post, featuring some of Burlington’s best bars, breweries, and beers. Thirsty? Read on to discover where to drink in Vermont’s Queen City.
Best Breweries in Burlington VT
Magic Hat Brewing Company
Magic Hat is a Burlington classic. This place has been around for years, and it’s a cool place to tour a brewery and drink some beers. Their free tours run several times throughout the week (see their website for more details), and whether you take a tour or not, you can still visit the brewery in South Burlington and enjoy some samples. They have over a dozen beers on tap, including the #9 not quite IPA which is just on the edge of hoppiness for those who aren’t crazy about India Pale Ales. The brewery, known as the Artifactory, is really a fun and trippy place to visit when you’re exploring Burlington VT breweries. Colorful and full of cool merch, it’s a must-see…and the tour is lots of fun!
Citizen Cider is now one of my absolute favorite Burlington Vermont breweries, though I guess *technically* it’s a cidery. What took America so long to get on the hard cider train? In the UK, I enjoyed ciders left and right. Well, finally, it seems we’ve caught on, and Citizen Cider produces some of the most delicious hard ciders EVER.
The brewery is located in South Burlington, in the South End Arts District. There’s lots of fun spots here, including other breweries and restaurants, and tons of galleries and art studios. (If you’re around in September, don’t miss the annual Art Hop.) Citizen Cider is set in a small warehouse/garage type building which opens onto a wide deck. It’s a perfect place to enjoy some drinks in the sun or to sit inside and hang with friends. On my last visit, groups were playing all kinds of games, like Pictionary and Cards Against Humanity (a personal favorite).
At Citizen Cider you can enjoy cider-based cocktails (I recommend the Cider House Mules) or sample a cider flight. All of the ciders are incredible, but don’t miss The Dirty Mayor, a pale golden cider with a ginger kick.
Foam Brewers is a newer Burlington brewery, and it’s in a great location. Down amongst some shops near the waterfront, Foam Brewers mixes a chill, factory style layout with a range of unique brews. Their offerings are constantly rotating, but you can depend on some amazing sour beers and some nice experimental flavors. As of late June 2017, they were presenting an unfiltered pilsner called ‘Mr. Brightside,’ which as a fan of unfiltered brews (and The Killers, of course), I’m disappointed to miss!
Foam Brewers also have food available, changing throughout the week and incorporating some tasty food trucks. They also host an array of events and live music, so without a doubt, Foam is the place to be for breweries in Burlington VT.
Zero Gravity Craft Brewery
Zero Gravity is another hot spot in Burlington’s South End. I believe they’ve been around since 2004, but they were totally new to me on my last visit. What a great place to drink in Burlington. At their Pine Street brewery, sit on the deck, surrounded by bright blooms, and sip from an affordable flight. You get your choice of four beers on tap.
Pictured above, you see the tart, textured Gose, the crisp Bernie Weisse (named for everybody’s favorite Vermont presidential candidate), the malty Keeper, and the delightfully smooth Irish Stout. Zero Gravity Beer is also available at the brewpub at American Flatbread downtown.
This Burlington brewery has a crisp, clean interior and a fun brand logo. It all works really well together and makes you excited to sample their offerings, all made with “painstaking attention to technique and recipe.”
Just down the road in Shelburne, VT is Fiddlehead Brewing. It’s an easy drive down Route 7, and a great place to stop and enjoy a pint. If you’re in search of brewery near Burlington VT with plenty of flavors and variety, Fiddlehead has it. Though known for their flagship brew Fiddlehead IPA, there is an abundance of rotating options on tap. You might try flavors such as a berry medley, a dunkelweizen, Oktoberfest, Amarillo Getaway, Toasted Amber Ale, and Devil’s Right Hand. Free tasting means you can sample several and then take home your own in a growler or growlette. There’s also pizza onsite, which makes this an outstanding spot to enjoy a bite paired with a winning brew.
Vermont Pub & Brewery
One of my absolute favorite Burlington VT bars has always been Vermont Pub & Brewery, or VPB, as it’s known to locals. Set right in a “quieter” area of downtown Burlington, it’s a great spot to grab drinks with friends or enjoy a first date. It’s always a good choice to bring visitors to the area. Not only is their cheap and delicious pub grub available (sweet potato fries, please), they have a reliable set of local brews that are always awesome. Among my faves are Handsome Mick’s Irish Stout and Forbidden Fruit, a delectable beer fermented with raspberries. Careful, that’s a strong one!
Favorite Bars in Burlington
Three Needs Taproom
Just in case these Vermont breweries don’t satisfy your thirst, there are bars aplenty in the Burlington area. My number one, even now, remains The Three Needs. I’m not exactly sure what it is about this Burlington bar which makes it so great, but it might be it’s laid back atmosphere. The Three Needs is both chill and classy. It’s clean and cozy and definitely not a dive. You can sit and sip your drinks or join in a game of pool. The music is always good. It has a young vibe, but not a crazy college feel. When I was living in Burlington, it was the hangout for down-to-earth locals in their late 20s, and it still seems to be.
These days, they seem to be offering dollar slices of pizza on weekend evenings. While they don’t have their own brewery space, they advertise some of their own Three Needs brews, including a Chocolate Thunder Porter which sounds divine.
The Whiskey Room at Ri Ra
If you’re looking for a fun, energetic place to drink in Burlington VT, Ri Ra could be a good choice. It’s loud and crowded, but it’ll do the trick. However, if you want to class things up, head right next door to their Whiskey Room. This place is something of a hidden gem (or at least it feels that way). With whiskey on the menu (of course) plus some other choice beverages, this is the only place that genuinely felt like a British pub in Burlington. For that UK feeling, visit the Whiskey Room.
Not all of the pubs in Burlington are found within Burlington itself. Some of Vermont’s finest spots are just outside. One great place to kick back with a drink is at Mule Bar in Winooski. The ‘Noosk is just outside of Burlington, and is easy to reach by car, bus, or Uber. The small downtown is pretty lively, with a row of bars and restaurants to keep you fed and watered.
Mule Bar is fairly new to the Burlington bar scene, arriving in 2013. They advertise themselves as the home of comfort food and craft beer. Sounds darn good to me! On tap are local craft beers (including favorites from BTV breweries like Zero Gravity) as well as some from other spots outside of New England. Burgers, fries, cheese, and meat round out the food menu. It’s safe to say you’ll be satisfied in this eclectic and attractive bar.
The Gryphon is another newer addition to the roster of Burlington’s best bars. This place has an old fashioned vibe, craft cocktails, and a tempting menu. Set in a renovated historic building, The Gryphon has plenty of charm to go around. Just a block from Church Street, this is a bistro/bar with lunch, dinner, and brunch, as well as cocktails and wine. The dinner options include mouth-watering choices such as Seafood Grits and Petite Filet, while brunch intrigues with Brioche French Toast (topped with Vermont maple syrup of course). Every meal is paired with fine cocktails. This definitely is one of Burlington’s key spots to relax with a good drink and a nice meal.
Looking for just a simple place to grab a mixed drink. The aptly named Drink can meet your needs. With mood lighting and board games at the ready, drink is a true chill place to meet up with friends.
Manhattan Pizza & Pub
No offense to Manhattans, I had some great fun there in my 20s, but I’d consider it more of a divey place these days. Best dive bar in Burlington? Might be this spot. If you’re young, undiscerning, and looking for a good local bar, this is a nice choice. The bartenders are always friendly, the people are laid back, and you can’t beat it for low prices and simple food options.
No matter where you grab your libations, Burlington is a happenin’ city that I know I’ll return to again & again.
**Thirsty for coffee instead? Check out our list of 6 Great Burlington VT Coffee Shops.
What is your take on Burlington’s breweries and bars? What spots did we miss?
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