Release Date: September 20, 2016
Looking for a great gift idea for the beer enthusiast? Your search is over. Fifty Places to Drink Beer Before You Die is a bucket list for every beer enthusiast. The pictures, information, and manner in which this book is set up make it all what I consider one of the best beer-related travel guides I've ever seen, and I have seen a few.
Each state is represented in Chris Santella's book. I haven't reached every state, but I've worked my way through much of New England, so I am basing my opinion on his suggestions versus my knowledge as a local. He does start his focus on Vermont beers with The Alchemist's Heady Topper.
The Alchemist is once again open, now in Stowe. I haven't bothered going, but my brother did. After a two-hour wait in line, he was able to get Heady and Focal Banger (the far superior beer in my opinion), but The Alchemist's new DIPA was already gone. I know some are happy to wait for hours and take their chances, but life's too short IMO.
Hill Farmstead is the the state's best brewery according to many beer enthusiasts, Hill has the awards to prove it. This brewery is far from Burlington, and again, you're in for a wait. I'd rather go hang out at any number of local restaurants and have a pint there. I'll suggest The Hatchet in Richmond, Vermont. Great food, a decent beer list, and excellent prices make this a favorite. If you want to be closer to Hotel Vermont, a place Chris Santella mentions, try Farmhouse. Prices are higher there, but the beer list is incredible.
I was saddened that he talks about Greater Burlington, but really never mentions Burlington area brewers. The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lost Nation are not near Burlington. They're each about an hour away. If you really want to know where to go for beers in Burlington, try Burlington Beer Company in nearby Williston, Switchback in Burlington, Foam down on Burlington's waterfront, and so many others. He does mention Fiddlehead, which is in Shelburne, about 15 minutes down Rt. 7. You could also drive north about 30 minutes and visit 14th Star, a brewery set in an old bowling alley that's owned by veterans.
Before you start sampling, head to Vermont Brewers and get a passport. You get goodies when you've sampled a certain number of beers.
I was also surprised by the Portland, Maine, section. It mentions Geary's, which is the area's first brewery, and Shipyard, but there's no talk of Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers, Bunker, and so many others in and around Portland.
I think in the end, I still love this guide. I do, however, see potential in multiple editions. Perhaps one guide per region. There are so many great breweries out there, and they simply won't all fit in one book.