Beverage Making in the MRV – Brewers, Distillers and More

Vermont’s craft breweries have become a major driver of visitors to the state and the Mad River Valley has been a hotbed of this trend for sure. That being said, beer isn’t the only beverage made here in the MRV.

It all started nearly 40 years ago when a small business began right here in the Mad River Valley, it was called, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, You may have heard of it.  Ever since, the Mad River Valley has inspired others to follow in their footsteps creating a vibrant, local beverage industry.

Good food always tastes better with a good beverage.  Good beverages always taste better with good food. It’s a match made in heaven, or the Mad River Valley, we view it as one in the same. The best place to learn about, taste and purchase this nexus of  local food and drink is at  the Mad River Taste Place. Learn more about our local beverage makers:

Breweries

Did you know that Vermont has more craft breweries per capita than any other state? It’s true and the Mad River Valley pulls more than our share of the weight. The MRV boasts three esteemed craft breweries.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Lawson’s Finest has earned critical acclaim and an enthusiastic fan following. Sean started a 1 barrel nano-brewery with his wife Karen in 2008 after 20 years of home brewing. Since then, their specialty maple beers & IPA’s have garnered awards at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, and at two National IPA championships (2011 – Triple Play IPA and 2016- Super Session #2). Lawson’s Finest Liquids grew to a 7 barrel  system in 2011 in a small sugarhouse style shed next to their home. In 2018 Sean and Karen opened the Waitsfield brewery, taproom and retail store.

 Cousins Brewing Company
Cousins Brewing Is 3 barrel brewery located at the LocalFolk Smokehouse at the junction of Route 100 and Route 17. This popular, local watering hole started brewing their own beer in 2016. They brew with only the finest ingredients, producing a variety of fresh, well balanced beers available in cans and on tap at the Localfolk Smokehouse. Cousins is putting the finishing touches on a new tap and tasting room that will be open before the holidays and ski season.

Collaborative Brewing Company 
Collaborative Brewing was started by four friends from the Mad River Valley who all shared the same dream of opening their own brewery.  In 2015, head brewer Brett Seymour, won the Make the Cut Homebrew Challenge with a Schwarzbier called Salute Your Schwarz.  Four years later their dream was finally realized.  In 2019 Collaborative Brewing launched with a 3.5 barrel brew house in Waitsfield, with the goal to bring a little variety to the taps, while working with other breweries, and people in the community they love. Subsequently, they opened their tap and tasting room in Waitsfield.

Distillers

Mad River Distillers
When Mad River Distillers got started they wanted to make their own artisanal spirits from scratch, but never imagined where that simple vision would take them. After investing in a craft Mueller still from Germany that was designed to make brandies, rums and whiskies they began making spirits with distinct character. Through a desire to use local and non-GMO grains and fruits whenever possible, they developed relationships with local, family-owned farms and producers of heirloom corn, rye, apples and other grains.  It was a vision of farm-to-glass, to collaborate and bring the fruit of their labor to market in the form of  handcrafted spirits.  And while there is no sugar cane in Vermont, the sugar in their rums is fair-trade certified from sustainable sources. Mad River Distillers focuses a lot of attention on two very critical elements for any spirit; wood and water.  The fermenting water comes right from our farm’s 150-year old natural spring. They also work with several storied whiskey cooperages to source new American oak barrels. Unlike most distillers, Mad River ages rum in new oak to create what they call “whiskey drinkers rums.”

The Warren property dates from the mid-1800s and was converted into a horse farm in the mid-1900’s. Alex Hilton, a Warren native, renovated the dilapidated old horse barn into a state-of- the-art craft distillery in 2011.  After finishing the renovations, obtaining permits and firing up our still, they produced their first spirit- Mad River First Run Rum- in May 2013.  Since then they have produced over a half dozen different craft spirits, including their flagship “Wicked Vermont Apple Brandy.”  You can sample and purchase their spirits at the Mad River Taste Place in Waitsfield or schedule a distillery tour in Warren on the distillery website.

Wine and Cider

Mad River Vinyards
People often ask if it is hard to grow grapes in Vermont. The answer we give, of course, is “No.” A wander down most any road will offer evidence of wild grapes growing in profusion. But, of course, what the questioners are really asking is if it is hard to grow wine grapes in Vermont.  Four kindred spirits. Joe and Carol Klimek, Tom Golodik and Kathleen Rubel have a friendship based partly on their common love of all things Vermont. Over the course of that friendship the two couples develop an interest in fine food and wine sparked by their travels during various shared vacations. Eventually, after searching for a new home, they settled in Waitsfield establishing Mad River Vineyards.

Tin Hat Cider
Tin Hat’s traditional dry ciders come from fruit grown in the Mad River Valley largely come from the orchard at Mountain Valley Farm in Waitsfield, but cidermaker Teddy Weber also hunts for and incorporates wild apples found in the area. All ciders are made with unsprayed apples grown in central Vermont, and are fermented in his cellar facilit. Then cider is sold wholesale in VT and at retail shops like the Mad River Taste Place as well as at special events/farmers markets in Vermont.

More Beverages

Noah’s Fizzy Lemonade
Noah’s Fizzy Maple Lemonade​ is a delicious, non-alcoholic all natural beverage dreamed up in 2011 by 7 year old Waitsfield, VT native Noah Schwartz. Noah’s Fizzy Maple Lemonade is made from 3 simple ingredients: lemons + pure VT maple syrup + water. Adding light carbonation to get its trademark “Fizz”, the result is a bubbly, refreshing elevation of a summer classic. Noah was a FreshTracks Capital Road Pitch competition winner in 2015 – at age 11.

Don’t forget that the Mad River Valley is not an island.  We encourage you to explore up Route 100 and visit our good neighbors in Waterbury which is home to a slew of brewers, cideries, distilleries, and wine shops. Keep going a little further up to Stowe which is home to Stowe Cider and von Trapp Brewing