I’ll bet you think you know how to take a road trip. Get in the car, enter the destination in your device, drive. Right?
Wrong! I mean, yes that will get you somewhere. But to really have an adventure- to make the trip part of the reason for going- I have a few suggestions.
It helps if you like to drive. And if you have access to a fun car with a stick shift to zoom around in. This is not required, but trust me, it can make or break the fun factor. I love to drive, and while I may appear to be calm, my inner golden retriever wags her tail and hangs her tongue out enthusiastically hoping for an open window every time I get in my car. Word.
Take the most interesting route, not the fastest. I was heading to a Québécois corn roast called an épluchette de blé d’Inde (say that out loud because it’s fun!) and wanted to bring a really good beer gift. My friends put this thing on every year. It’s a lot of work, they let me stay over, they tolerate my laughable French, and it’s always a blast. I wanted my gift to say, “You guys rock! Please invite me next year!”
So I decided to pop in the Alchemist in Waterbury, Vermont to pick up some Heady Topper. That day they also had Crusher and Focal Banger. Score.
Know your border rules. Unlike me. Growing up in New York, I have been crossing this border since I learned how to drive- well before we needed passports to do it- yet I did not know I wasn’t supposed to bring more than two cases of beer. I had (ahem) more. At first the border guard said I would have to leave the beer behind (ever see a Golden Retriever cry?) but then she just sort of …. forgot about it. Maybe because I told her I was going to an épluchette- in French? Because I told her I was bringing Heady Topper? Because I might have actually cried? (Not really! At least, I don’t think so…) Whatever it was, after I paid the duty she said I could go. I tried not to run back to the car. I controlled my squeal of glee until I was out sight. And then- sunroof open and French blaring on the radio- WOOOHOOOO! Some of the best thrills are the ones we don’t see coming.
Your journey should continue once you reach the city you were aiming for. Explore your surroundings even when you’re at a party. My hosts live in Montréal beer central. Sure they can walk to Dieu du Ciel, but they are just a few blocks from the innovative cooperative brewery called MaBrasserie. Several different breweries share this space, the tanks, and the tap room. It’s a great way to try super-fresh beer from a variety of approaches and styles- all in one place. I sampled some scintillating brews from Isle de Garde (an IPA “allemande” which I assume means they use German hops), Grendel (Cream APA with a head like a proper Guinness in Dublin), and Boswell (a “Pale ale américain” which I was initially dubious of but which, as my menu margin notes indicate, they nailed).
I headed back to the maize roast via Brouhaha, another friendly gem for craft beer seekers, for a ridiculous Saison Voatsiperifery. A sandalwood dream. If you’re into that. And I am.
Plan your route back with the advice of your hosts.
I had originally meant to hit Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier because it’s a one-stop best of Vermont showcase, but my hosts alerted me to a place I did not know about. It would not add any driving time yet would add to my new beer experiences. I drove east from Montreal along the northern side of the US border and first stopped at Dunham Brewery to see if my old friend Eloi was there (he was not, but I did get to try the Cyclope Dzeta) and then found, after the prettiest 9 miles of the entire trip through canopies of trees like this one:
the new Sutton Brouërie. It was full but not frazzled. I sat at the bar, which also overlooks the kitchen, and enjoyed the show while getting inside information from the bartender.
I would have missed these worthy ports of call if I’d had rigid plans. Of course, this meant using a map. Yes- remember those paper things? Phone service is too expensive north of the border, and using a map is a great exercise in truly experiencing your surroundings instead of taking commands from a box. For once in a long time, I felt like I was the boss of my car. And they still have free maps at most rest areas!
It was time to head home, but I still had a bit of the explorer in me. I knew that Notch Brewing’s new tap room had opened in Salem, Massachusetts but hadn’t had a chance to try it yet. Check!
100 Cottage Club Road, Stowe, VT USA
2300, rue Holt, Montréal
5860, Avenue de Lorimier, Rosemont, Mtl
3809 rue Principal, Dunham, Quebec
(You can stay there,too!)
27 principale SUD, Sutton, Quebec
Notch Brewery & Tap Room
283R Derby Street, Salem, MA USA