We left Harpoon Brewery and we started our trip North to Connecticut. We knew it was a long trek from Boston to South Burlington, Vermont to visit Magic Hat, but things turned out longer then we expected. The plan was to drive until we got tired or needed some food, but the world and the open road had other plans for us.
After about four hours on our journey, it started to get late; so we got off the main highway, searching for a hotel. The process of finding a hotel so far had not been a problem. We never made reservations but just figured nothing would be booked up in these sleepy towns. But that was a mistake on our part. We travelled from hotel to hotel and found nothing but “No Vacancy” signs.
What was going on?
These were very small towns, why were they all full? So we continued to drive, searching on our phones for a place to stop. We found some but many were out of business, run down, or too expensive.
I guess we should have booked hotels ahead of time. Lesson learned.
Finally we decided to complete the eight-hour trek near the town where Magic Hat is located. We arrived at the nearest hotel at about 1 a.m. and luckily this time they had a room.
We slept for only a few hours, and after waking up, we grabbed a quick breakfast and made our way to the brewery. As soon as we got to the brewery we knew it was going to be a fun tour. When you first walk in you are surrounded by tons of eclectic artwork from local artists. Most of the art has a kind of quirky, mardi gras feel to it.
We met up with Dani Gleason who showed us around what would soon be their self-guided tour with a movie theater, observation deck, and of course you end up back at the bar to sample beers. The most famous of these beers is # 9. It is a beer that has a very distinct flavor but it still appeals to a wide variety of beer lovers. The story behind #9 direct from Magic Hat’s website:
“An ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue & ask more than it answers. Brewed clandestinely & given a name whose meaning is never revealed. Why #9®? Why indeed.”
After doing the self-guided tour, it was time for us to step out onto the brewery floor, but before we did we had to cover our shoes, put on hair nets, and Thomas even had to put on a beard net. After we were suited up we walked around the production floor. They were hard at work on brewing an bottling that days brew. Next we headed toward the open fermentation tanks, a rare site for many breweries. Lastly we headed up into the control room and got an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes at Magic Hat.
In all of these articles I try to focus on one or two things that really set each brewery apart from other breweries. For Magic Hat, that’s easy. The decor of the place showed the uniqueness of the beers they brew and the fun environment they create. Their focus on local art in unlike anything I have every seen perhaps that’s why they have that great tagline – Magic Hat – a performance in every bottle. Every year they hold a contest called Labels for Libations, where they ask artists to submit work for one of their new beers and the winner gets to have their art on the label.
The second thing that stood out to me was a open fermentation room. Most breweries brew in large enclosed ferment tanks; the enclosed tanks stop bacteria from souring the beer. Magic Hat has a room of open fermentation tanks that allow continuous reuse of the same yeast in order to keep a very consistent taste. Open fermentation creates stronger fruity and spicy notes to a beer, which is found in a lot of beers Magic Hat makes.
Next on our trip we make the long trek to the oldest continuous brewery in the US.
Erik Hoffman is a web designer and computer consultant. He has run a computer consulting company for the past four years where he enhanced businesses by designing and developing user-friendly websites that have helped companies reach targeted revenues.