Theory: Beer is better at the source. About two weeks ago some friends and I decided to test this theory and made a trip to one of Vermont’s most MTB-friendly breweries: von Trapp Brewing in Stowe. The von Trapp Family (from The Sound of Music fame) owns and operates the brewery and the Trapp Family Lodge – both of which sit on 2,500 acres of rolling hills and pastures. You couldn’t ask for a more ideal setting for a bike ride and brew session. The von Trapp Brewery is just down the hill from the main hotel and villas inside the Bierhall, and has a relaxing view of Mount Mansfield and the Worcester Mountains. I happened to visit just when the sun was breaking through after 3 days of clouds and on & off rain, which added greatly to the experience.
What makes the brewery and hall particularly unique and is that fact that it’s trailside to the 13 miles of Trapps purpose built mountain bike trails. They’ve even built a spur trail to the brewery parking lot and encourage riders to park on site, ride and return for a cold apres bevy. From this access point one can also connect to the trails stewarded by the Stowe Mountain Bike Club and the 70 or so miles of contiguous trails in the greater area.
Back to the beer…
A few years back, I remember thinking that von Trapp Brewing produced, “regular German beers”. Now I am consistently delighted by the quality they produce (see their Trösten review here).
A Bavarian law established in 1516, called Reinheitsgebot, proclaimed that beer should only contain barley, hops, and water. Von Trapp lagers are as close to that initial decree as modern brewers can get without sacrificing flavor, aroma, or feel. After all, their motto is, “A little of Austria, a lot of Vermont.” They even have a certificate that shows they meet the high standards of Austrian brewing. And, I’d say von Trapps is a welcome addition to a Vermont beerscape dominated by ales. This makes them exceptional as few craft breweries (nationwide) specialize in lagers. While ale has taken over the pop charts von Trapp Brewing is maintaining a time honored tradition.
Their new Bierhall, which opened this past September, is a sight to behold. The woodwork, cathedral ceilings, and handcrafted details make it a unique and authentic space. It’s open and airy, all golden wood and post-and-beam construction, with seating indoors and out for 175 people. The hall boasts rectangular wooden tables with benches, modeled after those found in German beer gardens. The patio outside offers a cluster of picnic tables, perfect for enjoying a cool mountain breeze after charging downhill to get there. You can even bring Fido with you.
One of my favorites, The Bock Bier, is a high-caliber dark lager that took me by surprise as someone who doesn’t usually like darker beers. New this year, it’s scheduled to be a seasonal offering. Poured from a 16oz. can, it has a pretty dark chestnut color with a slight head. I could smell the toasted malts and some nuttiness. The taste is malty, bready, almost caramely. At 6.5% ABV, a bit of alcohol is present, but overall it’s well balanced and easy-drinking. Cheese and sausage pair excellently with Bock beers and the bierhall menu features Austrian staples like bratwursts, schnitzel, and pretzels, a VT cheese plate, and much more. We ate lunch with gusto (probably due to the two beers) and met up with our tour guide for an exclusive Brewery tour.
Our guide, Chris, was knowledgeable and friendly and walked us through the process of lager brewing with anecdotes and jokes along the way. It takes about 10 employees to man the brewery, including brewmaster John Patrick Williams. They have been growing since they first opened in 2010, so much so that they had to build the Bierhall in 2015 to match production demands. Distribution has expanded to seven states, including all of New England and most of New York. Perhaps the most important of the beer ingredients, water, comes from a spring on the von Trapp property itself. The kegging and bottling lines hum along, and plans for an in-house canning line are in the works.
At tours’ end we took full advantage of complimentary beer flights to sample some more of what von Trapp had on tap. The Golden Helles, the Vienna Style Lager, the Dunkel and the Weissbier were all really good. I left slightly tipsy (one of my friends drove – I rule at rocks, paper, scissors) and fully relaxed by the vibe of the hall and scenery. I’ll be on the lookout for more Bock Bier and future innovative offerings from our friends at von Trapp Brewing, and I’m definitely going back to the Bierhall as soon as I can. See you there. Prost!