One of the best parts about working out in Vermont is you are never far from a really great beer or bar, truly local food and rocking music. These are the rewards at the end of the run or the trail. You know them. You love them. You earned them. Here are your favorites for the year.
Best Après-Ski/Bike Pub: The Matterhorn, Stowe.
Stowe’s The Matterhorn is so legendary that this year it leads the running for top ski bar not just in Vermont but in the entire U.S, as determined by USA Today. Owner Charlie Shaffer has managed to take the classic Mountain Road bar and make it into that rare breed of place that serves up both awesome sushi and Southern rock, wild nights and family afternoons where the kids play pool. Generations have met here, married and now bring their kids. Most of all, it’s a must-stop after skiing. Runners-up: 2. Inn at the Long Trail, Mendon. 3. The Lookout Tavern, Killington, 4. Three Penny Taproom, Montpelier, 5. Prohibition Pig, Waterbury.
Best Vermont Brewery: Hill Farmstead
Vermont brewers such as the Alchemist, and Lawsons have become world-famous but none is as legendary as Hill Farmstead. For the second year in a row, the Greensboro brewer (with brews named for family members such as Everett or Earl), has once again been named the best brewer in the world by Ratebeer.com. Runners-up: 2. Long Trail 3. The Alchemist 4. Lawson’s Finest Liquids 5. Lost Nation
Best Vermont Cider Houses: Citizen Cider
Let’s face it, Vermont’s cider houses rule (our apologies, John Irving.) While Woodchuck remains the big one (now available in every state), Citizen Cider’s cans of lighter, sparkling ciders are gaining a following as are Shacksbury’s, which use heirloom apples —some found in old abandoned orchards—to recreate the flavor of the ciders our forefathers brewed. Runners-up: 2. Woodchuck Cider, 3 Shacksbury Cider, 4. Cold Hollow Cider, 5. Eden Ice Cider.
Best Vermont Distillery: Smugglers’ Notch Distillery
Using pure water from the Mount Mansfield watershed, charred American oak barrels and untold amounts of family elbow grease, the Elliots have turned Smuggler’s Notch Distillery into one of America’s most respected small-batch distillers. Their first creation, a vodka, won one of 12 double gold awards at the 2011 World Spirits Competition and they have gone on to turn out hopped gin, wheat whiskey, bourbon and other spirits. The runners up can also claim an impressive array of awards, including Caledonia’s Barr Hill for “gin of the year,” in the 2013 Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits competition. Runners-up: 2. Caledonia Spirits, 3. Mad River Distillers, 4. Vermont Spirits, 5. WhistlePig
Best Pizza: American Flatbread
Vermont’s pizza landscape keeps heating up but American Flatbread’s home base at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield still takes home first prize with Stowe’s Piecasso (which Food & Wine once named on of the 11 best pizza places) and Waterbury’s Blue Stone hot on the heels. Runners-up: 2. Piecasso, Stowe, 3. Blue Stone, Waterbury, 4., Positive Pie, Montpelier, 5. Parker Pie, Glover.
Best Bartender: Tie: Kevin Kerner & Shawn Fuschetto
Ask Kevin Kerner what he’s got on tap and you might get an earful. The manager and bartender at Three Penny Taproom has more than 10 years of experience as a brewer and usually has about 20 different craft brews on tap. Meanwhile, Shawn Fuschetto has earned such a following at Sugarbush’s Castlerock Pub that January 16 of this year was declared “Shawn Fuschetto Appreciation Day,” at the resort to honor his 20 years of service.
Best Live Music Venue: Higher Ground, Burlington
An unquestioned leader in Vermont’s music scene, Higher Ground has brought in some of the biggest of old names and new both to its Burlington concert hall and to events around the state. But not far behind are smaller venues. Runners-up: 2. Killington’s Pickle Barrel, 3. Stowe’s Rusty Nail, 4. Jay Peak’s Amphiteater. 5. Nectars, Burlington.
Best Lodge, Inn or Hotel: Stowe Mountain Lodge
With its pool, fitness center, spa, new ice skating rink, Hourglass Bar and Solstice restaurant, Stowe Mountain Lodge was a clear favorite among readers this year. Oh, and did we mention it is ski in/ski out? Runners-up: 2. Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe. 3. Willowburke Inn, Burke, 4. Lareau Farm, Waitsfield, 5. Hotel Vermont, Burlington.