Black Diamond Awards 2017: The Best Aprés Spots

What are Vermont’s best-loved aprés spots? We asked, you answered. This year, we got more replies than any year since our survey started in 2011.

THE BEST APRES SPOTS

BEST PIZZA

Don’t call it “pizza” or you’ll get reprimanded: Whatever you do call it, everyone loves what comes out of the wood-fired oven at Waitsfield’s Lareau Farm: flatbread topped with local vegetables, meats and a signature toppings. That’s the original American Flatbread and with two other locations (in Burlington and Middlebury) it’s hard to beat, especially after a long day pounding the nearby trails. But there’s plenty of great true ‘za to go around, with Stowe’s Piecasso and Bluestone Pizza (now with locations in Waterbury and Waitsfield) ready to take a piece of the pie. Winner: American Flatbread. Runners Up: Piecasso, Stowe; Bluestone, Waitsfield and Waterbury; Parker Pie, Glover; Ramunto’s, Bennington. 

BEST APRES BAR

When it comes to “apres” anything, Stowe’s The Matterhorn has made national lists ranging from USA Today to Ski Magazine. And it’s not just its location as the first bar coming down the Mountain Road from  that makes it such. Owners Charlie and Louise Shaffer have found the right blend of classic ski bar (ski instructors have their own mugs that hang over the bar) and a sports bar with pool table, TVs and arcade games. Yes, it serves piping hot pizza from the wood burning oven, but there’s also something a little more oh-so-Stowe: a sushi bar with views over the river. Close on the heels: Sugarbush’s Castlerock Pub, Waterbury’s Prohibition Pig, newcomer Doc Ponds and the seasonal food truck/outdoor bar that caters to East Burke’s tribe of mountain bikers, Mike’s Tiki Bar. Winner: The Matterhorn, Stowe. Runners Up: Castlerock Pub, Sugarbush; Mike’s Tiki Bar, East Burke; Prohibition Pig, Waterbury; Doc Ponds, Stowe; General Stark’s Pub, Mad River Glen. 

BEST BARTENDER

Rich Kendrick of Castlerock Pub at Sugarbush

Rich Kendrick of Castlerock Pub at Sugarbush

If you’ve ever ordered a drink at Sugarbush’s Castlerock Pub on a Saturday, odds are bartender Rich Kendrick topped off your glass. Kendrick has been serving drinks with Shawn Fuschetto, his college buddy, since the pub first opened 20 years ago. Now, Fuschetto is the manager, and Kendrick, a history teacher in Northfield, works part-time on the weekends. Kendrick, who has been in the food and beverage service since he was 13, has a passion for Vermont’s craft beer scene. “We live in a world of IPA heaven—there’s just so many,” he said. “One of the nice things about the bar is it’s got the most rock ‘em, sock ‘em beer line up you can imagine, for every type of palate.” Castlerock boasts an impressive cocktail menu, too, but Kendrick is known for his go-to beverage, a shot called the “Hooter.” Curious minds will have to visit the pub to discover the ingredients, but Fuschetto guarantees the shot’s ability to dazzle. “I swear to you, it’s delicious,” he says. “It’s a Valley original.” While the Hooter is a local favorite, Kendrick’s spirit is what keeps locals coming back. “He makes a connection with the regulars that’s very special,” Fuschetto said. “He’s got high energy–to put it mildly–and it’s infectious. When he’s here, you’re going to have fun.”    Winner: Rich Kendrick, Castlerock Pub. Runners Up: Jerry Goto, Mad River Barn, Waitsfield; Shawn Fuschetto, Castlerock Pub, Sugarbush; Jesse Sanguedolce, The Matterhorn, Stowe; Willie Dietrich, The Den, Stowe. 

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BEST BREWERY 

On January 17, the world’s largest beer rating site, Ratebeer.com, came out with its annual list of best brewers in the world. For the third year in a row, tiny Hill Farmstead, run by Shaun Hill out of Greensboro topped the list. Our survey respondents agree and placed this cult beer above some of Vermont’s other breweries with strong followings, such as The Alchemist of Stowe, Lawson’s Finest and relative newcomer, von Trapp Brewing. And, while it’s not a brewery, Citizen Cider made this list as well. Winner: Hill Farmstead. Runners Up: Lawson’s Finest, The Alchemist; von Trapp Brewing, Long Trail; Citizen Cider.