This entry and video are the start of a new series where we explore Vermont through the breweries that are members of the Vermont Brewers Association. We plan to visit as many of the breweries as possible and sample the beers — and whenever possible the food — while also exploring the surrounding towns and villages.
Our first visit is to the town of Brattleboro in the southeastern part of the state. Brattleboro sits at the confluence of the West and Connecticut Rivers. The town occupies land originally inhabited by the Abenaki people, which they called Wantastiquet. The proximity to the Connecticut and the many tributaries and falls made it a prime location for European settlers to set up various types of watermills. The arrival of the railroads allowed the town to prosper as a regional center for trade in grain, wool, lumber, and other commodities. Brattleboro is both a commercial and tourist gateway for the state of Vermont and has a thriving arts community.
We decided to start this new series in Brattleboro because we wanted to see the Keith Haring’s ‘Subway Drawings’ exhibit which would be at the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center for a limited time. Knowing this project was grand due to the number of breweries in the state of Vermont — as well as the distance of some of them from our central Vermont home — we determined that it would be a good idea to visit Whetstone Beer Co whilst we were in the area.
The trip to Brattleboro was mostly via interstate and took about an hour and a half. We left the house early to time our arrival with the opening of the museum and to maximize the amount of time we could spend exploring the museum, the brewery, and the village.
The Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center is a small, intimate, non-collecting museum, founded in 1972 and housed in the upper floor and former baggage area of the old Central Vermont & Boston & Maine Union Station railway station. There were a few other patrons, but we mostly had the space to ourselves, allowing us to spend time with each drawing and painting.
Focusing mostly on the subway drawings the exhibit was small. We found it astonishing that so many of the drawings still existed. Haring would draw his art on the black pieces of paper used in the early 1980s to cover advertisements in the subway stations after their runs had expired. Haring created over 5,000 of these pieces: hopping off one train, sketching, and then hopping onto another train. He was unknown at the time, and must have considered these works ephemeral, so to have them available to view nearly 40 years later is stunning. The museum offers an excellent virtual visit if attendance isn’t an option.
After our visit to the museum we still had time before Whetstone opened to walk around the downtown of Brattleboro. Main Street is made up up small boutique shops, upscale thrift stores, movie theaters, clothing boutiques, and restaurants, giving it a very small-town feel. We popped into a number of stores, including an independent shoe store, a beading and craft shop, and the aforementioned thrift store, Twice Upon a Time. On a sunny, not-quite-Spring Saturday, there were many people out and about enjoying the town.
We arrived at Whetstone shortly after they opened and it was already busy. There were people at the bar, and families enjoying their pub grub. The coveted seats by the windows overlooking the Connecticut River were taken, but we found a nice table which allowed us to see outside as well as people watch. We ordered a flight of beers and lunch at the bar. Sarah had a hotdog and Rick had a burger on a pretzel bun. We both enjoyed our meals.
Whetstone’s current location is their original production facility. In 2012, the three founders — David Hiler, Amy Brady and Tim Brady — renovated the run-down waterfront venue. What had once been part of the Brattleboro train station complex, was converted to a stunning 3.5 barrel propane-fired brewery and restaurant with two decks overlooking the river. While it may have looked like spring outside, the outdoor decks were still closed for the season when we visited.
In 2022, the owners established a new brewery across town and expanded their hospitality business to include Kampfires Campground, Inn & Amphitheater and River Garden Marketplace. As part of their 10th anniversary that same year Whetstone also began a rebrand, celebrating both the golden age of train travel and the great outdoors. They created a new logo that is based on the signage used by Vermont State Parks and beer labels that are reminiscent of iconic travel-by-rail posters.
In addition to making great beer, Whetstone also gives back to the community via a number of programs. They donate a portion of the sale of their blood orange kettle sour, Born 2 Run, to the Born 2 Run Foundation which provides “specialized prosthetics to young adults and children who want to live a fun and fulfilling life.” The Born 2 Run Foundation is dear to founder, David Hiler, who lost a leg to cancer and received help in getting prosthetics which helped him continue his very active lifestyle.
Recently, Whetstone partnered with Vermont State Parks in a collaboration named Pints for Parks. Twice per year Whetstone will focus on a different State Park to create a limited-edition beer celebrating that specific park. Whetstone will donate proceeds from all Pints for Parks beers to Vermont State Parks’ partner charity, Vermont Parks Forever. The first Pints for Parks release will be a Kölsh and will feature Hamilton Falls in Jamaica State Park on the peel-off sticker label.
After lunch we took another walk around the downtown, stopping for a local ice cream, before making our way home. We enjoyed our brief trip to Brattleboro, and hope we will have more time to explore during a future visit, maybe when it’s warmer and the Whetstone bier garten is open.
Have you been to Brattleboro and/or Whetstone Beer co? If so, tell us about your experiences.