I was working in Connecticut for the entire month of January so figured that since I was only a few hours away, it would probably be a good opportunity to head out to Vermont for a little weekend relaxation. I wanted to stay in a town that gave options for skiing, but even better options for beer. After doing a little research online, I decided that Waterbury would be the place to go. Aside from being minutes away from a few awesome ski areas, and being the town where the Alchemist cannery is located, Waterbury also boasts three really awesome beer bars.
After visiting the good beer spots, I couldn’t make up my mind of which one to write about. Each of them offer something different, so why not tell a little bit about all of them? All of the bars are located in the downtown area of Waterbury and are so close together, that you can see them from each others windows. Although located so close together, they each offer a different type of atmosphere.
The first place I stopped was Prohibition Pig. It’s a newer place that has only been around for a couple years and is located on the site where the Alchemist Brewpub used to be. The atmosphere is intimate with dimmed lights, exposed brick walls and candles lit at the tables and along the bar. As you walk in, the bar is on the right and the main dining area is on the left. Behind the bar is a tall group of wooden shelves that house a selection of high end spirits with a concentration on bourbon. Although there’s a large bourbon concentration, they still offer other mixed drinks. If you’re visiting over the weekend, I’d recommend heading in a little early so that you can grab a Bloody Mary. It’s served in a large Mason jar and garnished with a celery stick and pickled vegetables. It also comes with a small glass of Schlitz 60’s Formula Lager to wash it down. Even though the cocktails here are top notch, I mostly come here because of their 20+ taps.
The beer selection features a good amount of local Vermont beers. I was able to find at least 3 Hill Farmstead taps, two from Lawsons and Heady Topper from Alchemist. The rest of the taps were filled with other various American craft beers and a few Belgians. What I liked about this place was that they allowed half pours. Since Lawsons can be pretty hard to find – even while in Vermont – I was glad to get to try a couple while there without getting a full serving. I still had 2 other bars to visit afterwards and wanted to make it through the night.
Before getting into the beers, I had to eat something. I heard that Prohibition Pig has great food and I was pretty hungry after being in the car for 4 hours. The menu wasn’t as pork heavy as I would have expected it to be. Although it featured a number of smoked meats and BBQ, they also have a few outliers such as Bahn Mi, Tempeh, and even a little bit of sea food. Even though I didn’t order the Bahn Mi, someone next to me at the bar ordered it, and it smelt incredible. As good as it smelt, I was still very satisfied with my choice of brisket with mac n cheese. They try to keep everything on their menu as locally sourced as possible and there are typically specials available. After devouring my meal and drinking a few samples, I took a quick walk up the street to the next place.
Next on the list was Blackback Pub. Even though it’s located across the street from Prohibition Pig, it still offers a different type of atmosphere. Walking into Blackback, you could mistake it for being in a basement due to the low ceilings. It’s actually located on the first floor of a larger building, but in the side of a hill so I guess it’s sort of partially underground. There are two bars areas inside which are separated by a wall with a walkway between them. The wall makes the bar feel significantly smaller, but it really didn’t matter much for me since I was by myself. It wasn’t too busy, so I was able to walk right up to one of the bars and take a seat.
I took a look at the chalkboard on the wall and examined the beer list. The selection here is predominately Vermont beers and dominated by Hill Farmstead and there were a couple of Lawson’s on tap too. The rest of the beer list was a mix of well chosen American craft and European beers. I ordered Double Galaxy from Hill Farmstead, and it was served to me in the Hill Farmstead glassware. If beer isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for mixed drinks then this place probably isn’t for you. They don’t make mixed drinks, but you can still order Bourbon neat or a glass of wine.
Blackback has one television in each bar area and although it was playing some football game while I was there, it’s by no means a sports bar. You couldn’t hear the TV, but that’s perfectly fine considering there was a nice mix of Led Zepplin and Johnny Cash playing over the stereo. It was great to sit back, relax and drink some awesome beers while listening to some of my favorite Zepplin songs. But after a while I figured it would be best to leave so that I could make it over to my last stop of the little pub crawl: The Reservoir.
The Reservoir was the liveliest of the three bars I visited and also the largest. Walking in through the front door, it looks like it’s just a restaurant. There are a number of tables set up and there is a small stage to the right. When I arrived, there was a cover band playing Dropkick Murphys, and I was pretty happy that I didn’t need to pay a cover charge. I headed to the back and into the other section of the restaurant which is where the bar area is located. The bar sits 15-20 people and there are high top tables scattered around the room along with a couch. There are a couple TVs on the walls which usually play some type of sports game.
Although I was sitting in the bar area, I could still order food. The menu was mostly bar food, but made primarily with locally sourced ingredients. I’m not sure when they serve dinner till, but I was able to grab a half pound burger after 9 o’clock, so I’d assume that you can eat there pretty late. They’re supposedly known for their wings, but I didn’t order any and immediately regretted it after seeing the waitress walking by with some.
The tap selection is pretty large (20-something taps) and has the most reasonable prices of the three places I visited. They always have beers from Hill Farmstead, Lawsons and Switchback on tap, but if you had your fill from the other two bars, then some other notable breweries on tap were Founders, Ballast Point and Oxbow. The day I visited was unusually warm, so I was able to drink a beer on their deck outside and get some relief from the loud music from the band playing. It looks like they have live music pretty consistently.
I can’t really pick a favorite of the three places visited that night since they all had something different to offer. I guess that you can’t really go wrong though considering that they all offer beers from local Vermont breweries. I’d recommend checking them all out and making the decision yourself. Since they’re located so close together, you can always switch it up if one isn’t your cup of tea. Heck, I’d say they’re all worth checking out just for their tap lists alone, but that’s for you to decide. Regardless, I’ll be back to them all next time I’m in Waterbury.
23 S Main St
Waterbury, VT 05676
1 Stowe St
Waterbury, VT 05676
1 S Main St
Waterbury, VT 05676