WHEN JEN AND JOHN KIMMICH OPENED THE ALCHEMIST BREWPUB in Waterbury, Vermont, in 2003, patrons would empty their pint glasses into other containers and sneak their beer out. The quality and scarcity of the drink demanded such measures. “People used to hoard it,” says Jen Kimmich.
They still do. The Alchemist Brewery’s double IPA Heady Topper is the third highest-rated beer in the world, according to website and magazine BeerAdvocate. Beer pilgrims also come to Waterbury — a quiet town of just over 5,000 people — for its bars, which serve prized offerings from area breweries that often are difficult to find elsewhere. These pilgrims talk about Waterbury with the reverence of wine drinkers discussing Tuscany or the Loire Valley. “I don’t know how all these people are finding us,” says Chad Rich, owner of a pub in town called Prohibition Pig (802-244-4120, prohibitionpig.com). “There’s a lot of word of mouth. In the craft beer world, people talk.”