My frequent readers know that my life is kind of crazy right now, between a demanding job and two young kiddos at home it is amazing I find time to knock out regular blog posts. As a result, my brewery visits are fewer than I would like, and most are just quick stops to run in and grab some beers to go. The exceptions are mostly breweries that are accommodating to the whole family, it’s much easier to hang out and enjoy a beer if there is some outdoor space where the kids can run around and activities that can help keep them occupied for an hour or so. My whole family recently took a trip out to Stone Cow Brewery in Barre after multiple recommendations from people who raved about the beer and the atmosphere, and we all had a great time. I am pretty sure it is the most family-friendly brewery I’ve been to, with plenty to attract visitors of all ages.
Stone Cow is located on the picturesque 1000 acre Carter and Stevens dairy farm. The brewery resides in a spacious converted barn, with a bar in the front and a large open room full of picnic tables to sit and enjoy the beer. There is also a variety of outdoor seating, with tables spread throughout the grounds and a sizeable patio. Construction is underway on a new covered open-air pavilion with additional seating. Also included on the grounds are some playground equipment, enough to keep my two kids happy and running around for a couple hours. I think this is the first brewery that I’ve been to that has a full play area for kids, it is a welcome addition for parents who want to enjoy a beer and have their kids burn some energy at the same time. On a Saturday afternoon there were plenty of families doing just that. In some ways this is even a boon for the crowd that is strongly opposed to kids in taprooms (these people do exist and are usually outspoken about their beliefs), most of the families spent their time in and around the play area, so the seating on the other side of the barn was very adult-focused.
In addition to the brewery there is a farm-stand that sells a variety of items including homemade ice cream. There is a full food menu available every day, the kitchen in the brewery is open on weekdays and in the summer there is an outdoor field-to-flame BBQ on weekends. The food deserves its own write-up, our whole family grabbed lunch from the field-to-flame BBQ during our visit. My wife and I got burgers while the kids ate hot dogs, with the whole gamut of sides between us. Everything was well-prepared and tasty, lots of clean plates from our party. The ice cream might have been an even bigger hit, especially for my 4-year old, who raved about it the whole ride home. I think more breweries are realizing that quality food can be a draw in and of itself, and can help draw visitors beyond the hardcore beer nerds and help set the brewery apart from their competition.
Having a welcoming location and good food are great things for a brewery, but the most important component is quality beer, and Stone Cow makes a variety of tasty offerings. All of the beers are available in full pours (12 or 16 oz. depending on the style) and in flights, plus most are available to-go in growlers or 4-packs of 16 oz cans. My wife grabbed a full pour of Tangerine Dream IPA while I got a flight. I won’t get into details on the beer here, I will have a follow-up article later this week with reviews of a couple of my favorites, but I will say that we were impressed enough to leave with an armful of cans along with some new glassware.
With the combination of delicious beer, high quality fresh and local food, ice cream, and a beautiful rural location it is pretty hard to beat Stone Cow Brewery. Our visit was easily the most enjoyable full-family trip to a brewery we’ve had, and I know my kids are on board with a return trip in the near future. I highly recommend the trip to anyone with a family, or to those without who just like good beer and food (and if you don’t like those things I’m not sure what you’re doing reading this blog.) Check back later this week as I do formal reviews of a couple of my favorite Stone Cow beers from the cans I brought back home. Cheers!