112 Lake Street, Burlington
We could hear the bass thumping inside before we got to the front door. It was a Friday night, downtown Burlington, and Brendan and I had rerouted to Foam Brewers after a stymied attempt to grab food and drinks at ArtsRiot, a few blocks to the south. We’d skied Killington earlier that day, were bound for Smuggler’s Notch the next day, and Burlington made for an ideal stopover.
I grabbed the door handle and we entered a vortex of Vermontness.
It was busy but not packed, and spying two open seats at the bar we wove our way through a small crowd gathered to watch the musician on stage. A few danced erratically and a bit too enthusiastically to the funky grooves being laid down by the enigma seated behind some sort of effects board wired to a laptop and a series of other contraptions.
But there was no doubting the funk being laid down by this improbable-looking DJ/composer/bass player. Like some sort of cosplaying salute to Napoleon Dynamite’s brother Kip, the musician who I later learned is named Pat Finn – of Pat Finn and the Bad Table, of course – dropped a chunkier beat, cranked up the reverb, and began straight-up toasting on the mic like he was at an old-school Jamaican jump-off, freestyling echo-heavy vocals over his rhythm loop, before grabbing an electric bass and laying some funky frosting on the whole cacophony. “Uhh, uhh yeah. Come on. Uhhh.” The arrhythmic dancers went bonkers.
Nestled on a street that runs down the eastern side of Lake Champlain, Foam is a wildly popular craft brewery that holds its own as an event space in Vermont’s largest city (all things are relative in Vermont), often drawing in some of the largest and hippest crowds in this, the largest and hippest of Vermont’s few metropolitan areas.
It’s the only spot on our list that has a doorman checking IDs, which is partly attributable to Burlington’s sizable population of college students, but also to Foam’s nighttime club vibe. Primarily a tap room, the focus here is on the beer, but there is a charcuterie plate available, and a series of food truck proprietors are often invited through to supplement the food offerings.
The beer selection is constantly rotating, and points are given for their willingness to reach for innovative styles, such as their Dripping Sun, a tart wheat ale, and their “weird beer,” Fox In The Snow,” a 10-percent abv Christmas ale with vanilla, lactose, and nutmeg, “inspired by” eggnog.
Which leads to the helpful bartenders, who are smart enough to suggest samples of their more challenging offerings, and enthusiastic enough to convince you they love what they pour. And when the people watching is as much fun as the beer tasting, it’s easy to burn a couple of hours sampling a few and deciding which cans you want to bring home.