In 1817, while on a horseback tour of the New England frontier, President James Monroe dined at Vermont’s Norwich Inn, just outside of Lebanon. Unfortunately, there’s no record of whether Madison enjoyed a beer while he was there. But if he did, it was mostly likely brewed at the inn.
In 1993, this beer-making tradition was revived at the Norwich Inn. Now known as the Brewery at Norwich Inn, the microbrewery offers award-winning beers from its brewery and good food that keeps both locals and tourists coming back for more.
When the brewery opened 22 years ago, it resided in the Jasper Murdock Alehouse itself, named for the original owner of the inn. In 1995, it moved into a renovated livery building just across the driveway from the pub, allowing staff to produce 125-gallon batches versus the five-gallon batches they were previously making.
The tanks are even bigger today, with a system that stores the beer, once it’s ready, in tanks in the cellar and pumps it underground to taps in the brewhouse. Still known as Jasper Murdock Ales, its beer selection has grown as well. Originally, brewers of primarily English Ales, the brewhouse now has more than 50 beers in its portfolio, with a solid selection of lagers, reds, IPAs, porters, and Belgian-style brews, with several more added each year. Unlike many other breweries in the area, Jasper Murdock Ales are not available for purchase anywhere but the brewery, but customers can grab 22-ounce bottles to take home with them.
“We like to have as balanced a lineup as possible,” says Jeremy Hebert, brewmaster since 2010. “We try to always have something light, something stronger, and something hop-forward along with our Irish Red.”
Customers can choose from six beers always available on tap, in addition to one selection that’s cask-conditioned. As the barrels across the driveway drain out, there is always something new waiting in the queue. The signature Whistling Pig Red Ale is the only offering that is always guaranteed to be on tap.
“The Whistling Pig was the first one served here,” Hebert explains. “It is medium bodied with some hops, but not a lot, which makes it a great beer to start with if you don’t know what you want or if you are new to beers. From here you can decide if you want to move toward hops or away from hops and go from there.”
In addition to the beer, the brewery offers a mix of pub fare as well as more substantial offerings. The inn’s chef often uses Jasper Murdock Ales to flavor his BBQ sauces, salad dressings, and bastings. The brewery has also created an ale cheese in collaboration with Woodstock's Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, called the Jasper Murdock Whistling Pig Ale Cheddar, another signature ingredient.
With about eight spots at the bar and only a handful of tables, plus a patio that’s popular during warmer months, the brewhouse is cozy but can get crowded, especially on weekends. But the wait is worth it for a taste of history in a pint glass.