VPB offers a meal worthy of lions


Travis LeClair

The entrance to the Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington

The Vermont Pub & Brewery has been a go-to-spot for me for eight years. The Pub’s famous lion statues can be seen from across the street; they should be viewed as inviting creatures, rather than those that will ravage your wallet.

After one ascends the wide stairs and enters the restaurant, one has the option to wait for a host to seat them in the dining area, or to seat themselves at the bar. My friend Sami and I chose the latter.

“I love menus like this,” Sami said, as she opened the newspaper-style menu. The menus are as thin as newsprint.

The environment, built with brick on the outside and rustic wooden beams on the inside, offers a brewery atmosphere, with antique and unusual craft-beer paraphilia decorating the walls and corners. The old beer advertisements are quirky and fun. They seem like treasures one might find at a flea market.

If you look around, you are bound to see framed photographs of the brewers and faithful customers enjoying the Pub’s creations. There is an authentic feel to VPB, yet the atmosphere is not overwhelming with its beer-worship, as some bars can be. You don’t have to love beer to go to VPB: you can simply love a good, cheap burger and you’ll leave completely satisfied.

VPB doesn’t offer any beer outside of their own (excepting their brew collaborations with outsiders), which sometimes can be a bummer if one has their mind set on a Switchback or Pabst. Last week I was reminded that they indeed are pros at what they do. I’m a fan of Belgian-style ales, so I began with the “Spuyten Duyvil,” which the menu calls “a Belgian-style, sour-red ale, created by Greg Noonan in the early 1990’s.”

The beer at VPB is always a bit surprising. For me, they hit the taste buds close to what I imagine, yet always offer a unique kick that makes me think, “Well, I’ve never had anything quite like this before.” Often it is a slight bitterness or sour hint that wakes up the taste buds and get them ready for the meal. I’ve met some who don’t like the VPB brews, and say they all taste similar and have a musty flavor. After my last visit, I would have to disagree.

Sami ordered her first beer, the “Ol’ Puckerface Steven Sour.” The menu is quite enthusiastic about the competing elements in this beer. The description reads: “A unique, sour-IPA, contrived by the brewers of the Vermont Pub & Brewery and the Magic Hat Brewery. Passion Fruit provides a sour backdrop to an 80 IBU hop profile. Almost competing elements (both sour and bitter) provide an unusually thirst-quenching experience like none before!”

If you don’t know what any of that means, the name says it all. The beer is sour, not in a face-mutilating, shock-tarts or warhead way, but in a strangely refreshing way that makes you want to keep sipping. I was hooked, and I ordered a “Puckerface” for my second drink.

The friendly bartender offered her support by saying, “Mhmm, good choice,” when I ordered.

My beer-mate decided on the “Burly Irish Ale” for her second, which she described as “a weird, but good, Guinness.” According to the menu, this “weird Guinness” won gold in 2006 during the “Great International Beer Festival.”

The beer prices are generally $5-6 per pint.

By the time we began sipping our second round, our burgers came out. We both had made our dinner decisions within minutes of looking at the well-rounded pub menu. I had been craving a burger for a few days. I was 100% satisfied.

I have also been satisfied by their appetizer menu in the past; their nachos are portion-heavy and full of toppings, and their “Spud Skins” are a great treat when you want a mouthful of hot cheese, bacon and potato.

I have had other memorable experiences at VPB. I have left happy after ordering the Reuben, “the Buffalo Chicken Rolli Polli,” the “Fish ‘n’ Chips,” and their homemade shepherd’s pie. The hot sandwiches are usually $6.99, and the dinners are priced around $13, including a salad, roll and a side of mashed potatoes or fries.

If I am to praise VPB for something before their beer, it would be their quality-to-price ratio.

Here’s a secret: just about any place worth going in Burlington gets its beef from the same distributor, and often, the local “Laplatte River” name is included in flowery descriptions. Many places charge $15 or more for a burger, but VPB sells its 1/3 pound mouth watering burgers for a steady $6.99.

I never feel cheated when going to VPB.

The inside of my “medium” order was a bit pinker than it should have been, but I was secretly happy about this, as I immediately regretted my decision when I heard Sami tell the bartender, “medium-rare, please.” Her burger came out as ordered.

I ate every single crispy, beer-battered fry (a $2 add-on), and every ounce of delicious burger. My burger was topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and house-made mustard. The bun was full and fluffy, but didn’t steal the show.

I can’t remember the last meal that “hit the spot” quite as successfully as this one.

We split the bill, each paying about $20 before tip. That’s a deal for a burger, fries and two local brews.

Next time you are in Burlington, walk off Church St. a block to 144 College St. Look for the lions that sit upon the brick walls.