Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont you will find the town of Waterbury. Among other highlights Waterbury is where culinary magic happens; The factory for Ben & Jerrys Homemade and The Cold Hollow Cider Mill both call Waterbury home. Additionally you will found locations for Cabot Cheese, Smugglers Notch Distillery, and Lake Champlain Chocolates can also be found within its boundaries. A whole day can be spent enjoying some of the finest food products produced in Vermont.
We awake early enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then made the journey to Waterbury up Scenic route 100. As we made our way North on Rt 100, our trip was enhanced by the sites of waterfalls, covered bridges, and countryside farms. Large fields of Solar Panels are now a common site in Central Vermont as the state power company works towards providing a greener form of energy to the state residents.
Our first stop would be to factory of some of the best Ice Cream found anywhere in the world; Ben & Jerrys homemade. Even as the snow fell blanketing the grounds tourists from all around flocked to the factory to see the process of how their favorite flavor is made. The tour at Ben & Jerrys is fairly quick lasting only about 30 minutes, but it is also very cheap cost wise. For those who use Yelp, if you check in before purchasing your tour ticket you will be greater by a check in special of a free tour! The tour begins with a quick video about the history and values of the company. When the video ends its off to the factory floor. Weekends are not the best time for a visit to the factory since there is no ice cream being made, but the factory floor is still included in the tour and our tour guide did a great job of explaining the process. I finally learned how they get swirls into ice cream and it was interesting to hear that all those chucks you find in your Ben & Jerrys of what ever your favorite goodness is are still to this day added to the ice cream by hand. After the tour you head onward to everyone’s favorite part, the tasting room. The tasting room at Waterbury is actually the original test kitchen for the company and is the very spot where the majority of your favorite early flavored got developed; our flavor of for the day was New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale. I can’t say it was my favorite flavor ever, but you have to give credit to the kitchen it sure is a creative flavor.
After your tour of the factory be sure to stop at the scope shop to get a full-sized ice cream or one of the companies amazing milk shakes. With ice cream In your bellow your visit isn’t over yet. As you head out the factory doors head to your right and follow the pavement up through the parking area, past the kids playground and towards the solar field. Here behind the factory you will find the Flavor Graveyard, where some of the more famous retired flavors meet go to spend the rest of their days. I am not sure what happens to those flavors that get retired but are not popular enough to make it here; I assume they end up on some hard drive in a vault somewhere. My favorite flavor ever rests in the flavor graveyard, Rain Forest Crunch. Rain Forest Crunch was one of companies top flavors of all time, but candle resulted in it being pulled from the shelves; the socially responsible company who claimed to be helping the rain forest with every pint sold was discovered to not be being entirely honest with its marketing. Due to the demand for the flavor, the company ended up sourcing only 5% of the nuts for the ice cream for the eco-friendly tree hugging cooperative that was supposed to supply all the nuts. In the end the cooperative closed down and Ben & Jerrys switched to commercial suppliers for its nuts, but failed to ever mention or change its marketing to indicate the true source of the nuts being used. While this scandal certainly doesn’t compare to the misdoings of politicians and other major companies, when word got out Ben & Jerrys was forced by its shareholders to pull the product to save its outward appearance as an eco-friendly company.
Ben & Jerrys will always have a special place in my heart as a company not only because I’m a Vermonter but because as a young child my father was a manager of a Ben & Jerrys scope shop, and I used to always go to work with him and help crush up the toppings for the Ice Cream! What kid doesn’t like sending the day in an Ice Cream Shop. In those days my dad was my hero because he provided kids with some of the best stuff on earth.
With Ice Cream in our Bellies and a Vermont GeoCache Collected, we made our way over a shopping plaza at 2657 Waterbury-Stowe Rd, its only a short distance from the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Here you will find some more wonders of the Vermont Culinary experience. The plaza includes the Cabot Annex Store, Smugglers Notch Distillery, and Lake Champlain Chocolates. While none of the stores you find in this shopping plaza are the actual factories for the locations they do offer you the chance for some great samples.
The Cabot Annex Store includes a full sampling table of all the different types of cheeses made by Cabot, and a lot of them. Best of all the Cabot Annex provides the ability to buy every cheese made by Cabot at deeply reduced prices, including their limited edition private reserve cheese’s. If you haven’t experienced the full range of Cabot Experiences you are truly missing out! We left with a ton of cheese to bring home with us because here at the Annex you can score a 3 pound block for only $11.00! In addition to the cheese sampling stations there is also a full collection of other Vermont foods to sample such as the always desired Vermont Maple Syrup!
Next door to the Cabot Annex Store you will find Smugglers’ Notch Distillery! Smugglers Notch Distillery makes A range of Whiskey’s, Gin, Rum, and Vodka. They opened up in 2010 and since then have been awarded countless awards from around the world, for having some of the best products on earth. For only $3.00 you can enjoy a tasting of there products, and if you buy a bottle during your visit the tasting is free! We ended up going home with an awesome bottle of Straight Bourbon Whiskey, but it was a hard choice to make between the Bourbon and the Rye Whiskey! While the prices on their bottles may be high, it is worth every penny! Even if you’re not interested in buying a bottle the $3.00 cost of a sampling is certainly worth stopping in just to experience what they produce.
Last but certainly not least in the plaza is Lake Champlain Chocolates. Lake Champlain Chocolates is one of the industry leaders in the creation of fine chocolates! While this may not be their factory they do make all chocolate that is sold in the store on site. It’s extremely likely that regardless of when you stop in you will find some chocolate creations being made behind the counter. They make some great stuff here, and they are close to being on the top of my list for places to get Chocolate. Through all my travels Vermont is home to my all time favorite Chocolate place, Mother Myricks in Manchester Vermont, a small independent Confectionery, is at the top of my list. Champlain Valley Chocolate does sit right behind them though. Sadly you are not going to find any free samples or tasting here. Even with no free samples its worth a stop in to grab a piece of chocolate or two if you have never experienced the wonders of a freshly made piece of Lake Champlain Chocolate!
With all of those Flavor experiences, there was still one more stop to make before our departure from Waterbury. The last stop to make for the full experience is at Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Cold Hollow is a fully operational cider mill, and makes some of the best Apple Cider in the state, they also create a full line of cheeses, mustards, and baked goods. The bakery in the mill makes Cider Donuts throughout the day, and if you check in with Yelp upon arrival you will be treated to a freshly made cider donut free of charge! Those looking for samples will find themselves feasting on samples of jams, mustards, cheeses, cider and more! There store also features an assortment of products from throughout the state!
With all these wonderful things to consume a visit to Waterbury will give you a pretty good overview of the culinary magic that comes from the state of Vermont. If you want a full experience add a Maple Sugaring House, and a few local breweries to your day that are in the surrounding area, and you’ll quickly learn why those of from Vermont will accept no substitute for the food products we grew up on!