The chill of Burlington

Burlington, Vermont

From the relative warmth of Savannah, we returned to Chapel Hill for our flight north to Boston, where a biting cold front had conveniently settled in. From there, it was about a 3-hour drive to Burlington, the socially conscious college town home to UVM, Phish and Ben & Jerry’s. As we approached, the Jetta’s thermostat plummeted, eventually bottoming out at -1 degree.

In other words, the perfect time for ice cream.

Ben & Jerry’s originally factory sits in Waterbury. We made our way up the icy steps, past a Flavor Graveyard, where classics such as, American Pie, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and The Godfather fade into memory. Inside, we bought tickets for a tour, wandered the massive gift shop and took the obligatory Head on Label picture.

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Our quirky tour guide gave us a quick history of the company — two surprises: neither Ben nor Jerry had any past experience in food and beverage and the company was sold to Unilever in 2000. We learned that all ice cream starts with a vanilla base and the containers are rotated when the toppings are added in order to ensure even distribution. But watching thousands of pints come off the conveyor belt, we started to lose interest — just feed us already!

It was time for the tasting of a new flavor: Maple Blondie, a maple ice-cream concoction with blonde brownie chunks & a maple caramel swirl. This being Vermont, the maple syrup flavor was strong and delicious and we liked the crunch of the brownies.

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Sweet tooth satisfied, we made our way into downtown Burlington and had a proper lunch at Leunig’s Bistro, which overlooked bustling — and bone-chilling cold — Church Street, the city’s social center.

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It was difficult to spend more than a couple of minutes outside, so we hopped back in the car, blasted the seat warmers, and found Magic Hat Brewery. One of the best known of Vermont’s microbreweries, it is housed in a funky factory on the outskirts of town. Beer pros that we now are, we rocked the self-guided tour.

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My favorite machine was the Bottlemabob, which according to a placard, was a “space-age piece of technological toomfollery [that] whirls bottles around for no apparent reason (other that to take up space) as they approach the immaculate filler.”

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Back downstairs, we cozied up to the bar and tasted our way down the taps, including the Christmas-y winter ale and iconic #9.

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“Is anyone here for the guided tour?” one of bartenders hollered as we walked out the gift shop. A few North Face-clad twenty-somethings raised their hands. “Ah, damn it,” he replied. “Just have some beers instead.”

They nodded and sat back down.

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