Upper Valley has its share of day-drinking destinations

Leigh Whitten, of Hartford, Vt., takes a dive into the White River in Hartford on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Whitten was with his girlfriend and her son Tucker Guyette, of Wilder, Vt., right. Whitten said he grew up spending summers along the river. “One cold beer on a hot day is wonderful,” he said. “Five cold beers on a hot day is dangerous.

Leigh Whitten, of Hartford, Vt., takes a dive into the White River in Hartford on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Whitten was with his girlfriend and her son Tucker Guyette, of Wilder, Vt., right. Whitten said he grew up spending summers along the river. “One cold beer on a hot day is wonderful,” he said. “Five cold beers on a hot day is dangerous." (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Michael Wendel, left, of Burlington, Vt., and Tyler Ayers, of Middlebury, Vt., have a couple of beers during the day at Foley Brothers Beer Garden in Quechee, Vt. on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The friends grew up together and are in the area to go antiquing. They both laughed that they are experts in day drinking. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Michael Wendel, left, of Burlington, Vt., and Tyler Ayers, of Middlebury, Vt., have a couple of beers during the day at Foley Brothers Beer Garden in Quechee, Vt. on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The friends grew up together and are in the area to go antiquing. They both laughed that they are experts in day drinking. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

After a morning hike, Larry is petted by Amanda MacIntyre, of Pittsford, Vt., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Her husband Rayn MacIntyre is behind her along with her uncle Kevin Galletta, of Plymouth, Vt. The trio are celebrating the start of summer vacation for the MacIntyres, who are both teachers. Kathryn Foy and her husband Matt Bearce, of Weymouth, Mass., are Larry's owners; they are on vacation and staying in White River Junction, Vt. All are having a beer in the afternoon at River Roost Brewery. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

After a morning hike, Larry is petted by Amanda MacIntyre, of Pittsford, Vt., on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Her husband Rayn MacIntyre is behind her along with her uncle Kevin Galletta, of Plymouth, Vt. The trio are celebrating the start of summer vacation for the MacIntyres, who are both teachers. Kathryn Foy and her husband Matt Bearce, of Weymouth, Mass., are Larry's owners; they are on vacation and staying in White River Junction, Vt. All are having a beer in the afternoon at River Roost Brewery. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

On his day off, Kim Krohn of Norwich, Vt., enjoys a beer when picking up a four pack to go on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 at River Roost  Brewery in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

On his day off, Kim Krohn of Norwich, Vt., enjoys a beer when picking up a four pack to go on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 at River Roost Brewery in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-21-2024 8:01 PM

Modified: 06-24-2024 10:21 AM


LEBANON — One of the simple pleasures of summer can be enjoying an afternoon cocktail after a game of golf, bike ride, or other warm-weather adventure.

It’s the season, in other words, for outdoor day drinking.

If the Upper Valley isn’t exactly a hotbed of open-air watering holes that’s likely because of its easy access to an abundance of natural beauty. There are plenty of parks, swimming holes, and lakefront beaches, though open container laws dictate discretion.

But if you want someone else to pour the drinks and serve the food, you have options.

From cozy patios to sprawling beer gardens and makeshift on-street seating, the Upper Valley boasts a limited but eclectic array of choices for outside drinking and socializing — with or without libations — where the vibe is relaxed and a good hang can last as long as you want it to, or at least until the establishment’s closing time.

Outside Harpoon Brewery on Route 5 just north of Windsor, it’s hard to imagine a more ideal setting for outdoor socializing. Adirondack chairs and picnic tables are scattered under shade trees and around a large fire pit. There are cornhole boards on the lawn, if you’re feeling competitive, a playground space for kids and a regular lineup of live music and other events.

“We have a dog, and it’s one of the few places we can bring her,” Brittney Fifield, of West Lebanon, said, recently. Although on this particularly sweltering day, their Husky was at home in the air conditioning.

Fifield and her husband, Hunter, and two out-of-town friends were headed to Harpoon’s patio for a beer when a booming thunderclap changed their plans and they headed inside.

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At Great River Outfitters next door to Harpoon, owner Craig Carmody was busy making sure his clients were off the river and indoors as the thunderstorm intensified.

Carmody is happy to see people on the Connecticut River again after last year’s wet weather dealt a sharp blow to outdoor-focused businesses.

“We didn’t run any trips from May through July,” last year because of the ceaseless rain and the contamination of waterways following the flooding, Carmody said.

The business runs tubing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling trips on the Connecticut between Hartland’s Sumner Falls and Windsor. His customers can bring along coolers with their beverage of choice—up to three beers per person—to enjoy during the leisurely floats, which can take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the starting point and river flow.

For those who enjoy afternoon imbibing, Harpoon bartender Hunter Hutchinson recommends something “sessionable,” meaning low in alcohol with a light, bright flavor. Look for lagers and pilsners at around 5% alcohol by volume or less.

Hutchinson’s favorite summer drink, though, is a shandy, which is traditionally a combination of beer and lemonade. Harpoon’s take on the classic is a strawberry lemonade shandy that he says is “fruity and refreshing.”

And for those who don’t want the alcohol, there are plenty of options, including seltzers, lemonade, and “mocktails.”

“We always have one rotating non-alcoholic beer on the menu,” Hutchinson said. The current variety is called “Wild AF” non-alcoholic, and has a hoppy flavor similar to an IPA.

If beer isn’t your summer drink, just a few hundred yards from Harpoon, Silo Distillery serves up cold cocktails made on-site and using almost exclusively local ingredients.

The outdoor patio “fills right up” on weekends, events manager Mary Shapelle said.

The drinks are refined, but the atmosphere is casual and dog and kid-friendly. “It’s comfortable, there’s no rush,” she added.

A longtime customer favorite is Silo’s patio punch cocktail, made with cucumber vodka, orange marmalade from neighboring Blake Hill Preserves, and grapefruit.

Shapelle says that the cocktails are deliberately simple.

“If you have fine spirits, you really don’t need to dress them up with lots of ingredients,” she said. “You can let the spirits shine.”

Few bars and restaurants have the sprawling space of Artisans Park, but the popularity of al fresco dining and drinking hasn’t faded with the necessities of COVID-19.

Andrea Fields, manager of Molly’s restaurant in downtown Hanover, said “most nights we have a separate, longer wait for the patio” than for indoor tables.

As communities look for ways to make outdoor spaces more vibrant and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, creative collaborations with local businesses have brought visible changes to Lebanon and Hanover.

Since the arrival of spring, some of Hanover’s Main Street parking spaces have been turned over to deck seating, or what Town Manager Alex Torpey calls “parklets.”

“You used to be able to go downtown and see people and just hang out,” Torpey said. “We want to recreate that.”

Outside Murphy’s on the Green, a cluster of green umbrellas shade 16 seats. “People absolutely love the patio seating,” General Manager Kyle Kolenski said during this week’s heatwave.

And Hanover has even bigger plans to maximize outdoor space this summer. Beginning this month, a block of Allen Street will be entirely closed off to vehicles to allow for outdoor seating and dining, vendors, and picnic tables.

Just down the street from Murphy’s, burrito shop Boloco is using its parklet to create an oasis of flowers and outdoor seating for anyone who wants to use it, customer or not. “We’re thinking about Hanover; about making it more appealing,” owner CJ Jackson said. “It’s about making Main Street friendly and inviting for all.”

In Lebanon, a collaboration between restaurant owners and the city has allowed for abundant outdoor seating around Colburn Park and on the pedestrian mall.

The effect is to create “a piazza kind of feel,” Salt Hill Pub owner Josh Tuohy said.

Colburn Park is especially busy on Thursdays during the farmer’s market, Tuohy said, and his customers enjoy having a drink or a meal on the patio, which is dog-friendly, while their kids play in the park.

“It’s a great spot for people watching,” he said.

Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland says the businesses will be allowed to continue using the on-street spaces as long as they want to.

“It creates a healthy atmosphere in our downtown area,” he said.

For summer drinking, Tuohy’s recommendation is a bit of a curveball. He wants to win you over to fruited sour beers. “People who think they may not like sours find them refreshing,” he said. On offer at the moment is a pineapple passion fruit sour from Bent Water Brewing in Lynn, Mass.

“The hotter it gets, the more quenching it is,” Tuohy said.

For those who miss White River Junction’s Trail Break Taps and Tacos, or crave a cold margarita in a festive outdoor setting, owner Topher Lyons is excited that his new location at Quechee Gorge will open soon.

“We’re hopeful for a soft opening next week,” he said Wednesday, amid the final touches of renovation that began in January.

With a front patio and a rose garden out back, Lyons wants to make the most of the outdoor space in the more rustic location, just a few hundred yards from Quechee Gorge and across the street from a state park.

Whether it’s a mimosa for brunch at Simon Pearce or a cooler full of “river beer” or sodas, a little responsible day drinking is one of summer’s unique pleasures.

Luke Archibald, a psychiatrist and head of Dartmouth Health’s addiction treatment program, offers a word of caution for those planning to enjoy a cocktail during the day.

“It is generally warmer during the day, so people may be more at risk for dehydration,” he said in an email.

So don’t forget to drink plenty of water. And be careful about how you get around. “People tend to have more activities outside of the home during the day, so day drinking may be more likely to lead to impaired driving,” he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Julie Gattis and her friend Howie Purdy of Raleigh, N.C., escaped the oppressive heat by sitting at the bar at Salt Hill Pub. Gattis, who lives in Fairlee, enjoyed a pilsner and talked about how much she enjoys the Upper Valley. A traveling nurse, she just completed her stint and decided to take a permanent position at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, smitten by the rural beauty of the area.

”I actually enjoy my commute,” she said.

The pilsner? “Yummy.”

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or (603) 727-3208