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May 31, 2013

Grazing: House-Brewed 'Heifer-Wisen' (With a View) at Whetstone Station

Whetstone1A deck overlooking the Connecticut River. A glass of house-brewed hefewiezen. Some mahi-mahi tacos. Blinding sun. These things defined my last May afternoon.

Brattleboro's Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery opened just about a year ago, but since Brattleboro is at the opposite end of the state from Burlington, I hadn't yet made it — until today, a 90-degree scorcher that feels more like late July.

Fortunately, Whetstone has a breezy deck — two, in fact — with plum views of the Connecticut River, which resembles an estuary here. On May 6, Whetstone finally began brewing its own beer in a cozy brewhouse just off the main dining room. The bar taps one of these at a time, and the first — a pale ale called SMaSH Pilot Batch #1 — apparently kicked pretty quickly.

Lucky for me, today brought another fresh beer: Heifer-Wisen, so named for Brattleboro's Strolling of the Heifers, which takes place next weekend. Brewed on May 20 using organic malt from Valley Malt of Hadley, Mass., and New York-grown hops, Heifer-Wisen flows "unfiltered, unpasteurized, and served straight from the fermenter," as the menu says.

HefeThis hefeweizen is a cloudy, honey-hued beer with refreshing, spicy- orange flavors and a crisp, barely bitter backbone. On a day like today, it's absolutely quenching. Whetstone's tap list is exhaustive, too, with beer from Fiddlehead, Ballast Point, Moylan's, Ommegang and Oregon's GoodLife Brewing Company, as well as a host of ciders such as Citizen Cider Unified Press. An entire section of the beer menu is devoted to gluten-free beers, and the bottle list ventures to Tilquin Gueze, Mikkeller and other funky gems.

Some kegs are only available at the stunning rooftop deck bar, others down in the main dining room (to encourage crowd flow?).

For a beer geek, this is paradise. There's a huge pub menu, too — my friend and I downed Whettacos a trio of seared maple-miso scallops, some fiery mahi-mahi tacos and a bowl of creamy shrimp scampi with fiddleheads — but though they're well presented, the dishes aren't really the draw. At least not today. Instead, we thought of the food as a garnish for the real main events here: a pint and a chair on the deck.

With summer looming, a few more trips to Brattleboro seem in order — and not just for a spot on the patio of the beloved local Marina.

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