Since there is an incredible amount of good beer in Burlington, there's no way you can do everything. First, I'll give you my recommendations of things you absolutely must do to check off boxes for the beer experience:
- Go to Foam.
- Check out the bar at Farmhouse, as they tend to have Hill Farmstead on tap. The food is good too.
- Go to a beer store and ask for recommendations. I ended up with a case from 6 different breweries thanks to Cheese and Wine Traders, but there are other great stores in the area.
- Make sure you find yourself some Heady Topper. Even if you don't love it, it's a bit of a rite of passage in the craft beer world. Many restaurants and bars have it all the time, and Alchemist has their delivery schedule on their website.
Now, I'll highlight the breweries I actually visited, in my extremely subjective order of where I think you should prioritize going. If you're reading this soon after publication, not all the beers I've had have been added to the lists, as I haven't had time to try all $400 worth of what I bought (that's just the to-go stuff). The places (more detailed descriptions on their pages):
Foam Brewers: Right downtown on the waterfront. I've been here twice now, once at 4pm on a Tuesday, and once at 9pm on a Friday. As you can imagine, they were different experiences. They make awesome beer, and don't distribute. You should go, get some stuff from the tap list, enjoy the live music that they have, and get a bunch of cans to go. They offer non-beer options.
Burlington Beer: Just missed my must-do list because I didn't actually hang out there. A few miles east of downtown. Really cool industrial spot with a huge selection of great beers and a good-looking food menu. They do distribute (including to Boston), but the beers there are quite cheap, and you can get flights on-site.
Magic Hat: A few miles south of downtown. The taproom really checks all the the boxes to go along with their (for lack of better word) 'weirdness'. They offer ultra-small samplers (1.5 or 2 oz, I forget) for extremely cheap, so you can try a bunch of small batch stuff (or the usuals) and still drive back.
Zero Gravity: In the south end of downtown Burlington. Really nice taproom with flights, non-beer options, and a little food place attached. Good place to hang with a group.
Citizen Cider: Also south end, walkable to Zero Gravity. They offer flights of cider and food, and this place can get rockin' at night. I should note that most, if not all, of these breweries carry Citizen stuff for non-beer drinkers.
Queen City: Across the street from Zero Gravity. Much wider array of styles, and they offer flights. More of a local hangout, but worth popping in for a flight if you're going to Zero Gravity.
Other notable area places you could visit in the immediate area are Fiddlehead (a bit south, really good beer), Switchback (popular, near Zero Gravity), then Four Quarters and Simple Roots (I haven't had anything from them) a bit to the north. There's also 3 incredibly popular breweries in the general area: Lawson's Finest, The Alchemist, and of course Hill Farmstead.
There's plenty more in the area, and some stuff that was recommended to me (all available in Burlington, most of which I haven't tried yet as of writing this): Frost, Foley Brothers, Rock Art, Hermit Thrush, and Bent Hill.
Honestly, with all the options around, it'll be hard to find a place to go that doesn't have great beer. Burlington is definitely a great place to go for a beer vacation.