From Near Beer to Craft Beer - 118 Main Street

Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop

From Near Beer to Craft Beer - 118 Main Street

Montpelier, Vermont 05602, United States

Created By: Kiltumper Close Press


This building was at one time the home of the New England Culinary Institute's restaurant, where diners could get a bird’s-eye view of the culinary students learning their craft. The Food Network's celebrity Alton Brown graduated from NECI in 1997, and likely spent many an evening in this restaurant whisking sauces and braising meats.

In the 1960s and 70s, this was the Lobster Pot, which had a bar on one side and a restaurant on the other. The neon sign that spanned the two doorways was nearly as big as the one on the roof and had the added feature of a neon-lit lobster. The restaurant had the area’s first salad bar – a true “salad boat” in keeping with the nautical interior, and it was THE place for dining out in Montpelier for a couple of decades.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
Earlier still, this was the site of Miller’s Inn, which got rolling in the 1880s, in the middle of Vermont’s Prohibition era. William Miller was the proprietor, and the inn was an expansion of his grocery and bottling business. He bottled a number of different beverages – ginger ale, cider, club soda – but his most popular item was a near-beer called “Uno”. It operated on something of a legal razor’s edge. A lengthy court case had not been able to determine if it violated the liquor laws or not. He was raided in 1892 but nothing illegal was found. There’s an old folk tale that Miller kept his “special stock” on a hinged shelf above a covered hole in the floor. A flick of his wrist and all evidence disappeared at the first sign of trouble.

It’s interesting to note that while federal prohibition ran for 13 years between 1920 and 1933, Vermont’s law was enacted in 1852, so we were dry for over 80 years! It’s hard to believe we lasted that long, but we seem to be making up for lost time. If you are looking for some of the famous Vermont-made craft brews and distilled spirits, you will find a wide assortment in Yankee Wines and Spirits. On shelves that need no hinges.

If you’ve been walking while I talk, you should be at the corner of Main and Langdon Streets now. This will be our final stop, where I will share the secret of one of Montpelier’s earliest – and biggest – homegrown industries.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop


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