On the eve of the 2013 Vermont Brewers Festival, a sold-out event that draws thousands to Burlington's Waterfront to celebrate the state's robust craft brew-industry, Gov. Shumlin and artisan beer advocates cheered a new law allowing craft brewers to send their beer to in- and out-of-state customers.
"Vermont brewers produce the best beer in the world. We've worked hard to make this state a great place for them to do business, and this new law is one more step in that direction," Gov. Shumlin said, standing in the tasting room of Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington. "As our artisan beer industry grows, this is yet another tool for them to market their products and increase their name recognition. It's also a good way for people to purchase Vermont's great craft brews."
The Governor said Vermont's value-added specialty beer industry has grown from a handful of early start-ups like the Vermont Pub and Brewery, to 35 today that include labels like Otter Creek, Long Trail, Magic Hat, Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist and Rock Art. Several newly proposed start-ups are in the planning or licensing stage.
According to the national Brewers Association, Vermont ranks first in the nation for most breweries and brew pubs per capita.
"The Vermont Brewers Association got it right: Small state, big beer,"Gov. Shumlin said. Switchback Brewery is an example of the success. Owner Bill Cherry launched the brewery 11 years ago, and the very first pint of Switchback was served at Ake's Place in Burlington on October 22, 2002. Several expansions later, Switchback is now being bottled in Vermont and sold both in and out of state.
"Vermont brewers and their exceptional beers are a reflection of Vermonters, who take pride in and support their local businesses. Vermont beers capture this spirit of individualism, and this is a big part of their success not only in Vermont, but throughout the country," said Cherry. "Having a state government that is willing to improve the business climate through thoughtful legislation creates an unbeatable combination enabling brewers to succeed."
Proof of the strength of this industry, the Governor said, is the enormous popularity of the Vermont Brewers Festival, which sold out within days of tickets becoming available. The two-day event, which kicks off tomorrow evening, features tastings, educational programs, opportunities to meet the brewers, and other measures.
While the Brewers Festival is sold out, there are several other beer festivals held around the state throughout the year, including events at Smugglers' Notch, Mount Snow, Killington, and Okemo. There are also community festivals like "MontBeerlier" that are gaining popularity.
The state and the Brewers Association have also worked to strengthen the industry. The Vermont Brewery Challenge Passport, created by the Association, provides beer lovers with a "passport' they can get stamped during visits to local breweries and brewpubs for prizes.
The state's Tourism and Marketing Department is also partnering with Long Trail Brewery to market Vermont outside the state. The state is providing information on Vermont craft brews to bars and retail stores in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. In addition, the agency hosted a first "Meet the Brewers" vacation contest, with more than 6,000 people participating. And the state's new agritourism website DigInVT.com connects visitors with 400 Vermont farm, food and brew experiences, including the Beer and Cheese Pairing Trail.