Brewing in Vermont

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Vermont ranks 1st nationally in craft breweries per capita[1]

The U.S. state of Vermont is home to several breweries, microbreweries, nanobreweries, and brewpubs that produce a wide variety of beer.

In 2011 and 2012, the Brewers Association ranked Vermont as the state with the greatest number of breweries per capita. Using the 2010 US Census population estimate of 625,741 and 26 breweries, there are one brewery for every 24,067 people.[2]

The 2012 Brewers Association Economic Impact Report shows Vermont with a total economic impact of beer brewed by craft brewers at $196,287,000.[3] The data places Vermont as third in the category of craft beer industry output per adult (21+) with $418.57 per person.[4] The report states that there are 2,200 full-time employees with an average wage of $30,176.[4]

When using the economic impact of beer as a percentage of GDP, Vermont ranks fourth with a percentage of 2.40% for 2012.[5]


The history of beer in Vermont is similar to its history in the rest of the United States – no local breweries existed from Prohibition until the microbrewery explosion of the 1980s and 1990s. Since then a number of strong breweries have developed despite Vermont's small population.

On November 2, 1798, Vermont passed a law which began restricting sales of strong beer, ale, and cider. This law was eventually overturned on November 10, 1814. However, the temperance movement remained very strong in Vermont.

In 1840, tax records show there were no breweries in Vermont. In 1844, a law was passed which set brewing license fees and appointed county commissioners to approve each license. In 1846, a provision was passed by the legislature to allow a "local option" to whether grant or deny these licenses. This meant the citizens of the towns could vote on whether to allow or disallow these establishments. In 1850, town selectmen became authorized to approve business license to sell small beer or cider, but not strong beer. In 1852, several more laws were passed which started Vermont's prohibition era. In 1853, the legislature passed the Vermont Prevention of Traffic in Intoxicating Liquors for the Purpose of Drinking law.

In 1877, Vermont tax records show 2 breweries, one liquor establishment, and 433 saloons. In 1887, the Boston Journal reported that "Vermont seems to be the nearest place to paradise for prohibitionists. There is not a brewery in the state."

Vermont hop production took off around 1840 and peaked in 1860. In 1840, Vermont produced 48,137 pounds of hops; 292,023 pounds in 1850; 638,657 pounds in 1860; and 527,927 pounds in 1870. Around 1900, there were around 4,400 pounds produced. By 1910, hop production had been reduced to near zero.

On January 16, 1919, 18th Amendment (Federal Prohibition) which outlawed the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol was passed by 3/4 of US states and became law.

On December 5, 1933 Federal Prohibition came to an end. In 1935, two alcoholics from Vermont, Bill Wilson, from East Dorset, and Bob Smith, from St. Johnsbury, started Alcoholics Anonymous with a twelve step program.

In 1988, after spending three years lobbying the Vermont legislature to legalize brewpubs Greg Noonan opened the first brewpub in Vermont, the Vermont Pub & Brewery. On the 25th Anniversary of the Vermont Pub & Brewery, the city of Burlington dedication a plaque commemorating Greg Noonan at the front of the pub.[6]

The Vermont Brewers Association represents the majority of breweries and brewpubs (membership requires specific brewery size and procedures).[7]

In 1997 Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales became the first certified organic brewery in the United States.[8] In 2014, Wolaver's (now owned by Otter Creek Brewing Company) became the first non-GMO certified brewery in Vermont.[9]

It's still illegal to transport more than six gallons of beer across Vermont state lines or serve more than 32 ounces of beer at a time which prevents sales of normal sized pitchers of beer.

Beer styles[edit]

Greg Noonan, owner and head brewer of The Vermont Pub & Brewery, and Glenn Walter, then an assistant brewer, are cited with creating the Black IPA (AKA Cascadian Dark Ale or India Black Ale) with the initial brewing of Blackwatch IPA on December 4, 1994.[10] The Blackwatch IPA second brewing was November 25, 1995, where Noonan was assisted by John Kimmich, who is now the owner and brewer of The Alchemist.[10] This beer inspired John Kimmich's (The Alchemist) El Jefe Black IPA (2003) and Shaun Hill's (then Shed Restaurant & Brewery) Darkside Black IPA and later Hill Farmstead's James.[10] Mitch Steele, head brewer of Stone Brewing Co., states the Darkside Black IPA was the inspiration for Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous Ale.[11]

The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson's Finest Liquids have become so popular that the route that leads between the three breweries is called the IPA Highway and is a popular destination for beer enthusiasts.[12] These three brewers have also helped create a loosely named beer India Pale Ale (IPA) category called "East Coast IPAs" or "New England IPAs".[13] Due to proximity, distribution, and availability of beer produced by these three brewers, the town of Waterbury was named the Best Beer Town in New England by the Boston Globe.[14]

In 2012, Jeff Baker wrote The Case for the Vermont IPA. [15] In 2013, Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe called the style "East Coast IPAs", but noted that Vermont "brewers have started something of their own IPA revolution, helping to loosely create the category of 'East Coast IPAs'. While these beers can be as bitter as their counterparts out west, they're generally less so, focusing on aromatics and perceived bitterness rather than actual pucker-factor. These brews are heavily dry-hopped and lighter on the palate, forgoing malt sweetness for levity in the quest for balance." [16] In 2014, Jeff Baker restated his case saying Vermont IPAs are "bright golden and hazy (unfiltered typically) in appearance, soft in mouthfeel, dense with hop flavor and aroma, yet restrained in bitterness allowing for balance to occur between the hops and the malt." [17]


One of the most widely known beers from Vermont is #9 from Magic Hat Brewing Company. #9 is an apricot-flavored fruit beer based on a traditional pale ale.[18]

Heady Topper from The Alchemist is only sold in Vermont as of January 2014.[19] Heady Topper is a double India Pale Ale (IPA) and is one of the highest rated beers on both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.

Other beer such as Hill Farmstead's Edward and Abner and Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA have gained a great deal of national acclaim.

Notable Brewers[edit]

Two Vermont brewers have been awarded the Brewers Association Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing.[20] Steve Parkes, owner of the American Brewers Guild and Drop-In Brewery in Middlebury, won the award in 2009.[21] Greg Noonan, owner of Vermont Pub & Brewery, won the award in 2005.[20]

In 1996, Jigger Hill Brewery which used "Tunbridge Quality Ales" brand name was opened by Liz Trott and her partner Janice Moran. Trott became the first woman head brewer in Vermont and the first Vermont brewer to distribute bottle conditioned beer. The brewery was also the first woman-owned, lesbian-owned brewery in Vermont and one of the first within the United States. In 2000, the partners helped reformulate and re-launch Gay Pride Beer for J. Lewis Company.[22] In May 2002, the brewery closed its doors due to one of the partner's health complications resulting from a seizure.

In 2011, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the 2011 Best New Brewer in the World by RateBeer.[23]

In 2013, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the 2013 Best Brewery in the World,[24] Best Brewery in Vermont, and Best Brewery in New England by RateBeer. Additionally, Alchemist Heady Topper was named the Best Beer in Vermont for the year 2012.[25]

In 2014, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the 2014 Best Brewery in Vermont, Alchemist Heady Topper was named the 2014 Best Beer in Vermont, and Lost Nation Brewery was named the 2014 Best New Brewery in Vermont.[26]

Craft Breweries[edit]

As of June 2014, there were 41 operating production breweries and brewpubs operating in Vermont.[27]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]