Brewing in Vermont

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Vermont ranks first 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, 2012, and 2014, 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 is one brewery for every 24,067 people.[1]

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

When using the economic impact of beer as a percentage of GDP, Vermont ranks fourth with a percentage of 2.40% for 2012.[3]


The history of beer in Vermont is similar to its history in the rest of the United States – no local breweries existed from the late 1800s when Vermont passed its own local prohibition laws, several decades prior to national 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 statistics published by Zadock Thompson show there were one brewery in Vermont producing 12,800 gallons of beer.[4] This brewery was operated in Burlington and went by the name of Burlington Brewery. In 1840, the brewery was completely destroyed when an arson set fire to numerous downtown buildings.[5] The Burlington Brewery was rebuilt and fully operational by late 1841.[6]

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.[7] In 1852, several more laws were passed which started Vermont's prohibition era.[8] In 1853, the legislature passed the Vermont Prevention of Traffic in Intoxicating Liquors for the Purpose of Drinking law.

Licenses published in the Burlington Free Press of January 1863 show only one licensed brewer within Vermont.[9]

In 1877, Internal Revenue records show two breweries, one liquor establishment, and 433 saloons.[10] 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."[11]

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, hops production had been reduced to near zero.

On January 16, 1919, the 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 dedicated a plaque commemorating Noonan at the front of the pub.[12]

In 1997 Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales became the first certified organic brewery in the United States.[13] In 2014, Wolaver's (now owned by Otter Creek Brewing Company) became the first non-GMO certified brewery in Vermont.[14]

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 in 2012.[15]

Beer regulations and laws[edit]

Within Vermont statutes, beer is defined as a "malt beverage" containing "not less than one percent nor more than 16 percent of alcohol by volume at 60 degrees Fahrenheit."[16] An exception to the law provides that any beverage with an alcohol content of "more than six percent and has a terminal specific gravity of less than 1.009" which is considered a spirit and not a malt beverage.[16]

A "specialty beer" is defined as a malt beverage that contains "more than eight percent alcohol and not more than 16 percent alcohol by volume at 60 degrees Fahrenheit".[16]

Holders of first and third class licenses may sell malt beverages between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. the next morning. Holders of second class licenses may sell malt between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. the next morning.[17]

A person may import or transport not more than six gallons of malt or vinous beverages providing it is not for resale.[18]

It is illegal to serve more than 32 ounces of beer at a time which prevents sales of normal 64 oz pitchers of beer.[19]

Beer styles[edit]

Black IPA[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, India Black Ale, or Vermont Porter) with the initial brewing of Blackwatch IPA on December 4, 1994.[20] 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.[20] 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.[20] Mitch Steele, head brewer of Stone Brewing Co., states the Darkside Black IPA was the inspiration for Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous Ale.[20]

Vermont IPA[edit]

The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead Brewery, and Lawson's Finest Liquids have created a loosely named beer India Pale Ale (IPA) category called "East Coast IPAs" or "New England IPAs".[21]

In 2012, Jeff Baker wrote "The Case for the Vermont IPA."[22] 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."[23] 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."[24]


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.[25]

Heady Topper from The Alchemist is only sold in Vermont as of January 2014.[26] Heady Topper is a double India Pale Ale and is one of the highest rated beers on both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.

Other beers, such as Hill Farmstead's Edward and Abner and Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA, have gained national acclaim.


As of May 2019, there were 56 operating production breweries and brewpubs operating in Vermont.[27]

Two Vermont brewers have been awarded the Brewers Association Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing.[28] Steve Parkes, owner of the American Brewers Guild and Drop-In Brewery in Middlebury, won the award in 2009.[29] Greg Noonan, owner of Vermont Pub & Brewery, won the award in 2005.[28]

In 1996, Jigger Hill Brewery, which used the "Tunbridge Quality Ales" brand name, was opened by Liz Trott and her partner Janice Moran. Trott became the first female head brewer in Vermont and the first Vermont brewer to distribute bottle conditioned beer. This 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.[30] In May 2002, the brewery closed due to one of the partners' health complications.

In 2011, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the 2011 Best New Brewer in the World by RateBeer.[31]

In 2013, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the 2013 Best Brewery in the World,[32] Best Brewery in Vermont, and Best Brewery in New England by RateBeer. Additionally, Alchemist Heady Topper was named the Best Beer in Vermont for 2012.[33]

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.[34]

In 2015, Hill Farmstead Brewery was named the Best Brewery in the World by RateBeer.[35]

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.[36]

Craft breweries[edit]

According to the Vermont Brewers Association, as of May 2019, there were 56 breweries operating in Vermont that could be described as craft breweries.

Brewers Association[edit]

In May 1995, the Vermont Brewers Association was founded in order to promote Vermont beer through marketing and festivals, watch the Vermont legislature, and foster an air of camaraderie and mutual cooperation among brewers.[57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Craft Beer Sales by State".
  2. ^ a b c "BA Position Statements: Three-tier Beer Distribution".
  3. ^ "The 10 States Making the Most on Beer".
  4. ^ Thompson, Zadock (1853). History of Vermont, Natural, Civil and Statistical, In Three Parts. Zadock Thompson. p. 214. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  5. ^ "Fires & Facts". Burlington Free Press. July 12, 1839. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  6. ^ Peterson, G (Oct 22, 1841). "Burlington Brewery Advertisement". Burlington Free Press.
  7. ^ Heaton, John Langdon (1889). The Story of Vermont. D Lothrop Company. pp. 210–211.
  8. ^ One Hundred Years of Brewing (Volume XXVI, Number 8 ed.). H. S. Rich & Co. August 1901. p. 231.
  9. ^ "Public Documents". Burlington Free Press. January 23, 1863.
  10. ^ "According to the annual report of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue". Burlington Free Press. December 28, 1877.
  11. ^ "Minor Notes". Vermont Phoenix. July 29, 1887.
  12. ^ Hirsch, Corin. "A 25th Anniversary for Vermont Pub & Brewery".
  13. ^ "Our Story - Otter Creek".
  14. ^ "Wolavers Organic Ales becomes nation's first certified non-GMO brewery". Archived from the original on 2014-05-21. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  15. ^ "The Best Beer Town in New England".
  16. ^ a b c "Vermont Statutes Online".
  17. ^ "Vermont Statutes Online".
  18. ^ "Vermont Statutes Online".
  19. ^ "General Regulations" (PDF). Vermont Department of Liquor Control. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-10-18. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  20. ^ a b c d Black and Bitter, True Origins of Black IPA
  21. ^ "Sam Adams Rebel IPA Part of East Coast Revolution".
  22. ^ Hops & Barly: The Case for the Vermont IPA Archived June 5, 2014, at
  23. ^ "Review: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA".
  24. ^ "Vermont needs credit for new IPA style beer".
  25. ^ "#9". Magic Hat Brewing Co.
  26. ^ "Alchemist Beer - Brewery & Visitors Center in Stowe, VT". Alchemist Beer. Archived from the original on 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  27. ^ "Brewery Challenge".
  28. ^ a b "Brewers Association Purpose".
  29. ^ Brewers Association 2009 Achievement Award Winners Archived February 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ " Beer News: Gay Pride Beer back on track".
  31. ^ "ratebeer best 2011".
  32. ^ "ratebeer best 2013 - best brewers in the world".
  33. ^ "top beers, brewers, new brewers by subregion - ratebeer best 2013".
  34. ^ "top beers, brewers, new brewers by subregion - ratebeer best 2013".
  35. ^ "top brewers, new brewers by country - ratebeer best".
  36. ^ "Vermont's IPA Highway". Archived from the original on 2015-03-24. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
  37. ^ Hirsch, Corin (May 15, 2013). "14th Star Brewing Brings Craft Beer to St. Albans", Seven Days. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  38. ^ "1st Republic Brewing Company home page - Age Verification". 1st Republic Brewing Co - Vermont Craft Beer.
  39. ^ Willett, Clair (February 1, 2015). "Sourtooth: Backacre Beermakers Resurrects a Classic (with a Vermont Twist)", Edible Green Mountains. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  40. ^ Bedell, Tom (March 6, 2013). "Vermont Brew News", The A Position. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  41. ^ "Drop In Brewing Company". Archived from the original on 2016-04-05.
  42. ^ "Talking Shop With Fiddlehead Brewer Matt Cohen". Seven Days. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  43. ^ "Tasting the difference with Dan Foley | The Mountain Times". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  44. ^ Kurt Staudter; Adam Krakowski (1 July 2014). Vermont Beer: History of a Brewing Revolution. The History Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-1-62585-012-6.
  45. ^ "Brewery To Open In Cabot". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  46. ^ "Kingdom Brewing Archives - Barton Chronicle Newspaper". Barton Chronicle Newspaper. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  47. ^ "From Jersey guy to beer god, the journey of Sean Lawson". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  48. ^ "Lost Nation Brewing". Two Brews. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  49. ^ "Morrisville's Lost Nation Brewing Explores the Lighter Side of Beer". Seven Days. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  50. ^ "Beer Nut: McNeill's Brewery worth the trip to Brattleboro". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  51. ^ " Don Gosselin". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  52. ^ Kurt Staudter; Adam Krakowski (1 July 2014). Vermont Beer: History of a Brewing Revolution. The History Press. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-1-62585-012-6.
  53. ^ "Switchback Brewing Co.- Unfiltered Beers Handcrafted in Burlington, Vermont - Switchback Brewing Co".
  54. ^ "Switchback Brewing Company". The Brew Enthusiast. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  55. ^ Hibbs, Brittney. ""What's on Tap?" At Switchback Brewing". myChamplainValley. Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  56. ^ Bullard, Gina. "Merging beer and yoga at Stretch and Sip". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  57. ^ Staudter, Kurt (2014). Vermont Beer: History of a Brewing Revolution (1 ed.). History Press. p. 94.

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