While maple syrup may reign supreme as commodity king in Vermont, craft beer has rather quickly established itself, too, as state royalty. And the Vermont Brewers Festival is its annual Jubilee. More than 40 brewers set up stands-- and more importantly taps-- to have beer lovers test their latest creations on Burlington's waterfront.
Festival organizers say the location is as important as the beers themselves.
"A lot of the event is the waterfront. Without the waterfront you can have beer anywhere, but that's what makes it special," said Laura Streets, the festival organizer.
It's why they say as this festival continues to grow, it wants to stay here, though they say there is potential it could expand to a fourth session.
"It will be a topic of conversation. It has come up in the past. It has been voted down until now, but every year is a new year," Streets said.
Sure, there are the staples like Magic Hat, but these small up-and-coming brewers say the festival acts as a springboard to creating a fan base.
Steve Gagner's 14th Star Brewing Co. is case in point. The name is pure Vermont-- you have to go into the Channel 3 News archives to understand. It's based on a yearlong special WCAX did called "1st Republic, 14th Star," celebrating Vermont's 200th anniversary.
Based in St. Albans, Gagner and two others call themselves Vermont's veteran brewers. Yes, they've been making beer for years at home, but Gagner and his business partner are also both active duty military.
"Founded shortly after we came back from Afghanistan in 2010," Gagner said.
They made their debut at last year's festival.
"Coming here first before anyone had ever heard of us-- we got a lot of traffic because no one had ever tried our beer before, so they had to check it out," Gagner said.
And now, one year later, they say business is booming.
"We actually started out at about two barrels a month of production. And now, we're currently a little over 30 barrels a month production and we're about to double that again," Gagner said.
They can't keep up with local demand and the same is true of most Vermont breweries. Plus, Vermont's beer reputation means people beyond the borders are begging for bottles and cans. So, new legislation now allows Vermont breweries to ship their beers both in the state and out of it.
Vermont's governor says it's the way to help what started with just a small handful of breweries and barns in backyards across the Green Mountains-- to now more than 40 of them.
"As you know, Vermont now has the best breweries in the world. We're growing jobs and economic opportunities and I want to do everything I can to support our growing breweries," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
But don't expect to see the governor under these beer tents. Back in January he gawked at the idea of drinking "Gucci beers" as he calls them. He prefers Bud.
If there's one beer at the festival that could change his mind it might be this one-- 14th Star maple beer. The marriage of two of Vermont's top commodities-- maple syrup and artisan beer. Consider it Vermont's royal baby.
With things like Men's Journal calling Vermont the Napa Valley of beer, its reputation is making demand skyrocket even more, beyond the borders of the Green Mountain State. So, a new law just passed allows breweries to ship their beers both in the state and out. They say it's great for the growth of the industry. It's also a way to avoid having to brave temps in the high 90s to get a taste of your favorite brew; now you can just have it shipped to your house, never having to leave the couch.
Friday, April 18 2014 10:13 PM EDT2014-04-19 02:13:23 GMT
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