Vermont brewers optimistic for full reopening and summer season
WAITSFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont breweries and tasting rooms have not been immune to the COVID lockdowns and restrictions over the past year, but with summer coming they are looking ahead to new life.
“Things are looking up, things are looking good here in Waitsfield, even over the last week,” said Sean Lawson with Lawson’s Finest Liquids. June is here, and with Vermont on the verge of a full reopening, Lawson and other brewers are optimistic about the summer ahead. “So many smiling faces back out in the beer garden. And with the restrictions easing, we are super excited about getting the indoor space open as well.” Lawson says they were one of the lucky ones. They lost 40 to 50% of taproom sales during the pandemic, so focusing on distribution allowed them to keep from laying off any full-time staff.
“Mostly just a shift to retail sales, so mostly can beverages as opposed to keg beverages,” said Avery Schwenk, the co-owner of Hermit Thrush Brewing in Brattleboro and the president of the Vermont Brewers Association. Schwenk says they are primarily distribution-focused as well, but winter was still hard. He says what he hears from fellow brewers is that they are nervous but excited. “I would say cautious optimism -- keyword cautious. I think there are a lot of people like us at Hermit Thrush Brewery that really are concerned about safety and the health of their staff. Actually, I think all of them are.”
Being in Brattleboro, Schwenk is watching trends in other states as well. He hopes that expansion plans that got derailed in 2020 can happen this year. “I definitely get that feeling that people are excited and expecting a busy late spring and summer,” he said.
“Just being able to gather, because gathering really is a critical piece to our industry and the comradery that exists,” said Lawson. While Lawson’s preps their taproom to reopen inside, they are still asking patrons to follow state guidelines. But they are happy to be seeing smiling faces again. “We are very optimistic about this summer and we are optimistic Vermont will be very busy with visitors this summer.”
Schwenk asks that customers and visitors of breweries and taprooms this summer respect what the businesses are asking as far as guidance goes. He says the pandemic impacted everyone differently, so it is hard to get a pulse on the entire industry at once, but those that did make it through are looking forward to brighter days ahead.
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