This fall, the Vermont Brewers Association (VBA) gathered together with over 80 brewery representatives from more than 30 breweries, as well as a handful of sponsors and partners, at the Trapp Family Lodge in the brand new beautiful von Trapp Bierhall for their 2016 annual meeting.
Vermont remains one of the most developed craft states in the country, consistently claiming the highest rate of breweries per capita, year after year.
The VBA was founded in 1995, turning 21 this year! The VBA is currently piloted by president, Sean Lawson, founder of Lawson’s Finest Liquids, with support from a board of 8 other brewery owners and two staffers. Melissa Corbin is the VBA’s very first full time executive director and Amy Cronin was recently hired as the VBA’s festival and marketing manager. VBA has 50 brewery members and 70 active TTB licensed breweries.
Yours truly keynoted the conference, showcasing some of BA’s newly released resources. Additionally, I spoke to VBA’s progress, as my last visit to the VBA was in 2013, there has been momentous evolution within the organization. Comparing the results of the 2016 guilds benchmark survey with VBA’s organizational activities, I highlighted specific efforts and advancement over the last few years by demonstrating where the organization stands on the spectrum of the nation’s state brewers guilds’ general best practices. I commend the VBA on the significant progress that has been made, and also shared numerous potential opportunities where the VBA can further elevate their cause.
The VBA currently holds one of the nation’s most successful Brewery Passport programs, and hopes to make it a mobile-friendly platform in the future. In 2016, VBA had 976 passports redeemed from 44 states and three countries. VBA is also working up a new tagline to properly match the association’s mission.
Planning has begun for the VBA’s biggest fundraiser, their 2017 Vermont Brewers Festival. Mark your calendars for a fun-filled summer festival on July 21 and 22 in Burlington.
Vermont is a control state, and the Vermont Department of Liquor Control is the state department responsible for retail operations of spirits through contracted agents, licensing and enforcement. The last legislative session was extremely challenging and busy for the VBA. A omnibus bill (S 250), passing last year, included a mandate for a review of Deptartment of Liquor Control’s Title 7, which is the Vermont Code that covers the most significant aspects of alcohol beverage regulation.
VBA’s legislative committee is preparing their proposed changes and are hopeful that modernization of the state’s outdated laws is on the horizon.
Vermont is well known as a community that fiercely supports small businesses. Consumers are champions for locally-sourced, locally-produced, Vermont-made products, which has clearly translated to immense support for small local breweries. Not only are state residents Vermont Beer champions, but beer tourism draws in over a million tourists each year according to a recently commissioned economic impact report. As the state’s beer scene continues to grow and advance, breweries are saving towns that have long-ago fallen to economic downturn. The Vermont Brewers Association is a dedicated trade association successfully protecting and promoting Vermont’s brewery businesses.