No matter what corner of the country, nor how large or small the state, having an association that has your back in the legislature, organizes insight-driven events, and generally acts in your best interest is a great advantage for craft breweries. For breweries in the Green Mountain State, that’s the Vermont Brewers Association.
While the Vermont Brewers Association oversees fewer breweries than organizations in Texas or New York, or even those in Colorado, Ohio, and North Carolina, the nearly three-decades-old organization’s sixty-three brewery members (of seventy total in the state) reap the benefits of their four-tiered approach to building up the craft beer scene in the state.
Despite its size, Vermont is ranked number one in breweries per capita, with 15.6 breweries for every 100,000 21-plus-aged residents. The small community wants to be a part of the push to help member breweries, according to the association.
Those sixty-three breweries, as well as non-members, will now also have the chance to experience the first annual Vermont Craft Brewers Conference held from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10 at the Burlington Hilton on Lake Champlain.
We chatted with Vermont Brewers Association Interim Executive Director Emma Arian about the association, its mission, some events—like the forthcoming conference—and the perks of joining.
(Above photography courtesy of the Vermont Brewers Association)
What Is the Mission of the Vermont Brewers Association?
According to the association’s website, it was founded in 1995 to “promote and strengthen the culture of craft brewing in Vermont through marketing, education, and advocacy for Vermont-made beer.”
The association boasts that the state and its citizens appreciate and respect genuine craft. It says the state “didn’t become one of the world’s most respected beer destinations overnight. It took a generation of pioneers who are revered by the state’s brewers today, and a new breed of innovators.”
What Are the Goals of the Vermont Brewers Association in 2024?
Arian explains that the association, which has a new board of directors in place, is built on a four-pillar approach as it looks forward to next year: community, education, governance, and marketing.
“We really want to build our networking events and our communication,” she says.
From that, the association is issuing bi-weekly newsletters, which it hasn’t done until now, engaging allied partners, and doing member recognition posts on social media.
“We also encourage our members to join committees to have member participation on industry issues,” she says.
Through education, Arian says they plan to partner more with allied members to develop seminars for brewery members. They hired a lobbyist for the governance pillar to work on legislature issues over the next year.
“[The lobbyist will be] working on restructuring our government and affairs committee and what we want to go into the legislative session within 2024,” Arian explains.
For marketing, Arian says they are working on revamping their website and doing more news articles and blogs.
What Are the Benefits for Vermont Brewers Association Members?
The Vermont Brewers Association has two types of memberships with different benefit perks for each.
There are allied memberships, which are businesses that align with the association’s values and want to support the craft beer community.
“Those businesses range from lawyers to hop farms to packaging companies,” Arian says. “We work with them through sponsorships and educational events to bring value to our brewery members.”
Then there are brewery members, whose benefits include marketing, a lobbyist for the legislature, and more.
“We have a passport program, which is a digital app where any beer consumer can go all around the state to any of our member breweries and get a stamp [for visiting],” Arian says. “Once they get a certain amount of stamps, they submit that, and the VBA will give them free merch for supporting our breweries.”
She adds, “We really see the benefit of that when a new brewery joins.”
According to Arian, the VBA does $15 per stamp submission and points out that one brewery that joined in August already tallied one hundred and seventy-eight stamps.
“So you can see the real value and revenue generated into those taprooms,” she says.
Other benefits, Arian says, include educational and technical events, of which they do two per year, holiday parties, and a summer festival, which she says is their biggest fundraiser of the year.
“That’s really amazing marketing for all our member breweries,” she says. “A lot of them do collaborations with each other. They do festival-only beers using their pilot systems. And since they are doing small batches, most will use local agriculture.”
The Vermont Brewers Association Events You Can’t Miss This Year
Arian highlights their first annual Vermont Craft Brewers Association event from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, which will be held for members and non-members at The Hilton on Lake Champlain.
The association expects hundreds of attendees for the two-day event, which will feature keynote speakers—notably Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson and craft beer writer Tom Acitelli—panel discussions, sensory training, and an exhibit hall for networking and to visit the dozens of booths.
Next summer, dates to be determined, is the VBA’s summer festival. Arian says it usually lands on the third weekend of July.
Additionally, through a state grant, the association will host three job fairs statewide throughout the spring, focusing on front-of-house and production staffers.
“And we’re working on having paired dinners with member breweries with restaurants and working with other fermenters in the area,” Arian says, noting classic fermented things like kimchi, pickles, and cheese will be among the foods paired at those events. “And do a fun paired dinner with a panel discussion.”
How to Join the Vermont Brewers Association
There are only a little over a handful of breweries in Vermont that aren’t part of the association.
Signing up is easy.
“All they have to do is email me at Emma@vermontbrewers.com,” Arian says.