There’s one question that I’ve recently asked myself: What is Vermont beer?
Some beer philosophers might point to the physical location of the brewery. Other die-hard beer enthusiasts might also include the origin of the grains and hops. As one of those Vermont beer enthusiasts, I’ve used the simple definition of where the beer is brewed.
Problem #1: Headquarters outside of VT, Partially brewed in VT
That simple definition becomes somewhat complicated when larger brewers have multiple breweries in other states. For instance, Harpoon has a brewery in Windsor, Vermont and Boston, Massachusetts. Harpoon is headquarters in Massachusetts, so it’s a Massachusetts brewer that brews some beer in Vermont. Does Harpoon count as Vermont beer?
Problem #2: Parent headquarters outside of VT, Brewed in VT
Magic Hat’s parent company is North American Breweries (based in Rochester, New York) and ultimate parent company is Florida Ice & Farm Company which is headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica. If Harpoon counts as a Massachusetts brewery due to headquarters location, then what about Magic Hat whose origins started in Burlington and later moved to South Burlington before being purchased by another company. Does Magic Hat count as Vermont beer?
Problem #3: Company headquarters in VT, Brewed Elsewhere
Contract brewing is when one company brews and bottles the beer (sometimes called producer-brewer) for another brewing company. An example is the Alchemist’s Celia Saison. The Alchemist contracted with Ipswich Brewery in Massachusetts to brew and bottle their gluten-free saison because they did not have a bottling operation. Eventually, the Alchemist gave the rights to Ipswich and now they brew it under their own name. There’s no doubt that the Alchemist (Brewpub at the time) is a Vermont brewery, who contracted out a non-flagship beer to be brewed.
However, what if a Vermont brewery has only 1 beer and that one flagship beer is brewed and bottled out of state? Covered Bridge Craft Brewery is currently using Paper City Brewery (Holyoke, MA) to brew and bottle their flagship beer Lucky Me. In addition to contract brewing the flagship beer, Covered Bridge also has a 1/2 barrel brewing system in their tasting room. Since the majority of their brewing (including their flagship beer) is not done in Vermont, I wouldn’t consider this a Vermont beer, even though their tasting room and headquarters is located in Vermont. Hopefully, they have been saving up to expand their in-house brewing operations so one day they can brew all of their beer at their brewery. Does Covered Bridge Craft Brewery count as Vermont beer?
Problem #4: Parent headquarters outside of VT, Company headquarters in VT, Brewed Elsewhere
This problem is a recent problem with introduction of Alchemy & Science, headquarters in Burlington. Alchemy & Science is an “independently operated” subsidiary of the Boston Beer Company (maker of Sam Adams and Angry Orchard Cider). A&S is led by two former executives of South Burlington’s Magic Hat Brewing Company. Alan Newman is the founder of Alchemy & Science and is well known within Vermont. He is one of the original founders of Magic Hat and ran the brewery from 1984 to 2011. Stacey Steinmetz is the Director of Marketing for Alchemy & Science. During her years at Magic Hat, she worked in marketing from 1994 to 2011 and left the company as the Director of Marketing (Supreme Dreamer and Schemer).
The goal of Alchemy & Science is to buy, create, and incubate new breweries for Boston Beer Company. Alan Newman was hired by Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company and given the freedom to do what he pleases. In the first year (2013), Boston Beer Company projected spending $3 to $5 million on the Alchemy & Science subsidiary. The Boston Business Journal reported that they will increase to as much as $9 million for the 2014.
Currently, Alchemy & Science has acquired five brands or breweries including Angel City Brewery, The Just Beer Project, Traveler Beer Company, Concrete Beach Brewery, and Coney Island beer.
- Angel City Brewery is a brewery located in Los Angeles, California.
- The Just Beer Project and Traveler Beer Company are brewed at Boston Beer Company breweries in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
- Concrete Beach Brewery is currently under construction in Miami, Florida and scheduled to open in early 2014.
- Coney Island beer was originally created by Shmaltz Brewing and was purchased by Alchemy & Science. Alan Newman has mentioned that he wants to build a physical brewery for Coney Island beer somewhere in the Coney Island region.
Alan and Stacey both live in the Burlington area, so the Alchemy & Science company headquarters is located in Burlington. This means that Traveler Beer Company and Just Beer Project brands are technically Vermont brands of a Vermont based company. The beer is brewed at the Boston Beer Company’s breweries located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states (which does not include Vermont). However, the brands, names, and press releases are labeled as a Burlington, Vermont company since this is the headquarters location. A quick reading on the bottle labels indicate where the beer is brewed.
So if Just Beer Project and Traveler Beer Company beer are brewed at Boston Beer Company breweries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, should those brands be excluded as Vermont beer even though the company headquarters are in Burlington?
For the purpose of VTbeer.org, I will continue using the qualifier that a brewery must have at least one brewery located in Vermont to be listed as a Vermont brewery, regardless of where it’s company, parent company, or ultimate parent company’s headquarters are located. This allows for inclusion of Magic Hat and Harpoon, but excludes the Alchemy & Science brands and breweries.
1. Harpoon Brewery – multi-state brewing company including VT, headquarters in MA
2. Magic Hat – subsidiary of North American Breweries, multi-state brewing company including VT, headquarters in Costa Rica
3. Covered Bridge – majority of beer contract brewed and bottled outside of Vermont, with smaller portion brewed at their brewery
4. Alchemy & Science – subsidiary of Boston Beer Company, multi-state brewing company, not brewed in VT, headquarters in MA