By Dirk Van Susteren
A sampling of the empty beer bottles, some considered artifacts, on display at Harpoon Brewery’s Tap and Beer Garden in Windsor. At center, is a bottle of Catamount from Vermont’s first craft-beer brewery that opened in 1987 in White River Junction.
By Kit Norton/VTDigger
Vermont loves its beer.
The state leads the nation with 11½ breweries per 100,00 adults who are 21 years old or older. Producers in Vermont make 151.2 pints of beer for each legal drinking age person in the state, according to new data from the Brewers Association.
Vermont was the clear leader for breweries-to-adult ratio. Montana and Maine tied for second with 9.6 breweries per 100,000 legal drinking age individuals. Oregon followed with 8.5 breweries and Colorado ranked fifth with 8.4 breweries per 100,000 adults 21 or older.
Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, said craft breweries are a growing industry across the country, and that most people live within a short distance from a brewery, but Vermont’s brewing explosion is beyond compare.
“There are breweries everywhere in the United States – 85 percent of adults 21 or older live within 10 miles of a brewery,” Watson said. “So for a state to have the density of breweries that Vermont has is truly an achievement.”
The data also shows the economic impact craft breweries have on the state and the communities they are located in.
Craft breweries in Vermont are responsible for adding $681 per person of legal drinking age to the state economy. Vermont’s beer industry impact ranked second nationwide, coming in behind Colorado where the sector generated $764 per person.
“It’s certainly an important industry for the state,” Watson said, noting that part of the success comes from how well regarded Vermont beer is outside the state. “Many of the businesses are small, but they are working together to create an economic impact on the state.”
But while Vermont is the clear leader in craft breweries it is also a leader in alcohol consumption.
The Healthy People 2020 government initiative has set the target for alcohol consumption per capita at 2.1 gallons or less per year.
But the most recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found the national per capita annual alcohol consumption exceeded this goal for most states. Vermont placed in the top 10 for highest alcohol consumption per capita in the study, which ranks consumption based on alcohol sales data. Vermont ranked sixth highest for alcohol consumption in the country, consuming a total of 3.08 gallons of alcohol per capita in 2016. This includes 1.56 gallons of beer, 0.79 gallons of wine, and 0.73 gallons of spirits per capita.
New Hampshire had the highest alcohol consumption rate at 4.76 gallons per capita in 2016. New Hampshire, Montana and North Dakota were the only states to consume more gallons of beer per capita than Vermont.
Cindy Seivwright, director of the Vermont Department of Health’s division of Alcohol and Drug Prevention, said alcohol use increased from 2016 to 2017 and that it is concerning to public health officials.
“A lot of the focus has been on opioids, but we can’t forget about alcohol,” Seivwright said. “We are seeing the number of people going into treatment for alcohol going down, but amount of people drinking alcohol is going up, so the problem might be increasing and we are concerned about that.”
Craft breweries have steadily increased across the country in the last 10 years, from 1,500 in 2007 to over 6,600 in mid 2018, according to the data.
Watson said the number of breweries has continued to go up in Vermont in the last three years as well, but that as the leader in the nation, it may soon “hit that saturation level.”