Vermont leads the nation in breweries and beer production per capita

A sample of the empty beer bottles, some thought to be artifacts, on display at Harpoon Brewery’s Tap and Beer Garden in Windsor. In the center is a bottle of Catamount from Vermont’s first craft brewery that opened in 1987 in White River Junction. Photo by Dirk Van Susteren.

[V]ermont loves his beer.

The state leads the nation with 11.5 breweries per 100,000 adults age 21 or older. Vermont producers make 151.2 pints of beer for every person of legal drinking age in the state, according to new data from the Brewers Association.

Vermont was the undisputed leader in brews-to-adult ratio. Montana and Maine tied for second with 9.6 breweries per 100,000 people of legal drinking age. Oregon followed with 8.5 brews and Colorado ranked fifth with 8.4 brews per 100,000 adults 21 or older.

Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson said craft breweries are a growing industry across the country and most people live within walking distance of a brewery, but Vermont’s brewing explosion is incomparable.

“There are breweries all over the United States — 85% of adults 21 or older live within 10 miles of a brewery,” Watson said. “So for a state to have Vermont’s density of breweries is really quite an achievement.”

Heady Head 2

Cans of Heady Topper roll off the production line. Photo by Caleigh Cross/Stowe Reporter

The data also shows the economic impact of craft breweries on the state and the communities in which they are located.

Vermont’s craft breweries are responsible for adding $681 per person of legal drinking age to the state’s economy. Vermont’s beer industry impact ranked second nationally, 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 Vermont beer’s reputation outside the state. “A lot of companies are small, but they work together to create an economic impact on the state.”

But while Vermont is the undisputed leader in craft brewing, it’s also a leader in alcohol consumption.

The government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative has set the per capita alcohol consumption target at 2.1 gallons or less per year.

But the most recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that the national annual per capita alcohol consumption exceeded that target for most states. Vermont ranked in the top 10 for highest per capita alcohol consumption in the study, which ranks consumption based on alcohol sales data.

Vermont ranked sixth in alcohol consumption in the nation, 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 with 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 the Vermont.

Cindy Seivwright, director of the alcohol and drug prevention division of the Vermont Department of Health, said alcohol consumption increased from 2016 to 2017 and that was of concern to public health officials.

zero gravity

Zero Gravity has a brewery and bar in Burlington.

“A lot of the focus has been on opioids, but we can’t forget alcohol,” Seivwright said. “We’re seeing the number of people in treatment for alcohol going down, but the number of people drinking alcohol going up, so the problem could be increasing and that worries us.”

Craft breweries have grown steadily across the country over the past 10 years, from 1,500 in 2007 to more than 6,600 in mid-2018, the data shows.

Since 2015, the prevalence of craft breweries has increased the most in New Jersey and Kentucky, with a 43% growth, followed by Oklahoma, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Watson said the number of breweries has also continued to grow in Vermont over the past three years, but as the nation’s leader, it may soon “reach that saturation level.”

“This trend can only continue for so long,” Watson said. “Not every state enterprise can be a brewery.”

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