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Vermont's a tiny state with a population of 626,000 that's only slightly larger than the city of Boston. Its brewing culture, however, is enormous.
This isn't about Vermont's output. The Craft Brewers Alliance alone produced more beer than Vermont did last year. It's about the state's love of beer and its access to it.
Vermonters drink the sixth-largest amount of beer per capita in the United States and have plenty of great options to choose from. Meanwhile, each of Vermont's 21 breweries serve a crowd smaller than the capacity of Fenway Park and give the Green Mountain state the best capita per brewery in America.
Despite NAB's purchase of Magic Hat last year, Burlington still embraces Magic Hat as one of its own and puts out nearly 160,000 barrels of it.
Windsor's Harpoon, meanwhile, produced 150,000 barrels last year between its cozy brewery in the mountains and its slightly more industrial home along Boston Harbor. Bridgewater's Long Trail Brewing is still all Vermont and produced 117,000 barrels in the state last year. Otter Creek, Rock Art and other Vermont breweries bolster the numbers a bit, but when you're pouring for such a small crowd, even out-of-state skiers and leaf peepers don't drain too much out of the keg.
"One common trait in the Top 5 states that have the fewest capita per brewery is that self-distribution is allowed under the laws of the state," Gatza says. "It is easier to open a microbrewery when you can go to retailers on your own to build sales of your beers up to a level that carrying your brands become attractive to a beer distributor."