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Beer Fans Line Up For Small Batch Offerings At Vermont Brewer's Festival

With over 30 breweries in Vermont- to say nothing of home brewers- there is craft beer being made in just about every corner of the state.

This past weekend, the Vermont Brewer’s Festivalcelebrated those beer makers, along with those visiting from New England and Quebec.

At the Burlington waterfront on Saturday, beer lovers lined up to sample a wide range of beers from Vermont’s ever-growing craft beer industry.

Now in its 22nd year, the Vermont Brewer’s Festival has become an event that draws tourists from all over New England. This year, it sold out in a record 11 minutes when tickets went on sale a few months ago. Festival goers had three sessions to choose from throughout the weekend.

Laura Streets is the festival’s director. She says tickets were capped at 2,800 per session. Many more were turned away.

“Right at 4 p.m. there were about 30,000 people who logged on to the website,” said Streets. “We just didn’t want to pack in people to where it was uncomfortable.”

Streets says one reason for the festival’s popularity is the opportunity to sample several of the Vermont beers made in smaller amounts and distributed across a small geographic area.

“They do not want to brew quantity, because they’re really artists. They’re really taking the time,” said Streets. “So these beers are highly sought after, because you cannot get them.”

"They do not want to brew quantity, because they're really artists. They're really taking the time. So these beers are highly sought after, because you cannot get them." - Laura Streets, Festival Director

Those brewers include The Alchemist- makers of Heady Topper- who served a double IPA called The Crusher, and Focal Banger, an American pale ale. Hill Farmstead Brewery based in Greensboro Bend was serving several brews as well.

But one of the longest lines was for Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Sean Lawson brews the beer in Warren. This is his seventh year at the festival.

“With all the hard work that goes into it- and it’s a lot of long hours and hard work- that’s one of the most gratifying parts. When you know people are really happy with the beer that you make,” said Lawson.

But he says in terms of sampling, he was most looking forward to trying the Canadian beers.

“Our friends and colleagues from up in Quebec and beyond are here,” said Lawson. “So I really look forward to trying the beers from breweries like Dunham, and Hopfenstark, Dieu du Ciel, Benelux.

That sentiment was echoed by festival attendee Tori Scarzello.

She, like the other ticket holders, has 15 beer tickets to spend wisely.

“We’re trying to branch out a little bit here tonight. We’re trying to try some brews from out of state,” said Scarzello. “To find things that we’ve never had before.”

And With 225 different beers on tap, the challenge isn't finding a new brew, but choosing which ones to sample.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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