It’s about more than the drink
Upper Valley Business Alliance executive director
Both New Hampshire and Vermont have seen an explosion in the last few years of small breweries, wineries and distillers popping up. Besides crafting tasty new beverages, these businesses are having a big impact on both states’ economies and on the towns where they are located.
Although most of these businesses are small, typically with fewer than five employees, they are having big financial impact. According to the National Brewers Association, the craft brewing industry contributed $76.3 Billion to the U.S. economy in 2021 and more than 490,000 jobs across the country. In 2021, craft breweries contributed a whopping $456.5 million in New Hampshire and $407.6 million in Vermont.
In fact, Vermont ranked number one of all states in output per capita at $820.84. Currently, New Hampshire has 98 registered breweries and Vermont follows closely with 74 registered breweries.
However, beer is not the only choice if you enjoy locally crafted alcoholic drinks. The number of wineries and distilleries are growing in both states as well. The N.H. Winery Association lists 21 wineries and the Vermont Grape & Wine Council names 30 wineries in the state. Many use a variety of fruits to create wine, from growing grapes to using other fruits such as apples, pears or stone fruits.
If patrons prefer a drink that’s a bit stronger or a mixed cocktail, they can try a New Hampshire or Vermont bourbon, gin or vodka from one of New Hampshire’s 10 distilleries or Vermont’s 20 registered distilleries.
And we haven’t begun to count meaderies or cideries.
Without a doubt, the numbers of these of businesses and their popularity show that New Englanders like their alcoholic beverages and even better if made locally. However these businesses are also credited with helping our towns and local economies. In fact, for many towns where a new brew pub or winery has opened, significant economic development has followed.
In an interview with BrewView, an online publication dedicated to craft alcohol, Vermont Commissioner of Economic Development Joan Goldstein explained the link. “In terms of tourism, it’s brilliant! People come to Vermont just to visit breweries and to taste amazing beer! Many breweries also occupy spaces that were otherwise vacant, which brings vibrancy in a village center or in a downtown. … Local breweries and distilleries create jobs and help revitalize their local economy.”
As with any industry, making local alcohol trickles into supporting many other related businesses. Many craft beer, wine and spirits makers start in their homes. Often their journey to selling their beverages begins at farmer’s markets. Sourcing their ingredients locally helps to support other local producers, including fruit growers for wine, for example.
When producers decide to take the leap to scaling up their operations, they need real estate and enough square footage to accommodate the large tanks or vats necessary to make several gallons at a time. This often leads to redevelopment of older commercial properties. Finding space large enough and at affordable rent has often seen these businesses locating in older buildings, usually in areas with cheaper rents and fixing the buildings up. For a municipality, it’s an opportunity to begin revitalizing an area that may have fallen into disrepair or to build on the vibe coming from the new business, attracting younger people, interesting new businesses and artists.
If you open to the public and serve alcohol, then you need food. This often results in collaborations with food producers or restaurants or food trucks. Sometimes a brewery serves their own food, such as Lebanon’s BrightSide Brewery or the Norwich Inn’s Jasper Murdock Alehouse. Others, such as Able Ebenezer Brewing located in an industrial park in Merrimack, N.H., have menus from local restaurants available for patrons to order food to be delivered there.
We all remember the television show “Cheers,” where as the theme song went “everybody knows your name.” These businesses often become our “third place,” a term first defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book entitled “The Great Good Place,” where he defines the Third Place as a place where people spend their time aside from the first place (home) and second place (work). A social destination that attracts people to gather, to converse, to eat and to drink. These businesses contribute to a community’s vibrancy by becoming a place to gather and for social interaction. And in their travels to this destination, people often visit nearby businesses — buying food, a gift, running an errand, getting gas for the car — and spending money that supports numerous other local businesses.
In some cases, the brewery, winery or distillery becomes its own event center, hosting events such as weddings, reunions and corporate gatherings. This in turn often leads to support for ancillary businesses, such as photographers, caterers, florists, musicians and event coordinators, among others.
SILO Distillery in Windsor is a great example with its upstairs room that can be rented for bridal showers and other events.
Tourism is an important industry in both Vermont and New Hampshire. The outdoor economy of both states attracts visitors from all over. But what to do when the weather is not great? Our local breweries, wineries and distilleries are having an impact here as well by providing places to gather, tours to see how they make their products and, of course, for tastings.
Visit the state tourism websites of either Vermont or New Hampshire, and you find food and drink tours outlined. In the Upper Valley, we created our own “trail” of Upper Valley Adventures: Find it at tinyurl.com/UpperValleyAdventures.
Whatever your preference in drink, making it a locally produced beer, wine, or liquor keeps the purchasing dollars circulating in the Upper Valley and supports many businesses, all in one sip. Cheers!