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Vermont’s distilleries and wineries are using more local ingredients

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As the farm-to-glass movement blooms, Vermont’s cideries, distilleries, and wineries are using a growing list of local ingredients, including apples, berries, grains, milk whey, vegetables, maple sap and syrup, honey, and grapes. Unlike Vermont’s craft beer industry, Vermont’s cideries, distilleries, and wineries can source from small, but local supplies of ingredients. While Vermont’s brewing industry largely relies on out-of-state sources of hops and malt, University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program is providing early stage research support and technical assistance for in-state potential.

Despite Vermont’s small size, cideries, distilleries, wineries, and breweries are demonstrating national leadership in fast growing segments of the alcohol beverage industry: hard cider, ice cider, craft spirits, boutique wine, and craft beer.
Vermont is well-known for apple production and hard cider is an increasingly important value-added product that is winning awards and bringing more dollars by volume for the ‘second-rate’ apples being pressed into crisp bubbly drinks. Vermont apple growers who are diversifying their products can earn $135 per bushel when their apples are made into hard cider compared to $9 per bushel for non-alcoholic cider production. Vermont is now home to at least nine hard cider makers.

Vermont’s craft distilled spirits are using numerous local ingredients and gaining international recognition for superior quality. Fifteen distilleries concocting a range of spirits from vodka and gin to rye whiskey and maple liqueurs are located throughout the state.

At least 27 wineries are spread throughout Vermont, and are one of the leading agritourism income generators in the state. Wine tours, tastings, pairings, and events are popular outings for both Vermonters and tourists as well as examples of agricultural land stewardship. Snow Farm Vineyard adopted both agritourism and land conservation principles as one of Vermont’s earliest commercial vineyards, opening in 1992 with a mission “to preserve Vermont’s agricultural land in the face of rapid development by providing an alternative for farmers.”

The new Hard Cider, Spirits, and Wine section of the Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan was published in December, detailing the emerging trends and market development opportunities for Vermont’s cideries, distilleries, and wineries. The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan is Vermont’s ten year food system plan tasked with increasing economic development and jobs in Vermont’s food and farm sector and improving access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.

Since the Hops and Beer section of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan was originally published in May 2013, the number of Vermont breweries has grown from 27 to 31, with several more currently under development. Vermont now has one brewery for every 20,193 residents—more per capita than any other state—and has generated over $196 million in total economic value in 2012. This chapter was updated and republished in December.

Both chapters can be viewed on the Vermont Food Atlas—the Vermont information clearinghouse of all Vermont food and farm sector resources, including all sections of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan and the 300 member organization Farm to Plate Network responsible for implementing the plan.

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