Editorial: Hoppy Daze In Vermont

Yes! Yes! Yes! We’re barely able to restrain ourselves from doubling up on the exclamation points.

What could possibly prompt this uncharacteristically exuberant burst of editorial optimism — or, more accurately, this exuberant burst of uncharacteristic editorial optimism? It’s heady news on the beer front: Vermont is making itself a name as the home of not just respectable suds, but of some of the world’s best. It’s enough to make your chest swell with pride — to be deflated, perhaps, by a polite but somewhat aromatic burp.

First came news that Heady Topper, a double IPA brewed by The Alchemist in Waterbury, had achieved the No. 1 ranking on the widely read BeerAdvocate website — that’s No. 1 among the hundreds of brews tasted by the Very Serious Beer Drinkers who are the site’s visitors. More recently, The Associated Press reported that Hill Farmstead Brewery of Greensboro earned honors as the world’s best brewer on RateBeer, yet another web hangout for aficionados.

Granted, such rankings are debatable. Still, when a state as small as Vermont is identified as the home of both the world’s best beer and the world’s best brewer, it’s time to take notice. (Watch out, Belgium.) And as good as those beverages may be, there’s some serious competition from other craft brewers, including Lawson’s and Trapp Family. And then there are the larger bottlers — Long Trail, Otter Creek and Magic Hat among others — that pump out perfectly delicious and much easier to obtain beer. The same Associated Press story that reported Hill’s achievement on RateBeer also noted that the state has the highest saturation of brew businesses in the country, with a per capita rate of one brewery for every 25,030 people. Consider ourselves pleasantly saturated.

Being in an uncharacteristically positive mood, we’re here to declare that the state’s newfound status is good for the world and, more importantly, good for Vermont.

It’s easy enough to grasp the more universal impact: There’s no such thing as too many good beers or, for that matter, great beers. It was not all that long ago, let’s remember, that drinking a Heineken was regarded as an exotic adventure. As our colleague Chris Fleisher noted in a recent “On Tap” beer column, it is now possible to saunter into just about any convenience store in the Upper Valley and encounter a very respectable selection of craft beers.

For Vermont, the advantage of being recognized as a beer superpower extends beyond its salubrious effect on tourism. Consider the foods the state is now most closely associated with: cheese, maple syrup, ice cream, and craft beer (yes, we group beer in with the essential elements of a healthful diet). That’s fat, sugar, sugary fat, and alcohol — a fairly impressive smorgasbord of vices.

Forget the “Eat More Kale” bumperstickers; the state knows how to indulge. For a place once associated with Puritanism, Calvin Coolidge, parsimony and, more recently, an unattractive propensity for sanctimony, there’s much to be said for knowing how to capitalize on people’s cravings. It shows an impressive range. We raise our glass and salute Vermont, by way of both congratulations and appreciation.