Take your craft brewing hobby to the next level

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BENNINGTON >> The Bennington County Industrial Corporation and the Vermont Small Business Development Council are teaming up to present a seminar for people who are interested in opening their own breweries or distilleries.

The "Start your Own Brewery and Distillery Seminar" will take place on Jan. 28 at the Tap House at Catamount Glass, on County Street in Bennington, from 4 to 6 p.m. Bennington County Counselor Brian DeClue and Craft Beverage Specialist Charlie Ininger from SBDC will give a presentation, which will be followed by a question and answer session with DeClue and Ininger, along with local brewers and distillers, Chris Mayne of Northshire Brewery, Ken Lorenz of Spirits of Old Bennington, and Will Gardner of Madison Brewing Company. The event is free and open to the public.

"This is a very timely seminar as we are seeing significant momentum in the beer and spirits space in Bennington County," said BCIC Executive Director Peter Odierna, "We had a very successful Home Brewers Competition this summer and that has afforded us a great list of local home brewers. A number of those brewers are now looking at taking their hobby to the next level and open a local brewery to capitalize on the growing popularity of craft beverages."

Odierna praised Ininger, noting, "Charlie has helped dozens of breweries get started around the state."

Gardner said he hopes to help others follow the path that led him to Madison's. "I started out as a homebrewer," he said, "I entered a competition, did well, and that got me a job in the brewing industry."

Gardner said the realities of that industry often don't match homebrewers' perceptions, and that he hopes to give them information that will help them if they decide to open their own breweries.

"When you brew at home, things are smaller and more contained. It's not simply a matter of upscaling a recipe," he said, noting that quality control and logistics are much more complicated on larger batches. "Because of the volume involved, it's not really an option to dump a batch because it ends up not meeting your standards, where at home, you can do that," he said.

This is a continuation of a series of BCIC and SBDC events designed to foster a craft brew market in Bennington, which many see as having the same potential as northern Vermont, in terms of turning their breweries and distilleries into tourist draws. Last summer, the Craft of Beer Homebrew Competition at Four Corners North drew 1,000 people and 50 brewers. The top three winners were given the opportunity to have their beers featured at Madison's. Odierna said that five to six of the brewers who participated in the competition were still in conversations with the BDIC about opening breweries. Gardner, one of the event's organizers, said there will be a second annual Craft of Beer festival this summer, as well as a spring event that is still being planned, but will have a smaller, more interactive vibe.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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