This Place in History: Brewing in Burlington Part 1

Vermont Historical Society

BURLINGTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘ we’re in Burlington with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re on the corner of Pearl and Winooski in downtown Burlington and we’re going to talk beer. Burlington has got this great brewing history, but did you know it goes back all the way to the early 19th Century? Jeff Baker, who is a co-author of a new book on the brewing industry in Burlington, is going to talk to us about what this all means,” began Perkins.

“This spot was the site of the first Burlington brewery. Daniel Standifer opened a brewery here in circa 1800. He sold it in about 1830,” said Baker.

“Beer was definitely a different industry then. You’ve got to think about beer as a source of stored calories. Beer wasn’t really prized for its alcohol then. It was prized for vitamins and a source of energy.”

“When he built the brewery here, it’s really close to the University of Vermont, and there’s a reason for that. It’s because it had cheap calories for the students. When we think about breweries near a university now, we think about keg parties and things like that, but it was really part of the daily food system then,” explained Baker.

“And thinking about the food system, this was supported by local agriculture, as well. I’m assuming the ingredients for that beer came from the local area?” asked Perkins.

“All of the ingredients were sourced locally. In fact, the brewers would put out advertisements in the local newspaper looking for grains and hops. When the grain stocks ran out, that was it for the season and the brewery was done,” answered Baker.

“Now, I seem to remember reading in the book something about women brewing beer and that being a tradition in the 19th Century. Is there evidence of that right here in Burlington?” asked Perkins.

“That’s right. A lot of women were the brewers. It was considered a domestic task on the farm. A lot of farms had breweries. So, you see a lot of female brewers then. Now, Burlington is home to a lot of female brewers again.”

“Brewing in Burlington started to peter out in the late 19th century. Why was that?”

“In 1853, Vermont actually went dry. Prohibition hits Vermont then at the state level, much sooner than it hit at the national level. The temperance movement really moved in hard in Vermont. Productivity started going down and people were starting to look at workers drinking a little bit too much to be productive,” said Baker.

“So, there was a big temperance movement in the mid-1800s in Burlington. It gets a little ironic though, because, as people were running on the prohibition ticket, they’re throwing parties and essentially giving out beer. So, there’s a lot of corruption that happened during that time, too,” added Baker.

“Brewing kind of shut down here in about the 1870s and we didn’t see it come back really until almost the modern era, right?” asked Perkins.

“That’s right. Burlington went almost 100 years without a brewery. The first brewery to come back to Burlington was Vermont Pub and Brewery and that opened in 1988,” answered Baker.

Stick around for Part 2 next week!

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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