By Maura Adams
James Fallows of The Atlantic and his wife, Deborah, have traveled over 54,000 miles in a single-engine prop plane to explore life in small cities and towns across the United States. In 2016, they published a list of eleven signs that a city will succeed, like strong “local patriots” and exemplary public-private partnerships. And then there’s this: “One final marker, perhaps the most reliable: A city on the way back will have one or more craft breweries… You may think I’m joking, but just try to find an exception.
If craft breweries are a clear sign of community revitalization – and we believe they are! – then things are looking bright for the Northern Forest. We’ve counted at least 50 craft breweries in the region, from Boots Brewing in Watertown, NY, on one end of the Northern Forest to Northern Maine Brewing in Caribou, Maine, on the other.
A recent Mainebiz article points out that rural brewers play a special role in small communities, creating gathering places for multiple generations. Tim Clough, owner of Iron Furnace Brewing in Franconia, NH, says “Everyone likes to have a place to call their own. We embrace our local community and want them to feel that they are part of our journey. When they have family and friends in town we want them to be able to ‘show off’ their local taproom.” Pride in place is essential for community-building, and local institutions like breweries help create that pride.
The Center is connecting with breweries in a variety of ways – beyond just enjoying the product.
- Maine: Recently we awarded Turning Page Farm Brewery in Monson a Tourism Innovation Program grant to help develop as an agritourism destination, capitalizing on and contributing to community revitalization efforts in the Moosehead Lake area.
- New Hampshire: We’ve held several community gatherings at the new Copper Pig Brewery in Lancaster, partnered with Iron Furnace Brewing in Franconia on a Bike Borderlands event, and participated in a Rec After Hours event at Rek’-lis Brewing in Bethlehem.
- New York: Tupper Lake’s Raquette River Brewing hosted a recent Center board meeting dinner.
- Vermont: We’re encouraging visitors to the Northeast Kingdom to “Drink Beer NEKed” – that is, tour at least three of the Kingdom’s five breweries to earn Get NEKed swag. The Center facilitates the new “Get NEKed” regional marketing campaign. We’re also big fans of the Kingdom Taproom in St. Johnsbury and Parker Pie in West Glover, both of which feature many local beers on tap.
Our community revitalization programming is built on the premise that Northern Forest towns need to attract and retain more (youngish) people and entrepreneurs in order to thrive. Craft breweries signal investment and confidence in their host communities. The Jim Fallows’ article, he notes “A town that has craft breweries also has a certain kind of entrepreneur, and a critical mass of mainly young (except for me) customers.” The breweries both attract and help create that critical mass by becoming a destination for new visitors.
Tim Clough of Iron Furnace Brewing says, “I always have a smile on my face when I see a truck pull in with bikes hanging off the back and a group of muddy riders looking for a beer and a place to tell stories of the day’s ride.”
To explore more Northern Forest breweries, check out this interactive Brewery Finder map. Let us know what you find, and which regional beers you like best!