By Susan Smallheer
SPRINGFIELD — People come to Vermont to hunt deer.
Now they also come to hunt beer, Gov. Peter Shumlin said last week.
Shumlin toasted Springfield’s spirit of food and drink entrepreneurship, singling out the success of Black River Produce and the new brewery in town — Trout River Brewing Co.
Shumlin was in town for the annual meeting of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., and he said Vermont’s position as a craft beer brewing center was surprising and well-deserved.
Shumlin posed for pictures with two of the three founders of Vermont Beer Shapers, the local company that bought the Trout River brand from its original owner in Lyndonville, who closed shop a year ago.
The fledgling beer magnates, Gabe Streeter and Kelen Beardsley, hope to start brewing beer by the end of the year, after a year’s worth of new business trials and tribulations. The two, friends since high school, along with their friend, Trevor Billings, who couldn’t be at the Tuesday meeting, hope to start brewing a Vermont India Pale Ale very shortly.
Shumlin said he planned to be in the woods last Saturday for the much-heralded beginning of Vermont’s rifle season.
“Now we have beer hunters,” he said.
The governor spun a convoluted tale for the dozens of people at Table 19 at the Crown Point Country Club, that people are coming from all over the United States to hunt beer in Vermont, often getting up in the early hours, driving for hours to get to a special spot in Vermont, often waiting and waiting, like a deer hunter.
The governor compared the traditions of deer hunting and how they are very similar to people who come to Vermont to snag one of the state’s signature brews — Heady Topper, Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s and others.
The beer tale delighted the crowd, and Streeter and Beardsley presented Shumlin with their first beer tap from the brewery-to-be, since they didn’t have any beer yet.
Shumlin said when he was growing up in the Putney-Westminster West area of southern Vermont, no one would have guessed that Vermont would be home to so many fine craft beers.
Black River Produce has played an important role in Vermont’s farm economy, as well as the state’s restaurants and food economy, Shumlin said.
And, cheese has played a similar role in culinary bragging rights, he said, with Vermont cheeses winning top world honors two years in a row.
“Take that, Scott Walker,” Shumlin said, referring to Wisconsin, which has long been a leading cheese-producing state.
Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., gave the crowd of business leaders an update on the group’s effort to revitalize many of the brownfield sites in Springfield. Bryant Grinder will likely be cleaned up and revitalized for a new business before Jones & Lamson Machine Tool Co., which is heavily polluted from decades of industrial use.
SRDC owns both sites, and Flint told Shumlin he hoped the demolition and cleanup of J&L would occur while Shumlin is still governor. Shumlin has already announced he will not seek a fourth term in 2016.
Flint paid tribute to the late Don Gurney, the founder of SRDC in 1992, who died last month at the age of 86.
“We miss Don tremendously, but will always strive to honor his memory in our work for our region,” Flint said.