Some folks, indeed some states, take their names and the provenance of products using them very seriously. So when some Vermonters caught wind that a Calif brewery marketed a “Vermont Farmhouse Ale” and other brewers bill beers as “Vermont IPAs,” they called foul. Using the state’s name as a descriptor, without amending it as “Vermont-style,” represents “an unfair capitalization on Vermont’s brand as a leader in craft brewing,” columnist for Burlington Free Press wrote, summarizing thoughts of Shaun Hill, founder of Hill Farmstead, in-state farmhouse brewer that shot to fame a few years ago. The practice also “violates the state’s ‘Representation of Vermont Origin Rule’ that regulates and protects the word ‘Vermont’ when it appears on food products,” according to the paper. You’re familiar with these kinds of provenance protections. Most famously, you can’t call bubbly “champagne” if it doesn’t come from Champagne. But Vermont’s rule has been on the books since 2006 and “gives the state legal footing to protect the ‘Vermont’ brand and made-in-Vermont food products.” What’s more, any brewer who's applied for label approval for a Belgian-style ale and not included “style” will tell you that’s a big no-no for TTB. And that’s exactly what Shaun did.
The Free Press went to town, got comment from state AG’s office and Shaun reached out to state rep. And as happens these days, the story set corners of the interwebs aflame by the time the SFGate got a hold of the NorCal brewer responsible for the offending “Vermont Farmhouse Ale.” It’s a total non-issue, in that brewery’s view, as it was a “one-off,” never to appear again. Article shows tweets from same VT state rep and both brewers. While Vermont clearly does have a legal framework for this sort of thing, stylistic monikers in beer can be very squishy, as the Free Press notes. While some brewers specifically call out their hazy IPAs with “Vermont,” many others use “New England” and others still “Northeast.” Finding clarity could be futile.