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Side Dishes: Anheuser-Busch Gets In The Vermont Spirit

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If the name Anheuser-Busch calls to mind merely cheap beer and rollercoasters, it may be time to revise your view. The beverage giant has agreed to start distributing Vermont Spirits' premium gold and white vodkas — made from maple sap and milk sugar, respectively — throughout New England. The rest of the country will follow.

Why did the local company sign on with the big guys? "It does streamline things for us," explains Harry Gorman, VP in charge of operations. "We wanted to improve our distribution." Another big bonus: A-B will help out with marketing. Will we see Vermont Spirits starring in Super Bowl halftime commercials? "I doubt it," Gorman says with a chuckle.

The 7-year-old distillery plans to increase production to meet the anticipated demand. "We're counting on that . . . We worked out deals with our suppliers that will sustain us through our future needs," Gorman explains.

Not all those suppliers are in the Green Mountain State. "Some of our maple sap comes from Canada; we don't discriminate in that way," Gorman says. "We used to try to only use Vermont maple sap or maple syrup, but we're needing quite a lot of it these days." The weird weather during sugaring season didn't help.

The company's future needs may include flavorful "local botanicals," though. Per president Duncan Holaday, Vermont Spirits hopes to add a Vermont-made gin to its product line. . . . Looking for something that won't put you under the table? The latest thing in brewing appears to be beer and food pairings. Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill is pouring the brews from Morrisville's Rock Art Brewery on June 28. On July 4, the Jackson House Inn and Restaurant in Woodstock is matching a patriotic, all-American dinner with craft beers. This is the place to learn what kind of brew goes with iceberg lettuce or baby back ribs. Uh, Bud? Fireworks will follow. On July 8, learn how much "Cheese Loves Beer" at the American Flatbread Burlington Hearth. All of the featured cheeses will be from Vermont and Québec. Brew guru and co-owner Paul Saylor expects the event to sell out quickly.

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