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Brew-Ha-Ha On Route 7

Local Matters


Published August 11, 2005 at 2:26 a.m.

It's a sign of the times when a passing reference to heaven and beer foments righteous indignation from the self-appointed arbiters of decency. Recently, the Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington began fielding complaints from drivers on Shelburne Road who don't appreciate the brewery's sense of humor about construction delays on Route 7.

Like other local businesses trying to make the best of a bad situation, Magic Hat erected a temporary sign last month directing motorists to their place of business. It reads: "Life not heaven on Route 7? Beer here now." The company logo and an arrow point motorists to the brewery on Bartlett Bay Road. Reportedly, Magic Hat's walk-in traffic had tanked after construction crews took down road signs and tourism markers. Magic Hat's temporary sign was cleared beforehand by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which is overseeing the $32 million road-widening project.

Nevertheless, some people are reading more into the sign than what was originally intended.

According to Magic Hat's marketing department, one woman complained that it "sent the wrong message" to her daughter because it teaches children that drinking alcohol can solve their problems. Another warned that "God would be very unhappy" with Magic Hat employees. Yet another complained that the sign promotes drunk driving, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Chrysanna Williams, who manages Magic Hat's "Artifactory," can't understand why the message - which also appears underneath some Magic Hat bottle caps - rubs some folks the wrong way. "We're not really sure why," she admits. "It usually goes back to God somehow."

But after one man complained to Williams that he was "personally offended" by the sign, she pointed out to him the text of the Sirloin Saloon's sign. "I said, 'Well, as a vegetarian, I'm personally offended by "Brake for steak," but it is their right,'" she says. "They are a steakhouse. And we make beer."