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Fizz and Flood Relief: Lawson’s Finest Leads Brewery Collaboration

Crisp, fresh, and flavorful. With extra points for supporting a great cause. That’s how fans might describe the special beer that came off the brewery canning line at Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield earlier this month.

The new brew, called Vermont Strong Pale Ale, was crafted to help Vermont communities where homes, farms, and businesses were swamped by catastrophic flooding this summer. It’s also part of a team effort, led by Lawson’s, through which Vermont breweries are collaborating on flood relief.   

A portion of sales proceeds from Lawson’s Vermont Strong Pale Ale will support the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund 2023 at the Vermont Community Foundation. Additionally, each one of the colorful cans has a QR code that makes it easy for people to sip, scan, and give directly to the Flood Fund.

Meanwhile, Lawson’s is sharing the recipe for Vermont Strong Pale Ale with other breweries that want to raise funds for Vermont flood relief or encouraging them to create their own recipe for the benefit beer. More than a dozen brewers and brewing companies have signed onto the collaboration so far.     

Lawson’s, which started in a backyard brew shed and now employs almost 90 people with a state-of-the-art brewery, a spacious taproom, and beer distribution to nine states, crafted Vermont Strong Pale Ale as part of its Social Impact Program, which has donated more than $2 million to worthwhile causes and community-building efforts since 2018.   

Kelly Putnam, director of people and purpose at Lawson’s, explained how the new beer came into being.     

“When we looked at the flood devastation and saw an opportunity to make an impact, this project seemed like a great chance for us to do our part and also activate others to jump in and join us and have a tangible way that they could give back,” Putnam said.  

Lawson’s has produced cans of Vermont Strong Pale Ale in addition to kegs of the beer. It’s available now in stores and by the glass at Lawson’s taproom in Waitsfield, a popular spot for locals, leaf peepers, skiers, and “beer tourists” who trek from one Vermont brewery to the next. The store at the taproom also sells the benefit beer by the four-pack.

Waitsfield and the Mad River Valley were largely spared from the devastating impact of the floods this summer. But the community, which was slammed by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, knew from experience how challenging recovery could be. So as soon as the rain clouds cleared this summer, Lawson’s joined efforts to help hard-hit Vermont towns and cities.  

“One of our earliest projects was getting over 550 gallons a day of fresh drinking water out to the communities that were on boil notice or just didn’t have access to clean drinking water,” Putnam said. The Lawson’s team “got together, got on our trucks. We went over to Montpelier, and Barre, and Marshfield and really tried to hit different parts of the state to get those resources to those who needed them most.”

The rivers of mud, wrecked homes, swamped farms, and other scenes of devastation were sobering. “It was incredible to see what had happened and it just motivated us even more to find ways to give back,” Putnam said.