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Gov. Peter Shumlin touts a new law that allows bars to serve sampler flights of beer, such as the one in front of him Thursday at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington. He stands alongside lawmakers and brewers who supported the change. / TERRI HALLENBECK/Free Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Jay Lafountain was fined $200 for allowing a row of beer samples to be served at his Vermont Taphouse restaurant in Williston. Now, a new law allows him to do so legally.

With the sold-out Vermont Brewers Festival on tap for this weekend and Vermont's stature in the beer world growing by the day, Gov. Peter Shumlin highlighted the new law Thursday in the beer garden of the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington.

Vermont law had made it illegal for bars and restaurants to offer sampler "flights" of beer or wine, which allow patrons to try small amounts of various flavors. Only breweries were allowed to offer flights.

"It didn't make sense," Lafountain said. "We didn't know any wrong was being done."

"It's really important to try these products side by side," said Paul Sayler, an owner of the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, who has been brewing beer in Vermont for more than two decades. "This is a good thing."

Shumlin touted Vermont's willingness to change the law as an indication of how much the state values its growing number of world-acclaimed breweries. The state of maple syrup, milk and ice cream has a new claim to fame, he noted, with 34 breweries, nine of which are new this year. RateBeer.com last year rated Hill Farmstead in Greensboro the best brewery in the world.

Shumlin conceded he was slow to pick up on the craft beer movement. He once dismissed craft brews as "Gucci beer" while declaring his own preference to be Budweiser.

"I'm learning to drink much better beer. I'm evolving," he said, though he declined to sip from the flight in front on him Thursday afternoon because he was on the job.

The governor knows a marketing moment when he sees it, though. In Vermont, the craft beer industry translates to 2,200 jobs and a new source of tourists, Shumlin said, recounting that he met four Canadians in Waterbury recently who came just for the beer.

Tourism Commissioner Meg Smith said in April tourist numbers were up 14.8 percent from the same month a year earlier, something she attributes to niche industries such as beer that are beginning to fill the less-traditional tourism months and are what's needed to help make Vermont a year-round destination.

Steve Gagner hopes his 14th Star Brewing Co. will draw people to downtown St. Albans. Standing with fellow brewers who've been in the business for decades, he said he plans to expand the brewery this fall. He had another suggestion for tweaking Vermont law to help small brewers -- allowing them to self-distribute their beer.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Beer flights cleared for takeoff in Vermont

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