As many of you know, Vermont is my home state, and as is the case with virtually every business in Vermont, they like to keep business small and private. This wasn't always the case in New England businesses - Green Mountain Coffee Roasters went public not that long ago, and Sam Adams went public as the Boston Beer Company. It would not be surprising at all if the revolution in hard apple cider brewing went public in the form of the Vermont Cider Company, or better known as Woodchuck. This week, I'll discuss why Woodchuck is a #CIWWGP - Company I Wish Would Go Public.
Woodchuck Cider has been around for nearly 25 years and I really only discovered how much I liked it in the past few years. The company's cidery in Middlebury, VT is now open to the public with free tastings and tours, and I make it a point to visit the cidery again every time I'm home. Carsten and I always bring 1-2 empty growlers to the cidery which we will have refilled with the latest and greatest flavors from the tap. It's amazing how a basic apple cider base can be manipulated to include hundreds of equally awesome flavors. This is an example of some of the flavors and tasting samples you can get at the brewery (see photo below). My absolute favorite (though unfortunately is just a limited edition) is the Oopsy Daisy Cider made with chamomile.
Back in 1991 in Proctorsville, Vermont along the Black River, in a two-car garage, a wine maker by the name of Greg Failing begins an experiment with apples. Woodchuck Amber was the result and it would go on to reinvent a centuries old beverage which had vanished from the American conscious in the wake of Prohibition. The first bottles were filled on a 1940’s soda filler. It only filled 10-ounces, so the last two ounces of every bottle were topped off by hand with a turkey baster. The filler constantly broke down and parts were hard to come by. It took that resilient Vermont spirit to carry on, and carry on they did!
By the next year, Woodchuck wanted to expand beyond the borders of the Northeast, but shipping costs, especially for kegs were quite high. One day a UPS van driver dropped off a package that was roughly the size of a keg. So…eight kegs were sent to a wholesaler in Michigan. The kegs had UPS return slips attached. Management was convinced they would never see the kegs again, but about a month later, a UPS van pulled up and returned all eight empty kegs! So they tried 16 kegs next. They all came back. They kept going, trying 50 kegs at a time. Before they knew it, a UPS tractor trailer full of kegs pulled up to their back door! UPS corporate finally cut us off, but they had built enough business to drive down our shipping costs and ship kegs in a more traditional fashion. But thanks to UPS, Woodchuck grew outside the borders of New England.
Today, the company is one of the most recognizable in the Northeast and is on track to be one of the most dominant forces in the alcoholic beverage sector. Below is a clip of the company's roots and what they stand for today! Enjoy! Cheers!
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