Craft breweries are exploring a variety of ways to get into the growing ready to drink (RTD) / canned cocktail / non-beer space. According to Nielsen stats, sales of spirits-based RTDs continue to grow, representing $800M in sales in 2021. The Beer Guy, distribution arm of revered Vermont brewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids, is going outside the Lawson’s brand portfolio for the first time and expanding into non-beer (for the first time) with fellow Vermonter (Vermontie? Vermontian?) Barr Hill Gin.
“I’ve always admired Barr Hill and the delicious spirits that they make with Vermont agricultural ingredients. Their commitment to community as a values-driven brand makes this a natural partnership,” said Sean Lawson, CEO and founding brewer of Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “We couldn’t be more excited that they chose The Beer Guy to distribute their tasty cocktails throughout Vermont.”
Barr Hill Gin is among the most awarded gins in the United States and #1 gin in Vermont, and its product is distilled by Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits. The Gin & Tonic from Barr Hill is its first canned cocktail — using real ingredients, including their award-winning gin, real tonic made the traditional way from cinchona tree bark, and lemongrass, fresh citrus, and Barr Hill honey.
The bar team spent two years perfecting the recipe so that their tonic would complement the botanical complexity of Barr Hill’s gin and offer a more authentic tonic than conventional tonic water.
“I’ve been a skeptic of canned cocktails for a while, but this one is special – and it must be shared,” said Ryan Christiansen, head distiller and president, Barr Hill Gin. “It comes from the visionary bartenders in our Montpelier distillery who make tonic the right way – without artificial ingredients or extracts. Real tonic is hard to find, but when made well, it’s as good as the gin.”
The result is a 9.3% ABV cocktail that is crisp, refreshing, with the ideal balance of gin botanicals, citrus and herb notes, and tonic bite, sweetened only with a touch of honey.
None of this innovation would be possible without a 2022 change in Vermont law regarding ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages. In June 2022, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed H.B. 730 into law and created a new Ready to Drink (RTD) beverage definition. As a control state, the Vermont Department of Liquor Control has historically played a direct role in the distribution and sale of spirits in the state. RTDs are now for sale in the state’s 1,000 grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations.
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