For the Love of Beer - An Interview with Vermont Brewers Association's Executive Director Melissa CorbinApr 26, 2021 12:00PM ● By Kristie L Smith Nikitin
Do you like beer? It’s asked in any number of social settings—parties, blind dates. If one is really lucky, they answer this question in a job interview. When asked if she likes beer, Melissa Corbin, executive director of the Vermont Brewers Association (VBA), replied “I have learned so much about this craft in the five years I have been in this role.” She continued, “There are so many different styles to experience, history to absorb, and recipe variations that produce an ever-changing, always-inspiring experience. So yes, I love beer.” But, mostly, she says, “I love the people that create the experience I have when I drink their beer.” If that quote doesn’t scream passion for the fermented, brewed, malty goodness thirst quencher, nothing does.
Must LOVE Beer
Melissa is in the business of supporting the brewmasters across the state by whatever means possible. Prior to joining VBA, she had quite an extensive career in the nonprofit arena, and she recently published her first novel—but she always has time for members. It’s her appreciation of all things hoppy that guides her through running the state’s consortium of craft brew makers. Melissa is the belle of brand visibility, maximizer of memberships, and optimizer of opportunities to build craft beer-focused tourism in the Green Mountain State.
Wildly effective, the VBA offers its 66 member-breweries everything from the tedious to the fun. The benefits of membership include lobbying services; money-saving allied partnerships; networking, technical, and educational events; marketing, communications, and social media promotion; and access to all of the National Brewers Association’s resources.
Known on the National Stage
Founded in 1995 to promote and strengthen the culture of craft brewing through marketing, education, and advocacy for Vermont-made beer, the VBA is one of the many legacies of the late Greg Noonan. While almost every state has a brewers association, the VBA is known throughout the country as one of the most highly functioning and mature guilds. The strong financial reserves they keep have helped them weather the current economic storm caused by the pandemic.
Passport to Perks
While offering benefits and camaraderie for the craft industry, VBA also trades in tourism with its passport and beer trail programs and has a sort of “fan-base” too. In an effort to augment operating expenses, the VBA has invited those who are craft beer aficionados into their ranks to become a V.I.B. or Vermont Influential Beer-lover. For five dollars per month, participants receive early and exclusive access to events, up-to-date news and information about the industry in Vermont, and more. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Melissa and her team are rethinking the original concept for this membership option. This spring they will unveil new members-only events and benefits.
Melissa and the Vermont Brewers Association continue Noonan’s legacy through their work providing support and resources for brewing operations across the state. All of the guild’s time and effort is returned to them in kind by the flood of assistance from the beer-loving community. “The outpouring of support for our members has been humbling during this pandemic and we are so very grateful to everyone who has shown their love for our industry this past year,” says Melissa.