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Where There's a Will . . . 

Side Dishes: Legislator lends his name to a beer

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Farmer and State Rep Will Stevens wears a lot of hats. At Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, he and his wife Judy grow organic vegetables for CSA members and the local farmers’ market. In Montpelier, the Independent is a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

But Stevens’ newest role is a bit of a surprise: He’s the face of Wolaver’s seasonal, organic squash beer, “Will Stevens’ Pumpkin Ale.” Besides his name on the label, he’s got his picture on the six-packs — all because he grew the pumpkins the company puts in its brew.

At first, Stevens was lukewarm about being a beer’s “poster boy.” “As a bit of a woodchuck, I’m not used to seeing my name out there. We came up with a few different names, but they didn’t go for it,” he recalls. Now he’s looking for his angle: “Maybe I can turn this to my advantage, because I actually have an opponent [for the legislative seat] this year.” Unfortunately, he points out, a catchy slogan like “‘This Will’s for You!’ would probably be a copyright violation.”

Stevens lauds Wolaver’s for its efforts to purchase ingredients from local farms: “I know they’ve been sourcing wheat from Ben Gleason [of Gleason Grains] over the years.” And, the modest “woodchuck” admits, the drink has been so popular that the brewery placed a double order of pumpkins for next year’s batch.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some odd moments: “Sometimes I’m at the Shoreham Inn, and I’m sitting next to someone who wants to order a Will Stevens, and they don’t know it’s me,” Stevens says. Imagine how Sam Adams must feel . . .

If you want to try the local pumpkin brew, get it fast. According to Max Oswald, Wolaver’s director of sales and marketing, there’s only about a month’s distribution supply left in Vermont. “We watched these pumpkin ales from all these different guys; it was a niche-y thing, and we didn’t know how long it would last,” Oswald says. Once the company decided to jump on the bandwagon, Golden Russet, located just 15 miles from the brewery, was a natural source choice.

Oswald explains how Stevens came to adorn the beer: “We thought: What if we actually name it after the guy who grew the pumpkins? It shows that we’re a small, local brewery that can do things like that.” Is Ben Gleason’s wit bier next?

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Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Bio:
Former contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the first Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a... more

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