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Lawson’s Finest Liquids Brews Craft Beer, Community Stewardship

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Craft beer has exploded in America in the last couple of decades. In nearly every corner of the country, another boutique brewery is opening up, plying their hoppy wares to beer lovers from all walks of life. So, how does one of these bespoke hop houses differentiate themselves from their competitors and stand amongst a crowded field?

For one Vermont-based brewery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, the answer is more than just supplying a delicious menu of meticulously crafted brews. The fine folks at Lawson’s go above and beyond to make sure that their impact is felt in more than just giving their customers a tasty beverage, but in giving back to their customers, their community, and the Earth.

Photo Courtesy Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Carra Cheslin, from Lawson’s Social Impact Program (SIP), spoke to The Business Download about the brewery’s work in craft beer-making and greater work in their Vermont community.

Cheslin described the early days of Lawson’s Finest when she arrived on the scene as “just a three-barrel system based at home, the original home of Sean and Karen Lawson, our original founders.”

Founded in 2008, the brewery began to grow from this humble beginning.

“[The Lawsons] built a small shed right next to their home and brewed beer for many years,” Cheslin explained. “And they would just do periodic bottle drops at a couple of local general stores around the area. And honestly, Lawson’s Finest was one of the breweries that really got me hooked on the craft beer scene myself.” 

Aside from the interest in craft beer, what drew Cheslin — and continues to draw others like her to patronize or be employed by the brewery — is Lawson’s commitment to social change and community.

But, unlike other companies who pledge a small percentage of time, effort, and profits to various charitable initiatives, the business takes a much more aggressive and full-spectrum approach with its initiative, SIP.

Photo Courtesy Lawson’s Finest Liquids

“The Social Impact Program is a really trailblazing initiative,” Cheslin said. “You see a lot of companies that join onto other initiatives, such as, say 1%, for the planet, or other initiatives that are working to encourage businesses to do better, but I felt the Lawson’s were really pushing the boundary and defining what, you know, impact was possible in their own way. So, that was really inspiring to me.”

She gives a few more examples of Lawson’s Finest’s holistic approach, including the entire brewery being 100% solar-powered. The business also continually seeks guidance not only from the upper reaches of its power structure but from its entire employee base on how to make the company a better place to work and a better business in its community and for the environment. 

Pivoting, Cheslin explained that this approach isn’t rooted in today’s zeitgeist but has long been a vision of founders Sean and Karen Lawson.

“A lot of our giving and our commitment to social, environmental responsibility really harkens back to Sean and Karen’s personal journeys prior to opening Lawson’s Finest,” she said.

“Karen worked in the justice system, and Sean was a naturalist and is still a naturalist at Mad River Glen and has a forestry degree.”

“So, when I speak to our founders Sean and Karen, they always tell me that this Social Impact Program was really part of the vision of the brewery from the very, very beginning before they had any idea, the extent of how kind of large and expansive the brewery and our distribution was going to become … they always wanted that social impact and environmental commitment to be at the center of the business,” she continued.

Photo Courtesy Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Today, in addition to serving and delivering fine cold beer in a nine-state radius, Lawson’s employs a battery of initiatives to give back, including its Sunshine Fund, which allows patrons to donate to local nonprofits in lieu of tips. It also has Good Brews For A Cause, which pairs small batches of specialty beers with local causes dear to employees, donating the proceeds from these small batch sales to them. 

Cheslin said the company also hit a milestone this past summer. Since the taproom opened and the brewery expanded in 2018, Lawson’s Finest’s SIP has donated more than $2 million to over 300 nonprofit organizations. 

As Cheslin said toward the end of the conversation, “The future is very, very bright” for the business. Because of its commitment to giving back in myriad ways, the same could be said about everyone lucky enough to come into contact with Lawson’s craft beer family.

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