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BOTTLES

Once a hidden treasure, Sip of Sunshine is now on more shelves

Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest Liquids.Handout

A little more than a decade ago, if you wanted to drink even a drop of beer from the fledgling Vermont brewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids, you had to put some work in.

The first step was to go to Vermont. From there, you could get the beer on tap, in a few bars like the Prohibition Pig in Waterbury or The Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington. A winding drive from Waterbury down Route 100 took you to the Warren Store, where, depending on the day, foil-wrapped bottles of Lawson’s Double Sunshine IPA or Maple Tripple Ale may or may not have been available.

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“The initial demand for Lawson’s Finest Liquids had always outweighed the production capacity,” says Seth Talmon, sales director at the brewery. “From our original one-barrel brewhouse, to our expansion to a seven-barrel brewhouse, the hand-bottled, gold-foiled brews never lasted long enough to make it to the shelf.”

Beer fans who recall Lawson’s brews being so hard to get may find the next bit of information both encouraging and surprising: According to Nielsen sales data, Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Sip of Sunshine IPA was among the best-selling craft beers of any kind in the state of Massachusetts last year. So far in 2022 Sip of Sunshine is also at the top, in competition with several Samuel Adams beers, Mighty Squirrel Cloud Candy IPA, and Founders All Day IPA, among others.

The data confirms what has been apparent anecdotally for years: that Sip of Sunshine is everywhere, and that a once-niche brewery has gone mainstream, at least relative to other craft breweries.

The story of how Lawson’s got here is one about both business and beer. In 2014, founder Sean Lawson entered into an “alternating proprietorship” with Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut. That meant a lot more Lawson’s beer could now be made at two locations, as well as expanded distribution in Vermont and Connecticut.

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Lawson’s is now distributed in nine northeastern states, in large part because the beer the brewery decided to focus on, Sip of Sunshine, has been so popular.

“Sean knew he wanted to create a beer like Double Sunshine but unique, and a beer that would resonate with craft beer lovers to bring more fans under the tent,” says Talmon. “That’s when Sip of Sunshine was born.”

I recently tasted two Lawson’s brews: Sip of Sunshine and Hopcelot, a limited release inspired by the Vermont band Phish’s song “Ocelot.” The latter is made using eight hop varieties from around the world, sourced mostly from the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand. There’s some stone fruit character here as well as a pronounced bitterness, for those who like their IPAs with a little bite.

Sip of Sunshine drinks like its name, with soft tropical fruit character (think mango and grapefruit) in a deceptive 8 percent ABV package. Lawson’s demands that it be shipped and stored cold to maintain freshness. An overly critical view is that Sip of Sunshine is a typical New England-style IPA, of which there are many, and that no matter how fresh the can it will never drink as beautifully as Double Sunshine did straight from the tap at the Prohibition Pig.

A more generous take (and I think the correct one) is that a quirky New England brewery has done the nearly impossible, making what was once a hidden treasure into one of our most available and popular drinks. Sip of Sunshine is a delicious beer, and it’s a wonder we all get to share it.

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Gary Dzen can be reached at gary.dzen@globe.com.Follow him on Twitter @garydzen.