Jamaica State Park Assistant Manager Sebastian Ramey and Park Manager Lauren Pellegrino get a preview of the Jamaica State Park Kolsch beer at Jamaica State Park.
Maia Segura/Courtesy photo
Jamaica State Park Assistant Manager Sebastian Ramey and Park Manager Lauren Pellegrino get a preview of the Jamaica State Park Kolsch beer at Jamaica State Park.

New brews mean good news for Vermont State Parks

Jamaica State Park is the setting for a May 6 launch party for Pints for Parks, which releases limited-edition brews to benefit the state park system

JAMAICA — The West River Spring Whitewater Release on Saturday, May 6 at Jamaica State Park - a tradition that draws hundreds of canoers, kayakers, and whitewater rafters and resumes for the first time since 2020 - will be the setting for the launch party for a local brewery's initiative to benefit the state's park system.

Pints for Parks is a collaboration between Whetstone Beer Co. and Vermont State Parks, where twice per year the company will focus on one of the 55 state parks to create a unique, limited-edition beer celebrating that location.

In addition, Whetstone will donate proceeds from all Pints for Parks beer to Vermont Parks Forever, a nonprofit that provides charitable and private support to Vermont State Parks.

“It's personal to me to have Jamaica State Park be the first one we are collaborating with on this worthwhile project,” notes David Hiler, one of the three partners of Whetstone Beer Co., which will introduce Jamaica State Park Kolsch at the event with samples, river-themed music, and other fun.

The beer, which business partner Tim Brady described in a news release as “somewhere between a lager and an ale,” is “warm fermented - a nod to the tropical island which shares the park's name - and cold conditioned, like the West River, which is fed by the park's Hamilton Falls in springtime.”

Jamaica State Park Kolsch sports a peel-off label by Newfane artist and designer Daimian Lix.

“We love the label design,” said Sarah Alberghini Winters, executive director of Vermont Parks Forever, who said that the abstracted photoillustration of Hamilton Falls and typography that is a paean to park signage “really captures the feel of the state parks and makes us want to head out to go camping!”

Winters said that Whetstone, Vermont State Parks, and Vermont Parks Forever are eyeing Quechee State Park in Hartford as the next state park to be in the Pints for Parks spotlight.

'A little Yosemite'

As a former resident of Jamaica and owner of Three Mountain Inn, Hiler says that the park was right in his backyard. He calls it “a little Yosemite.”

Vermont State Parks are enjoyed by roughly 1.2 million visitors annually - although this number is likely much higher, notes Nate McKeen, director of Vermont State Parks, when reached by phone.

The bulk of the park system's revenue comes from paid attendance fees from visitors May through October. “We don't see a lot of tax support from the general fund. We have to stay focused on the basics of educational programming and offering a beautiful, safe, and welcoming space for people to come recreate.”

He continues, “Jamaica State Park is one of my favorite parks. It offers a beautiful campground with a lot of nice campsites off the River, a beautiful hiking trail up to the dam, the West River Trail, a strenuous hike up to Hamilton Falls, great swimming and fishing.”

A half mile from the village center, the park was established in 1969 and offers more than 5 miles of maintained hiking, walking, and biking trails, including a 2-mile section of the West River Trail, which stretches from South Londonderry to Jamaica.

When asked to name VSP's biggest challenge in 2023, McKeen says, “We are very reliant on our seasonal workforce.”

The park hires more than 400 seasonal staff, which he called “a strength of the park system.”

“They come from all over the U.S.and bring lots of energy, expertise and lived experiences,” McKeen said. “It's hard to recruit, hire, and retain enough staff every year.”

Alberghini Winters adds that proceeds from the project will support the work of Vermont Parks Forever, “like providing free access to communities underrepresented in the outdoors, paid student internships in the parks, investing in innovative nature education, and working closely with Vermont State Parks on the ongoing needs of the park system.”

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