The whirlwind closure of The Shed Restaurant and Brewery stunned Stowe locals, as well as its owners, Ken and Kathleen Strong. But lovers of Shed Mountain Ale will be relieved to hear that the beer will soon flow again from Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury.
The Strongs have partnered with Otter Creek to continue brewing their line of ales. "When we found out that an iconic Vermont brand for 46 years wouldn't have a place to operate, we negotiated with Ken," says Brian Walsh, Otter Creek Brewing's president. "We have the capacity and we have the space, and we thought it could be a good fit."
In September, the Strongs found out that their lease on the Mountain Road brewpub they had run for 46 years was not being renewed. On October 17, they held their final party inside the pub, and closed the doors that night, while vowing to find another space in Stowe.
Barely two weeks later came the announcement. "Once in a while I get a clue that [the beer] means a whole lot to a lot of people," says Ken Strong, 72, who still fields phone calls from Shed lovers who can't fathom the news that the pub and its beers are gone.
Otter Creek brewmaster Mike Gerhart has been working with Ken Strong to hammer out the details of moving The Shed's equipment and formulas to Middlebury. That equipment is being inventoried and should make the southerly move within days. As Walsh stresses, "continuity of the brand," is at stake, especially as the ski season gets into gear in Stowe.
"It has an iconic image to the après ski of Stowe," adds Walsh. "We're grateful that Ken allowed us to be custodian of his brand going forward. We know how hard he's worked to build it."
The first beer to be brewed again will be Shed Mountain Ale, which should be on the market by the end of November, says Strong. Shed IPA will likely follow, says Strong. He hopes to make the kegs (and growlers) widely available at Vermont bars and restaurants. Baker Distributing will continue to deliver The Shed's beers.
With regards to a new eatery, Strong says he has "a couple of irons in the fire." As the Strongs negotiate the tricky business of moving a brewery to Addison County, 1859 Mountain Road will soon see another incarnation as Crop Bistro, a farm-to-table eatery spearheaded by NECI's former executive chef, Tom Bivins.