Craft brews, spirits call Bennington home

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BENNINGTON — The town seems poised to become a must stop on Vermont craft beverage tour maps, with two or more new micro-brew operations and a spirits distillery hoping to open after restrictions related to the COVID-19 epidemic are lifted.

Work is now underway on the exterior of the commercial building at 400 Main St. across from the former Putnam Hotel at the Four Corners, and the site could be leased for a micro-brew business. According to a source familiar with the agreement, a formal announcement is about two weeks away.

The building, listed as owned by Astrum, LLC, was the site of the former Vermont Green Grow Wellness Center. Building Inspector Paul Dansereau said Tuesday that the owner is doing facade work and painting but has yet to apply for a permit for interior work.

"All we need now is a winery," said John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp., referring to a cluster of alcoholic beverage producers expected to take form around the central downtown.

"The craft beer and brewing industry in Vermont just keeps getting bigger every year," Shannahan said, driven in part by the reputation beers created here have gained around the world.

Many visitors come to the state for a weekend or longer, or even for a day trip from Albany, N.Y., or elsewhere, he said, planning to make stops at several micro-brew pubs.

With retail businesses having a more difficult time because of online competition, pubs, often with entertainment, are becoming a more important factor in many downtowns, he said.

Close to opening

Shannahan said Bennington has two new businesses on the verge of opening — The 421 Craft Bar and Kitchen, at 421 Main St., and a distillery and tap room being fashioned in the old Bennington highway garage building off Depot Street.

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The 421 Craft Bar and Kitchen is owned by the family that began Madison's Brewing Co. Pub & Restaurant at 428 Main St. during the 1990s. The new business was preparing to open when the COVID-19 crisis resulting in the governor's "stay-at-home" order that closed bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile, Shannahan said the renovation project at the former garage building appears to be finished and the distillery is close to opening, pending a lifting of the state's restrictions.

Beyond that, Harvest Brewing, a "nano-brew" operation at 201 South St., is located close to the others, Shannahan said, and he has heard of a cidery operation being considered for another downtown building, which he declined to name unless the idea advances further.

In addition, he thinks there is a good chance a brew-related business will be considered for the old Bennington High School building at 650 Main St., which was sold in March to a developer who plans a mixed-use facility.

Old garage

The spirits business is planned as a distillery and taproom and would include a tasting room, bar service with whiskeys and other spirits, and potentially a small food area, the owners have said. It was expected to be up and running this year.

The business was formed by friends Glen Sauer and Matt Cushman, who plan to call the distillery and tap room the Village Garage.

Renovations included a roof replacement, removal and replacement of windows, removal of a drop ceiling, removal of overhead doors to replace with insulated glass doors to match; and installation of modern lighting and ceiling fans. A polished concrete floor with radiant heat and a 500-gallon copper still and related equipment were included in the plan.

The old garage at 107 Depot St., was decommissioned by the town when it purchased a new department headquarters building on Bowen Road.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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