Dirt Church Brewing Co. of Vermont plans second location in Charlemont

Anna Cronin, co-owner of Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont, plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont.

Anna Cronin, co-owner of Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont, plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont.

Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Anna Cronin, co-owner of Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont, and building co-owner Kristie Faufaw crack open a couple of Dirt Church beers in the former River Cafe space where Cronin plans to open a brew pub in Charlemont.

Anna Cronin, co-owner of Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont, and building co-owner Kristie Faufaw crack open a couple of Dirt Church beers in the former River Cafe space where Cronin plans to open a brew pub in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont.

Dirt Church Brewing Co. out of Vermont plans to open a brew pub in the former River Cafe space in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 02-08-2024 3:24 PM

Modified: 02-09-2024 9:47 AM


CHARLEMONT — After blazing a trail at Thunder Mountain Bike Park, Anna Cronin and her partner, Bruce Lindsay, realized Charlemont “is a viable town worth investing in.”

That’s exactly what Cronin and Lindsay are doing by opening a second location of their Dirt Church Brewing Co. Based in East Haven, Vermont, Dirt Church Brewing has been offering alcoholic beverages since 2021, and is now preparing to open a second site at 31 Main St., formerly home to River Cafe.

“We were able to see some of the more remote off-the-beaten-path areas [of Charlemont] and see some of the community members and business members,” Cronin said. “It was really apparent that this is a close and wonderful community ... but there was a lack of an après scene.”

Upon opening, which is expected to be in early spring, Cronin said customers will be able to get their hands on an assortment of “really delicious, high-quality” sour beers, India pale ales and other brews crafted at the company’s Vermont location. Wine, non-alcoholic beers and homemade root beer will also be available to customers.

In addition, Cronin said people can participate in the brewery’s $100 a year Mug Club. Customers receive a 22-ounce mug and “an extra heavy-handed pour for the same price as a regular pint,” she said. People can also find free stickers, offers for free flights and other “fun prizes” at the bottom of their mugs.

But Cronin emphasized that the main purpose of Dirt Church Brewing is not the beer, but to provide “a great experience” for customers.

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“It’s about the community aspect,” she said. “Dirt Church is all about what you do on Sundays for your activities. I want to decorate the place with what people do and what gives people that passion.”

By learning from the community, Cronin plans to hold different events, whether it’s trivia nights, fundraisers, concerts with local bands or even karaoke sessions.

“It’s about seeing what people like to do,” she said. “Not everything is going to be a home run but I’m willing to try.”

Cronin and Lindsay met during a rainy and “miserable” 26-mile mountain bike race around Burke Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Cronin said with Lindsay by her side, she found the race to be manageable.

“He saved my life because he was chatting with me, he was saying the right things at the right time,” she said. “At the end of the race I called him my ‘Trail Angel.’”

Neither of them saw each other again until roughly a year later while biking on the Kingdom Trails network.

“It was like lightning struck, the Earth shakes and if the universe didn’t slap us in the face hard enough,” Cronin recounted.

The idea for a brewery struck in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the couple stumbled upon East Haven Chapel in Vermont, which was built in 1876 by the Methodists. As just the third owners since the building’s creation, Cronin and Lindsay restored the structure and turned it into a community center, with a newly built taproom and brewery building next door.

“Dirt Church has nothing to do with religion whatsoever,” Cronin noted. “I like the irony in that we bought a church. ... It’s just a unique way of continuing the heritage of our community gathering center. Being in a small town, rural community, those public houses back in the day used to be a church.”

Dirt Church Brewing will be renting the Charlemont location from Mike Sisum and Kristie Faufaw, who also own the Cold River Package Store and Market next door. Before Dirt Church Brewing, the property was used for Cold River Cafe, which Faufaw and Sisum ran for about five years before selling the café portion to renters. It was later called simply River Cafe.

Faufaw said she’s excited to see the brewery open and she has enjoyed working with Cronin and Lindsay.

“It’s gonna be fun and inviting for people and that’s what I’m excited about,” Faufaw said. “It’s nothing like a restaurant, it’s like a tavern feel ... and I think they’ve got enough in store for local people.”