After a dry run last weekend, beer bar Doc Ponds opened in the former Vermont Ale House space in Stowe on Monday, August 17. It's the third project from Hen of the Wood owners Eric Warnstedt and William McNeil, whose restaurants in Waterbury and Burlington continue to fill up nightly after several years in business.
The bar's 24 draft lines pour local craft brews along with mass-market suds. In addition, dozens of bottled beers and wines by the glass offer something for everyone. Cocktails come from bartender Kate Wise, who spent the last several years at Prohibition Pig (and won a 2014 Daysies award for best bartender). Rocket scientist and craft-beer connoisseur Dave Meiss is in charge of the beer list, which features $5 Heady Topper cans and several drafts from Hill Farmstead Brewery. Weekly brewery nights offer specials on beers from that brewery, Morrisville's Lost Nation Brewing and Burlington's Zero Gravity Craft Brewery.
Complementing those liquid assets is a substantial pub menu crafted by Hen sous chef Justin Wright that features lots of local meat and produce.
Priced from $4 to $17, nibbles include fried shishito peppers and chips and dip, as well as wings, fried oysters and calamari, roasted veggies, and several salads. Those seeking a full meal can tuck into sandwiches such as a Brisket Bomb smoked bluefish melt, or an entrée of smoked half-chicken or other cut of meat.
Things get even more fun during dessert. "Our desserts are either milkshakes or pies," Warnstedt says. "It's ridiculous."
Laura Schatz took over the Hen pastry kitchen when Andrew "Little Sweets" LeStourgeon left to open his own place. At Doc Ponds, her desserts revolve around two key confections: house-made ice creams and pies from Shiel Worcester, whose mobile Jam Bakery debuted earlier this summer.
Because who doesn't need a salted-caramel-apple-pie milkshake — or one spiked with booze or a housemade cold brew?
In addition to the main bar and dining room, seating includes a backyard beer garden and a cozy, firelit lounge, fashioned by Winooski woodworker Doug Walker. Bold murals by graphic artist Lance Violette enliven the place indoors and out.
What began as a quick redecorating project morphed into full-scale renovations. Now Warnstedt and crew seem ready to amp up the volume: "[Hen of the Wood] Burlington has the bar, which is fun," the chef says, "but we can party in here — turn the radio up and do it our way."
The original print version of this article was headlined "Taking a Plunge"