'Coming back much stronger': Stone Bridge Brewing opens taproom, pushing post-pandemic distribution

Dave Sutor, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read

Apr. 13—Stone Bridge Brewing Co. has gone through a pandemic-year transformation.

In early 2020, the brewery, located on the corner of Franklin and Washington streets in downtown Johnstown, was a one-room operation with the beer-making equipment a few feet away from the bar and tables.

SBB is now home to a recently opened taproom and expanded brewing area in a building that is also expected to include a new restaurant called Craft at Stone Bridge Brewing Co. by the summer.

"We were really trying to come out of the pandemic shutdown stronger than we went into it," Stone Bridge Brewing co-owner Jeremy Shearer said. "It was a lot of growth, a lot of new equipment, a lot of new methods, some new staffing, which involved a lot of training, and research and development time.

"That was a struggle and a lot of extra work for us, but at the end of the day — now that we're reopening our doors — we're coming back much stronger than we were a year ago."

SBB was open at times, closed at others, during the past year.

The new taproom had its grand opening with an invitation-only event on Thursday, followed by regular business over the weekend. It offers Stone Bridge beers and foods, along with drafts, wines and spirits from other Pennsylvania alcohol producers on Thursdays (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.), Fridays (4 p.m. to 9 p.m.), Saturdays (noon to 9 p.m.) and Sundays (noon to 6 p.m.).

Plus the brewery has significantly upped its production to a possible 15,000 gallons per month, for sale not only in the taproom, but also for distribution throughout Pennsylvania and hopefully soon Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Michigan.

SBB has made 42 beers, 18 slushie recipes and seven seltzers during the ongoing pandemic.

"We had to make kind of a big upward move to be able to stay relevant during the shutdown to be able to continue to produce and to package beer, since we couldn't sell it here locally with taprooms being closed in the state of Pennsylvania," Shearer said. "We knew we had to get into a volume that would allow us to get into distribution, so we upgraded our system from a 150-gallon system to, currently, our system is a 610-gallon, with some new tanks coming that will actually be 1,220 gallons."

Shearer wants the new taproom to be an important part of the downtown's nightlife scene emerging from the pandemic.

"It's kind of very fulfilling to see everything start to reopen," Shearer said. "We reopened our door last weekend, and we had a packed house all weekend.

"People were really excited to get back out and to check out new things. It's wonderful, on the bigger spectrum, to see all of downtown doing that.

"We didn't really see any places shutter downtown and go out of business. Everybody was able, pretty much, to hold on and is now kind of coming back to life. It's really just nice to see that the movement that we had going over the past five years or so in downtown took a pause for a little bit, but now it's coming back and continuing to move forward."

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.