John Decker is the owner of Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop, the well-stocked shop selling and serving beer, cider, wine and accouterments in the heart of the village.
If you’re underage, you might know him as your high-school basketball coach.
If you’re into the craft beer scene, as many are these days, the Public House is always on top of the latest releases for highly sought-after Vermont brews.
In the recent forecast: Apple Haze and the “freshly squozen” blood-orange ciders from Stowe Cider, a spooky green brut IPA from Four Quarters in Winooski, and a thick cover of Cloud Drop, the double IPA brewed in Tunbridge, bottled in Stowe and coveted by beer-lovers throughout the country. Oh yeah, and a few cans of Alchemist, of course.
Decker took over as manager of the business in January 2017, and bought it one year ago from previous owners Marc Sherman and Trudy Trombley (who own Stowe Mercantile and The Boutique).
“(Decker) fit so well with the concept of the store and has really become the identity of Stowe Public House. It was natural that he should be the person to purchase the business,” Sherman said at the time.
Decker keeps the shelves and coolers stocked with something for every taste, plus a unique selection of Vermont cheeses and snacks. Customers can sidle up to the small bar for a freshly cracked can of a cutting-edge brew or nice pour of wine — or take it outside in clement weather, with a few chairs and tables on the porch, plus picnic blankets and convenient beverage holders to spike right into the lawn in front of the shop.
Decker is usually joined by Tori Lockhart, who’s equally as happy to find just the perfect sip or gift for anyone who strolls in from the sidewalk.
Here’s 10 questions, plus one more for good measure, with John Decker.
1. Where are you from? How did you get here?
I was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, went to college in Philadelphia.
My sister first moved to Killington, Vt. about 20 years ago. I was living out west, I came for a visit, and completely fell in love. I moved to Vermont almost 10 years ago and I don’t plan on going anywhere else!
2. What makes Stowe Public House special?
The Public House is unique. It’s a small bottle shop that is home to over 700 different craft beers, ciders and wine. The look, feel, vibe and surrounding businesses made this a must-own for me. My father owned a beer distributor when we were growing up; I LOVE beer, so this was a no-brainer.
3. What are some of your favorite Vermont breweries? New England? Beyond?
I don’t want to sound cliché when I say this, but I truly enjoy all the local breweries! Idletyme (in Stowe) has come a long way from when they first started, now they produce some great beer and their brewer seems to be really dedicated to his craft.
Von Trapp Brewing (Stowe) is phenomenal in the fact that they stick to what they are good at — German-style beers!
We all know how awesome the Alchemist (Stowe) is! Great owners, great employees and an amazing facility.
Rock Art (Morrisville) makes some of the best unique beers.
Lost Nation (Morrisville) is not only known for their delicious beers but their restaurant is one of the best in Lamoille County.
Ten Bends (Hyde Park) could be a second home for me. I love everything they brew, and again, their employees and owners are second to none!
It’s hard to single out one brewery as my absolute favorite but I do love the scenic ride and beautiful view from the porch of Hill Farmstead (Greensboro Bend). Their beer doesn’t suck either.
Note: Hill Farmstead was named best brewery in the world (and the country, and the state) in 2017 by RateBeer; their Aaron, a barrel-aged barleywine-style ale, was named best beer in the state, too.
Outside of Vermont, my better half and I love the brewery scene in Maine — Bissell Brothers, Allagash, Foundation and Austin Street Brewing just to name a few.
4. What beer trends do you love? What do you hate?
I’m really into the Farmhouse, American wild, and porter styles. I don’t necessarily hate any beers, but if I never drank a cider again, I wouldn’t be upset.
5. Where do most of your customers hail from? Do you see a difference in what locals ask for at the shop versus people from out of town/state/country?
I’d say 70 to 75 percent of all my customers are tourists who hail from everywhere. The people that come down from Canada probably have the biggest appreciation for what I have going on. They love the fact that they can get single cans and bottles of whatever they want and they really enjoy the selection. They also like the fact that they can get Canadian beers that aren’t distributed to their province.
Locals purchase as much Vermont beers as they do beers from other parts of our country. We are spoiled living in Vermont with such great beers, and they are constantly evolving; therefore it’s hard to get sick of what’s being brewed in our back yard.
6. You’re going to be stranded on a deserted island. What three beers do you bring?
Tough question … Drop In Brewery — Heart of Lothian (Scottish ale); Hill Farmstead/Grassroots — Convivial Suaréz (Belgian Saison); The Alchemist and Ten Bends — any IPA they make!
7. What three people (alive or dead, real or fictional) would you invite to a dinner party?
My father (he is deceased), Muhammad Ali and Elon Musk.
8. What do you do when you’re not at the Public House?
I coach the boys varsity basketball program at Stowe, so that keeps me busy all winter, and I’m currently working on another project outside of Stowe.
I enjoy spending time with my wife-to-be, Jenna and our small circle of friends, drinking beers and laughing
9. Can we have some words of wisdom from Coach John?
Coaching is one of the most important things I do in my life. The impact I am able to have on the kids is what makes it so special. I love their attitude, their outlook on life, and their commitment to the sport and each other.
One of the most rewarding moments is when the kids come to the store just to say hi or show me something new they have been working on. They always have a smile on their face when they are walking to the door, and in turn it puts one on mine, no matter what kind of day I’m having!
10. If you could do one thing to change the world what would it be?
Put a complete halt to racism and sexism. It’s 2018, and there is no place in this world for either of those. Everyone bleeds the same color blood and deserves an equal shot at being a productive member of our society.
I’d also like to get rid of unnecessary big-game hunting. If you aren’t doing it to provide for you or your family, then leave well enough alone.
11. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The superpower to cast love and happiness on everyone. I’m serious! We live one life here on this great earth, so we might as well make it a good one!