STONINGTON — Charlie Buffum, owner and founder of the Cottrell Brewing Company, still remembers the day he produced his first keg of beer.
A proud young brewer who was new to the game, Buffum and a staff member took the keg down the street from the Harris Graphics/Pawcatuck Business Park building on Mechanic Street to nearby CC O’Brien’s Sports Café, the first of what would become countless deliveries to the local restaurant and pub.
That first keg was literally hand-delivered, with Buffum rolling the keg down the street, a far cry from standard truck deliveries to restaurants and many other places today.
In the coming weeks, the Cottrell Brewing Co. will close its doors for good, ending operations at the Mechanic Street Brewery after 25 years. It’s not exactly sunset, but Buffum said Wednesday he had no regrets and enjoyed every moment.
“I had the opportunity to do something people loved, something for the community,” Buffum said. “Second, I have enjoyed working with all of my different employees and clients over the years. I have met many good people over the past 25 years.
From rolling that first cask to seeing the company’s Mystic Bridge IPA become its best-selling brew, surpassing the original Old Yankee Ale, Cottrell has become a name synonymous with Pawcatuck over the past quarter of century.
Buffum, 61, founded the company in 1996 in a back corner of the old factory building at 100 Mechanic St., the same place where his great-grandfather started his business, CB Cottrell & Sons , in 1855. His grandfather’s business would grow into one of the largest printing press manufacturers in the United States, and family heritage played a part in Cottrell receiving his brand name.
Since its first beer, the business has grown rapidly and has gone on to produce a number of beers which have become popular in the region, including Stonington Glory and Perry’s Revenge Ale – those looking to buy a few last packs of six can find them as the last remaining on sale at the brewery – along with other favorites like Incredibly Pretentious Ale, Off-Duty and a variety of seasonal offerings and nanobrews.
It’s a sudden end for the company, but Buffum said given the circumstances, he felt like he had no choice.
Phoenix Investors LLC acquired the property in a 2018 land sale, promising to renovate and redevelop the factory site. Buffum said the company informed him in October that it would not be renewing his lease and needed the Cottrell Brewing Company to vacate the property. Cottrell’s lease had officially ended over the summer.
A message left with Phoenix Investors was not returned Wednesday.
Buffum said he tried to negotiate but failed to make any progress, and it soon became clear they would have to consider other options. He first announced the shutdown in a social media post in late November, though it was unclear at the time what exactly would happen next.
“To continue, we needed to move to a new location,” Buffum said. “It’s expensive and with no turnkey opportunity available, we’re looking at a minimum of 6-12 months before we can be up and running again. To keep producing would require a partnership anyway, and at my age, I don’t just didn’t feel like it made sense.
Although the business itself is closing, the brand and brewing equipment will find new homes in the months to come. Cottrell’s name and product recipes were sold to Powder Hollow Brewery, an Enfield-based brewer that recently expanded to open three taprooms in Connecticut.
And even though the Cottrell facility is nearing completion, Buffum’s brewing equipment will help in the birth of a new brewery, as all of the company’s physical assets have been sold to the local businessman. Jason Quinlan, owner of Hi-Tech Profiles Inc., of Ashaway. . Quinlan recently took over operations from his father, Raymond Quinlan, after his father retired.
Quinlan said Wednesday he would soon launch a new brewery along Gray Lane in Ashaway, with his organization already working to renovate the facility and bring in equipment. The new company doesn’t yet have a name, he said, but he said he and his team are excited to get started in the coming months.
“On the management side, we have already hired a master brewer and have staff with excellent experience…one has been with the company for 22 years,” Quinlan said. “We always hope to bring in additional creative minds to serve as brewmasters so we can come up with some truly new and unique options.”
As the business continues to grow, Quinlan said he hopes to expand into wine and ciders and eventually would like to become a full-fledged distillery. For now, he is taking it step by step and trying to run the brewery himself.
There is no specific date for Cottrell’s final closure, but it won’t be long now, Buffum said. There are limited supplies left, and once they run out, he said that would be the end of it.
There are a number of potential opportunities ahead for Buffum, but for now he said he plans to serve as an ambassador to ensure the transition is smooth before exploring all the possibilities. options available to him.
“It’s an adjustment. This has been my life, my home away from home, for 25 years,” he said. “I have ideas (for the future). I have a lot left to do in life.