You should read this page first, as it sort of explains the overall Connecticut brewery/brewing scene (as I see it) at the end of 2014.
This page is long. Too long – and it’s only part 1! Although it contains no wistful prose, this is also sort of my goodbye love letter to my original 2011 idea to “review every Connecticut beer.” Not only can’t I keep up, I don’t even want to anymore.
I’ll let you recover from the vapors for a moment.
Ok. I have made a ton of great friends in the craft beer world and will certainly maintain those friendships. I’ve had a lot of great and interesting beer from around the state. But I’ve also had a bunch of boring and pedestrian stuff as well, not to mention a few awful, poorly made, and/or infected beers. I’ve bought beers from breweries I actively dislike just to keep up and I’ve frantically asked friends to procure limited releases for me. It has simply become too much for me to deal with.
I will continue to enjoy the beers from the breweries I like and I will continue to follow and promote the scene and care about what’s going on. I will still visit every brewery as they come online, just as I do for museums and everything else on this site. But to continue reviewing beers? Or even just the bottles and cans? I think that will be ending at some point – even though I have a lot of fun with it. But really, why am I going to continue go through a run of some lame brewery’s beers when I can just pick up a six-pack of Sea Hag at the store down the street for nine bucks instead?
Short answer: I’m not.
Let’s get to it. The state of every brewery and brewpub in Connecticut at the end of 2014. Some feathers will be ruffled and some people will be upset. But that’s what honesty will do sometimes. Perhaps I’ll revisit in 2015, perhaps not. Here’s part 2, by the way – it’s even longer and more thorough due to the overwhelming positive response I got to this page. Thanks, y’all.
(Links go to their websites, not anything I’ve written.)
Alementary Brewing Company, Northford (homebrewers): Just some homebrewers homebrewing quietly in quiet North Branford. Let’s leave them alone. I don’t think they have any bigger aspirations.
2015 Outlook: They will disappear from my listings
Aspetuck Brew Lab, Fairfield (Aspirant homebrewers): All signs point towards Aspetuck trying to make a real go of things. The brewer, who refers to himself as “Founder/CEO/Chief Beer Scientist” (and is married to the “Founder/COO”) seems to have a nice brewing pedigree. I know they’ve reached out to some of the local beer media and such, and have made a small effort to get their name “out there.”
To use their own awkward description: “For now, we are in development and looking for a space to locate the Lab. Once we settle in our new location, we will be brewing up the future. Beers are born and bred here, tested in the taproom, and when they are fully ready for the world, they will be replicated at our partner brewery and released for consumption.”
Does that mean they have a contract with a brewery in the works? I have no idea, but we shall see I guess.
2015 Outlook: Unclear
Back East Brewing Company, Bloomfield (Licensed brewery with simple tasting room): The state needs Back East and Back East-like breweries. Professional, solid, consistent, friendly and never bad. Good distribution, good representation at bars and restaurants, nice tie-ins with local events in the greater Hartford area.
It’s funny that the 3 breweries like this are all very close to each other, with Hooker and Olde Burnside being the other two that spring to mind. It must be a middle-class suburban Hartford thing. Anyway, I will continue to purchase Back East beers on occasion, as they are “accessible craft” as I like to say – and that is a compliment, I swear.
2015 Outlook: Solid. Will continue to grow and gain respect.
Beaver Beer, “Westport” (Contracted at Paper City Brewing, MA): Beaver has, rightfully, become a bit of a joke around these parts. Their beer is not good or interesting, but they were never about the beer. For these guys, it’s all about the marketing and wringing every played out double entendre for female sexuality they can dream up in order to attract attention. So be it – that’s their thing. That’s what old white marketing guys do, I guess.
But let me just leave this here for posterity before their short little business run comes to an end – the Beaver plan to take over the world of craft beer, as told to the Connecticut Post in 2012:
That’s right, their plan was/is to sell two MILLION cases per month. My word.
2015 Outlook: More pubic… err, more public shaming
Beer’d Brewing, Stonington (Licensed brewery with simple tasting room): The joke about Beer’d is absolutely true. You know, the one that says, “everything about Beer’d is perfect except that one thing – its location.” Stonington is a mother to get to for me, but I somehow manage to do so 6 or 7 times a year. If Aaren and Precious were closer, I would treat Beer’d like my package store and never look back. Beer’d is only one incremental notch below the top of the Connecticut beer mountain which has been – and continues to be – occupied by New England Brewing.
And really, that’s perhaps chalked up only to brewing capacity – which is changing wth a Beer’d expansion in 2015 – experience, and diversity of product. My crystal ball tells me that when Beer’d really gets going in 2017 or 18, the two kings of Connecticut craft will be on equal footing.
Sure, Beer’d pumps out A+ DIPAs and IPAs like nobody’s business, but they’ve also nailed all sorts of styles in 2014, dropped two creative and perfect barrel bombers, and did a collaboration with Night Shift. With nearly no distribution (rarely on two tap lines in their hometown, and never in stores), it’s amazing what they’ve done in their short tenure. Beer’d rules.
2015 Outlook: Continued brilliance and growing fan base
Black Hog Brewing, Oxford (Licensed brewery with simple tasting room): I think I speak for almost all of us local craft beer fans when I say, with some difficulty, Black Hog has been a bit of a disappointment in their first year. There is no doubt they excel in marketing and distribution hook-ups and label art. (Seriously, the GInja Ninja woman is fantastic). If you’re into subtle marijuana references, Black Hog has you covered there as well.
However, if you were cowed by the brewery’s bona fides and self-promotion, you’re still waiting for them to delivery on the goods. I had several of their 2014 beers, none of which inspired me to seek them out further or repeat a draft purchase. Black Hog seems hell bent on jumping on the buzzword train – Locally sourced! Organic! All that stuff that doesn’t really mean anything. Like, why put “local” rosemary in a dunkel? There are perfectly lovely hops that impart the same piney flavor, y’know? But do I even want that in a dunkel? Do I need ginger in my beer?
It’s perhaps a little unfair to speak negatively of a not-yet-year-old brewery, but I think we all had hoped they’d be a top tier destination brewery right off the bat.
I will say that some late-2014 Black Hog stuff was excellent, so let’s hope that trend continues as they get a bit more comfy in their new brewery.
2015 Outlook: Tough call. Could go either way.
Black Pond Brews, Danielson (Licensed brewery with simple tasting room): If I whine about Beer’d in Stonington, I share the same lament for Black Pond in Danielson. They are so far afield that I’ve yet to visit – and I really haven’t heard that much about their beer to be honest with you. I do like how they came to be and I like their naming conventions. I like that they reference “swamp Yankees” and Israel Putnam.
I will certainly get up there in 2015… who knows, maybe they are a hidden gem? But until such time…
2015 Outlook: No clue, but I hope they quietly build their Quiet Corner brand
Blind Pug Ales, Terryville (Aspirant brewery): Attitude, check. Facial hair, check, Tatts, check. Quality beer, I have no idea. I do know the boys behind this homebrew-wanna-be-legit-brew are young. Very young. And I know they like to be provocative with beers names that allude to pot (Kush Supercharged, Daddy’s Li’l Fatty), misogyny-oh-but-we’re-talking-about-a-dog! (Dirty Bitch), and unconventional sex (Citra 69, Stinky Dinky). Regarding that last one, why anyone in the world wants to drink a beer named after fecal matter on one’s peen is beyond me. But again, these guys are young. And maybe that’s a thing now. With Tinder and all that.
Perhaps their youth is the reason they are Instagram champions. (I know this and I’m not even on Instagram.) Who knows. All I know is that they annoy me and I’ve never had anything they’ve ever made, which is, perhaps, their point.
2015 Outlook: Continued immaturity and echo chamber accolades
Bottom-Side-Up Brewing, Vernon (homebrewers): I don’t really know why I’m listing true homebrewers to be honest with you. But at least I’ve had half a Bottom-Side-Up beer – a collaborative effort with Lasting Brass – another homebrewer. And it was good.
But beyond that, the guy who is the face of BSU, Heath, has reached out to me on a couple occasions and we’ve had candid and informative discussions on certain aspects of Connecticut’s brewery scene. I like his amateur professionalism and his beer styles – from what I see on social media. I think they’ve been able to futz around on a licensed brewery’s system once or twice, but I don’t think they have designs on going big time. If they do, well, then I’ll have more to say in the future.
2015 Outlook: Just to keep doing what they’re doing, and having fun doing it.
Brenner Brother’s Brewery, New Haven (homebrewers, etc.): Another entry that I have nothing much to say about, other than these guys interest me. I think I’d like to be their friend. Not only do they brew beer that their friends seem to enjoy, but they also make wine and perhaps other libations.
They haven’t been too active on social media in 2014, so they may be moving past their hobby, but they made a “dry lemon wine” which intrigues me as much as any homebrewed beer I’ve seen out there.
2015 Outlook: Probable disappearance from this list
Broad Brook Brewing, East Windsor (Licensed brewery with full-on bar): Ah, our first townie brewery of the wrap-up; a concept that was totally new to me before a few came online in late 2013 in Connecticut. This is a pretty brilliant strategy in my opinion. Here, they make all the standard styles and while most of them are nothing to go out of your way for, they aren’t bad either. Let’s call it… good mediocrity.
Broad Brook has a nice distribution footprint on tap lines and I see their cans all over as well. (Their brewery/bar only Pink Dragon Wit was my best surprise beer of the year.) And as I said, their “tap room” is essentially a bar full of locals drinking locally made beer, which is just great. Is that sustainable for the long term? For Broad Brook, I’d say yes, as their beer is just good enough to gain just enough non–East Windsor purchasers.
True story: I was at a thing in Mystic and some guy from near East Windsor was talking to some guy from southern Connecticut about beer. The East Windsor guy was talking up Broad Brook like it was just the greatest thing. Other guy had never heard of them, but was a craft beer drinker.
And that, folks, is how the Broad Brooks of the world will survive. Hyper-local loyalty and patronage and not much more.
2015 Outlook: Distribution shrinkage, especially if they can’t keep their Hopstillo IPA consistently good
Bru Room at BAR, New Haven (Brewpub): Hm. I’ve never been here in my life. But you know what’s weird? Even though they’ve been brewing their own beer for a while now, I hardly ever hear anyone talk about it. Like, never. Is that because it’s more well known for its pizza? – which I’ve heard plenty about. Or as a nightclub? Or because New Haven and environs has some of the best beer bars and THE best brewery in the state, so who cares about some formulaic brewpub that is more well known for its pizza and dancing?
You tell me.
2015 Outlook: Continuing to fight the good New Haven pizza fight
Buck Wild Brewing, Windsor Locks (homebrewer with unclear aspirations): Seriously? “Buck Wild Brewing?” I guess that’s okay, and I don’t think these guys have real intentions of going legit; I mean, I think I’ve seen somewhere where they mentioned that they’d like to, but who knows.
I only have one word of advice: If you do wish to go pro, change your name. You’ll thank me in 2019.
2015 Outlook: They’ll realize going Buck Wild isn’t as fun as it used to be
Cambridge Brew House, Granby (Brewpub): I like this place. It’s good. I’ve been through pretty much all their beers over the last three years and it’s a nice place. I’m not sure what else there is to say here.
They usually have at least 5 or 6 house beers on tap, and I can promise that 3 or 4 of them are quite good. Not, “let me have a $28 growler’s worth of it” good, but still good all the same. I’m happy to have ripped through 30+ of their beers over my years of reviewing, and I’ll stop in from time to time going forward, annnnd that’s all I’ve got.
2015 Outlook: Nothing changes, which is perfectly fine
Cambridge House Beer, “Granby” (Defunct contract bottles at Paper City Brewing/Opa-Opa, MA): All evidence points to this weird little contract operation going kaput. And while a couple of their bottles were actually good, I’m happy for the brewpub just above, as the confusion about the distinction between the two wholly separate entities melted my brain. (Basically, they guy who used to own the brewpub started the contract outfit using the name he owned still, and the brewpub never changed their name.)
If you are insane, you’ll like my page all about this mess.
Coming across a grocery cart full of Cambridge bottles at Crazy Bruce’s for 2 bucks each was the fitting denouement to this company’s short little run in the world of craft beer contracted and co-opted bottles.
2015 Outlook: I forget them already
Cavalry Brewing, Oxford (Closed brewery): Dear lower echelon breweries without piles of capital: Study the Cavalry collapse. You’re a good dude, but so was Cavalry Mike. You have passion for your beer, but so did Cavalry Mike. You have fun cask nights, but yup, so did Cavalry Mike. And Cavalry Mike probably had better or equal distribution than you currently do.
But Cavalry died an unsurprising death in May of 2014. It wasn’t because he pigeonholed his beers to all be “English” style, though that probably contributed a bit in the face of the American hop revolution. Cavalry Mike had a story behind his beers and everything. But you know what else he had? A really crappy level of quality control. Bottle upon exploding bottle – no matter the style. Buy a six-pack, wind up with just a pint worth to drink.
People didn’t like that so much. Add to it average – at the very best – beer and voila, Black Hog moved in to the space.
2015 Outlook: Well, that’s a stupid question
Center Mass Brewery, Milford (homebrewer): I have no idea in the world how I ever heard of this guy. He doesn’t seem to have any aspirations to go big time. All I know is that his current logo features the Statue of Liberty toting a giant machine gun of some sort, wrapped in the stars and stripes.
And yeah, now I expect the Center Mass guy to rip me a new one because it’s not a machine gun, it’s a whatever-it-is-but-technically-not-a-machine-gun gun!
At least we all know that beer and guns make a great pairing. What could go wrong? USA!
2015 Outlook: He’ll shoot a hole in is fermenter and Instagram that isht
Charter Oak Brewing Company, Norwalk (Contract brewer/Brewery in planning): Charter Oak has been a contract label only operation for a few years now, and the beer’s not been terrible. 2014’s Lights Out Stout was a pleasant surprise; probably one of Paper City’s best contract efforts to date. But the label owner has designs on a brewpub in hip happenin’ SoNo. He’s got buttloads of money, so it just may happen.
It would be cool to have a real brewpub in SoNo, instead of just the fake SoNo Brewhouse one over by the Aquarium – which wasn’t always fake, by the way. In fact, I do believe that’s where Rob Leonard (NEBCO) and Ron Page (City Steam) got their start.
Oh wait, Guvnor’s Brewpub is in SoNo. But it just closed at the end of 2014. So maybe Charter Oak now has a space? Update! SoNo Brewpub just closed on 1/4/15! (They didn’t brew there, but that’s where NEBCO got their start.) Charter Oak has options!
2015 Outlook: The closing of Guvnor’s makes this more interesting…
City Steam Brewery, Hartford (Brewpub): Speaking of Ron Page, this is where he’s been plying his trade for longer than most of you even know what craft beer was. City Steam is in a beautiful building and is the rare solid anchor in downtown Hartford. Every once in a while, they pump out a first-class beer too. (And their other efforts are bad either.)
Page is more of a traditionalist than many, and I appreciate that. In fact, in late summer 2014 Yankee Brew News published a quote from him – here:
If you can’t read that, he straight up made fun of other breweries with their stunt beers. He served this beer (if it was even real) with a popsicle stick. I love that and will continue to hit up City Steam before UConn games at the XL.
2015 Outlook: Continued good and varying beers; more Acupulco Gold please!
City Steam Brewery Bottles (Contracted at Two Roads, Stratford): I’ve always been a little bit annoyed by this whole City Steam bottle thing. I feel like it does the actual brewery in Hartford a bit of a disservice. Two of the bottled efforts are flagship brewery beers – the Blonde on Blonde and the Naughty Nurse. A third is a bit of a throwaway (the cream ale) and the fourth is pretty good (Innocence IPA).
But let’s be honest here – if you’re some random guy who doesn’t get to Hartford, these four beers are not going to inspire you to get to Hartford. I’ve found myself many times trying to convince people that the actual brewery always has much better beers on tap. But I guess it makes them a few extra bucks, and that’s cool.
2015 Outlook: No change
Compo Hill Brewing Company, Westport (Aspiring? Homebrewer): Wow, this guy stepped up his website game. Brewery websites are notoriously terrible, but for some reason this one is quite nice – and he’s “just a” homebrewer. Good for him. There were whispers that he was thinking of moving up to play with the big boys a year or two ago, but I haven’t heard anything since.
His beers sound interesting and he certainly writes as though he knows what he’s doing. (Though I must laugh at “Compo Hill Brewing Co. uses locally sourced water from Aquarion Water Company.” I mean, what? My house uses locally sourced water from MDC Water Company. So there.)
Regardless, in this crazy new world of fake professional homebrewers, Compo Hill at least looks really good.
2015 Outlook: Random appearances at homebrew comps and local festivals, nothing more
Connecticut Valley Brewing Company, South Windsor (Brewery in Planning): These guys are a bit farther along than I had thought. From their facebook page: “Currently, we have designed a 15,000 square foot brewery that will bottle and keg American Ales and European Lagers. It will also include a tasting room and retail store.” They have started digging at the site – a site which is mere minutes from Olde Burnside, by the way, and not far from Hooker and Back East.
I like their logo and their plan to brew lagers (rarer than you’d think), but beyond that, I know nothing more about them.
2015 Outlook: Grand opening in October 2015! (I just made that up.)
Continental Beer Company (Contracted with Cottrell): All you need to know about this label can be gleaned from one look at the website. All photoshopped silliness, all the time. Attractive multicultural crowd drinking Coronas made to look like they’re drinking GW Beer.
Also sad: GW Beer. I see they made a GW IPA in 2014, but I’ve never seen it anywhere. You probably haven’t either. But whatever, I guess the guy behind this label makes a few bucks, Cottrell makes a few bucks brewing it, and a few other guys tell their friends they are drinking beer that George Washington drank.
Which is absurd.
2015 Outlook: Continued irrelevance
Cottrell Brewing Company, Pawcatuck (Brewery with stand up tastings): Quick, what’s the oldest continuously operating brewery in Connecticut? You idiot, it’s Cottrell. Little ol’ Cottrell way down on the Rhode Island border. You have to give them props for continuing to do what they do in the face of everything else on this page. (It’s also where Aaren from Beer’d apprenticed, so for that alone, I love Cottrell.)
Charlie Buffum is definitely a dean of Connecticut brewing, whether you think so or not. Over the years he’s not only put out his own decent, though limited, beers, but he’s also dabbled in all sorts of down-low contracting and stuff. He brewed Mohegan Sun’s imprint ale for a while. He does Trader Joe’s off-brand “State Line” beers. He brewed freaking Narragansett beers too! Seriously! I think.
Perry’s Revenge is a good Scotch Ale. His IPA is old school and clean. Don’t front on Cottrell, man, or I’ll get mad.
2015 Outlook: Same ol’ same ol’ with mild attempts of keeping up with the scene
Creature Brewing, New London (Aspiring brewery?): You’ve got me here. This got on the list because one commenter on one forum I read mentioned they were “coming” and that they were “gonna be really good.”
No web presence that I can find though, other than this LinkedIn thing.
2015 Outlook: Oh, I have no idea
The Crossings Restaurant & Brewpub, Putnam (“Brewpub”): I used the scare quotes here for “brewpub” because from everything I gather, their beer is horrible and is made from extract. Which means they are only sort of half making their beer.
Is it possible to make decent beer from extract? Yeah, if the quality of your extract is good. But for high-volume extract brewpubs, the quality is poor. And the beer ends up worse. (In a nutshell, they don’t brew with grains and wort – they skip that step and just boil and ferment from dry yeast and prepared ingredients.)
Looking at their tap list, it appears all there beers end up red.
Which is weird. But not as weird as “A dark reddish Amber Ale with the characteristics of a Stout and smoothness of English Ale,” but what do I know?
2015 Outlook: Commies come to take over Putnam a la Red Dawn after seeing this draft list. “WOLVERINES!”
Dawley Brewing Company, Newington (homebrewer with aspirations?): Another one who had plans to go pro as far as I knew, but I’ve heard nothing further in 2014 on this. By the way, I applaud these guys and the others like them who have surveyed the landscape and perhaps pulled back a bit. Pure speculation on my part here, but the Dawley dude grew a serious beard and certainly looked the part.
2015 Outlook: Poof, into the ether
DuVig Brewing Company, Branford (Brewery with stand-up tastings): Nice folks, these DuVig people. Two families with a yen for brewing got together and started up this little brewery in Branford. They came up with a whole little mantra too – Session ales only! They brew classic styles and keep the ABV’s under 5%.
Which is cool and all, but… nah. I had their first three beers and they were okay at best, though wholly forgettable. Then things went off the rails with a horrifying so-called Berliner Weiss that was “one of the worst beers I’ve ever had,” according to a trusted friend’s palate. Then there was Geoff M, he of the Tidal River Brewery-to-be who wins my award for untappd check-in of the year:
“A++!!” Yet 3 out of 5 caps. “Smelled like cheese.” Um, what? If any of you give any credence to these rating sites, you’re insane. Anyway, every brewery can have an off day, but it seems like the nice folks at DuVig had an off inaugural year. And with Stony Creek opening a massive and professional operation down the street in 2015… I’m not feeling so good about this upstart’s chances.
2015 Outlook: Jobs at Stony Creek?
Erector Brewing Collective, Fair Haven (Aspiring Homebrewer), Fair Haven: For when North, West, New, and East aren’t good enough. It’s actually in eastern New Haven, next to East Haven, which is next to Branford. Quite the little brewing hotspot when you consider Overshores, DuVig, Thimble Island and Stony Creek.
Anyway, Erector has a cool backstory and even cooler design aesthetics. The guy behind the beer reached out to me when he saw me participating in a stupid Twitter discussion about “Erection” Brewing. And good on him – he called me out (as he should have) and proceeded to impress me with his plans and self-awareness.
Does he make good beer? I have no idea, but I can tell you that he can talk up his beer as well as anyone, without sounding like a douche about it. And I respect that.
2015 Outlook: Perhaps some firmer designs on a real brewery by year’s end
Farmington River Brewing Company “Simsbury” (Mercury Brewing, MA): In ancient times (1996), this company existed in Bloomfield, CT. They didn’t survive and ended up contracting up at Ipswich/Mercury Brewing in Massachusetts, which I believe they still do to this day. I see some of their very average beer here and there, usually in grocery stores for some reason. I never buy it.
And no one ever paid Farmington River any attention until, perhaps, November of 2014 when the ex-wife of the owner was murdered in Simsbury right next to the… dunh-dunh-dunhhhhh… Farmington River.
Seriously. And really, that story is the only time you’ll ever hear about Farmington River Brewing in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Let’s hope they solve the murder, who cares about the beer
Fifth Year Brewery, West Haven (homebrewer of some sort): Probably in their fifth year of their friends telling them that their beer is delicious and they really should open a real brewery. They seem to have disappeared from the social media scene and they have no website or anything, so let’s leave these guys alone.
2015 Outlook: A sixth year of me not knowing anything
Firefly Hollow Brewing Company, Bristol (Brewery with quite a comfortable sit down tap room): Firefly is a special brewery in my mind, simply because they were kickstarter funded just before every nudnik with a Home Depot bucket and some hop pellets started trying to get crowdsourced. It has a cool ethic and a rather unique shabby chic style. Lots of repurposed equipment and a sort of ramshackle-by-design appeal.
And it’s also in Bristol, which can use any sort of successful business it can get. And Firefly is also,, perhaps, our first neighborhood brewery. It has a bar and Dana the co-owner/brewer has an infectious enthusiasm for his craft. It all works, even if the beer sometimes doesn’t.
Though I think as we move forward, Firefly will get better as they home in on some of their better beers. I was happy to see their Cone Flakes DIPA dial back the hop madness from the first round or two, and now it’s a pretty darn good beer. With a “permanent” tapline at J. Timothy’s in Plainville, I see Firefly only getting better.
2015 Outlook: Fitter, Healthier, and More Productive
Gilead Street Brewery, Hebron (homebrewer): They made a facebook page 2 years ago and took a couple pictures for it and then disappeared from the public eye.
One guy there has/had a big giant red beard and he liked to brew homemade beer.
2015 Outlook: Removal from this list
The Great New London Brewing Company (“Partnered” with Cottrell): I’ve made a stink over the years about stupid sexist imagery and branding in the beer world. It exists and it appeals to bros and it’s probably never going away.
There’s sexIST and sexY. This label’s Safe Harbor beer fake commercial is decidedly the latter. I’m a dude. I am attracted to attractive women. I don’t even care about this contract brewer’s beer. (It’s just boring beer.)
I have no idea why this company exists or why this woman agreed to spend a day making this video, but who cares. It exists and it’s good.
Ok, ok… perhaps the butt shots are a tad sexist. USA!
2015 Outlook: More videos please
Guvnor’s Brewery, Norwalk (Brewpub): I wrote the following in December 2014: I’ve never been here but from what I’ve heard, I shouldn’t be too sad about that. It seems to be a food first, beer second kind of place – which is fine, but why bother with the beer? Is it merely a ploy to jump on the craft beer wagon? That would be my uninformed guess.
SoNo is a fickle place and good restaurants end up shuttered there for varying reasons. I have no idea how Guvnor’s is doing, but knowing the climate down there… I’m not super confident they will continue as a brewpub. But who knows.
12/31/14: Guvnor’s is no more. Protip: When opening a brewpub, try actually brewing real beer and not extract crap.
2015 Outlook: Charter Oak moves into the space?
Half Full Brewery, Stamford (Brewery with small tasting room): I got some crap for dumping on this new brewery’s canned efforts. I’ve not yet been to the brewery, mostly because it’s in Stamford. A Bright Ale, and amber, an IPA – all standard, rather middling stuff. They seem to be very eager and nice young folks and I wish them all the best.
But again, here’s the thing. When my local package store has NEBCO’s Sea Hag next to Half Full’s Pursuit IPA, for the same price, I’d have to be comatose to choose the Half Full.
Also, Stamford’s gotta be a tough spot for a microbrewery. The rich people have better things to do and the poorer people don’t do craft beer. And everyone else thinks they live in Manhattan anyway and probably only drink craft cocktails. And yet, Half Full announced a $250,000 expansion in late 2014 which I must admit, sort of blows my mind.
2015 Outlook: A quarter million dollar expansion seems a tad aggressive, but what do I know?
Hanging Hills Brewing, Hartford area: This brewery-to-be was born as WhaleWorks brewing as an homage to the departed Whalers, but… here, I’ll let Joe Ploof from the trio of guys getting this thing going tell you:
“WhaleWorks lost a trademark battle over the word ‘Whale’ with a brewery located smack dab in the middle of St. Louis. You know, in the event that a large cetacean should make its way up the Mississippi, this brewery wanted to signify the occasion with a wheat ale (get it? whALE?). With that said, that brewery ain’t dead, it’s now known as Hanging Hills Brewing. They’re location and fundraising right now.”
He reached out to me when I claimed his WhaleWorks was dead and now here we are.
I really dig the new logo art. You hikers know what it’s about.
2015 Outlook: Raising money, sorting it out… Nothing concrete until 2016.
Hartford Better Beer Company (Shipyard Brewing Co, ME): Hooray! They fixed their website! It honestly used to be the worst website ever – and in an industry rife with crappy websites, that’s saying something.
Also, I just learned this contract label is still going and is even rolling out something called Arch Ultimatum which they warn us to, “Be prepared before the undertaking.” Yeah. Ok. I’ve actually had all of their beers, I think, and a better slogan would be, “Be prepared before the underwhelming.”
These guys did start in Hartford – as a legit brewpub on Pratt Street before people went to brewpubs. So all their Hartford imagery is fine by me, even if it’s brewed up in Maine. But really, with the ever-expanding list of beer choices, I just don’t see how these guys succeed. (Although, seeing their beer promoted as Hartford made, as I’ve seen at some restaurants, is a pretty good gimmick.)
2015 Outlook: The world won’t be prepared for the undertaking and we’re all gonna die.
Hog River Brewing, Hartford? (Brewery to be…somewhere… with some name): I had these guys on my “to be” list for a looong time, then received some intel that brewer/potential owner gave up the ghost. Now, according to their Facebook page and Connecticut Magazine, I see that they are still trying to make a go of things. (This means, by the way, that there are TEN breweries that state they will open in 2015.
Anyway, Braddock worked at Hooker for a while before moving on to WillBrew where he’s been creating some of the best beer in the state. Hartford is proving itself to be a very difficult town for an aspiring small brewer, so he’s been seeking space in unnamed nearby towns. (Which would bring an end to the Hog River moniker, as that’s purely a Hartford thing.)
So if this place happens, and I hope it does, it should be stellar. Because like I said, if this guy is responsible for some or most or all of WilliBrew’s brews, then damn, I’m all in.
2015 Outlook: Hartford will blow it and he’ll end up in some warehouse in Windsor or East Hartford with a new name, but the beer should be good
Hooker Brewery, Bloomfield (Brewery with decent tasting room): Ahhh, Hooker. I love Hooker. Sure, a lot of their beers are just “good,” but some are fantastic. Hooker is venerable and respected. Going back to their days as Trout Brook in Parkville (Hartford), these guys have been around longer than anyone. They help a ton of non-profits and charities. They employ special needs folks, which as a father of one, will forever endear me to them. The imbue local history as well – and as cheekily – as anyone. Kurt and Lisa there are classy, intelligent and cool people.
Hooker was the only place doing contract brewing for a long time here. Granted, a bunch of their contracts are swill, but whatever – that’s still cool.
And Hooker knows what’s up. They know their Watermelon Ale is terrible, but they also know it’s their number one seller (!) They know they were a bit staid, so they’ve started branching out and doing new, more creative styles. They’ve had a hop farm in New Hartford way, WAY before all these nu skool breweries positively orgasm over their own one hop bine on their garage. And if that’s not enough, Hooker is part of the plan to save downtown Hartford.
Damnit, I’m gonna have some 2013 Old Marley Barleywine tonight to toast them.
2015 Outlook: I fear the big downtown investment thing a bit, but they’ll pull it off somehow. Maybe.
Kent Falls Brewing Company, Kent (Brewery in Planning): Will they come online in 2015? 2016? After a prolonged battle with the whitebread blowhards of Kent’s town government, and then a head-brewer who couldn’t wait around for the brewing to begin, Kent Falls seems to be getting going finally. They have a building up and some cockamamie deal to use “local” malt for their first beer, which will use every “local” and “organic” and all that buzzwordy stuff.
The guy behind Kent Falls is earnest and interesting; he has all sorts of business ventures over the New York state line, just west of the brewery. A farm and some chickens or some such. Kent Falls will be our first truly hippie co-op organic local artisan anti-GMO craft micro nanobrewery.
Which is wonderful… now let’s see if the beer matches the ethics. And let’s hope it’s not some Wolavers type garbage.
2015 Outlook: They open and realize German, New Zealand, and West Coast hops are actually really delicious
Lasting Brass Brewing, Waterbury (Aspiring Homebrewer… I hope?): Here’s the thing, professional brewers: There’s a guy in Waterbury who brews tiny batches in an in-law suite in his house. His kid plays Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the bags of grain. His wife tolerates the smell of the wort. And his beer is better than yours. No, stop, shut up. It really is. (Or, if your name is Matt or Aaren, then it’s just as good.)
Yes, I’m privileged to be friends with Ed, but I’m friends with a bunch of homebrewers. What Ed does at his Lasting Brass imprint is nothing short of amazing. From a crisp golden ale to a chewy DIPA to stouts and porters and Christ, some sours, Ed is a hero. If I were to list the best 10 Connecticut beers of 2014, little Lasting Brass would have 3 of the spots – easily.
So, the big question is… will he go pro? We’ve spoken about it and have mulled over all sorts of differing options. But Ed is smart and Ed is methodical, so he’s taking his time and weighing all options. He also has a thing where he needs to be in control of his product – even if it’s merely a money-losing hobby right now. And I (CTMQ) can (CTMQ) relate to (CTMQ) that.
I love Ed.
2015 Outlook: I wish I could say “take over the world,” but alas, I cannot. Yet.