Man. You people.
Part 1 of this 2 part opus was received far, far better than I thought it would be. I found that surprising since my OCD-lite forced me to include home brewers no one other than their mothers have heard of. I have no idea why I do stuff like that, but I do. So I’ve continued on with an even longer and more thorough Part 2.
However, there is an irony here – the genesis of this particular “wrap-up” was actually me dialing back from the “review every Connecticut beer” premise. I’m confident saying I’ve had more Connecticut beer in the last three years – more variety, anyway – than just about anyone in the world. You know, I’ve never even thought about that until I just wrote that.
So this is kind of my love-letter to the nascent-yet-showing-cracks industry here in the Nutmeg State. And when I say love, sometimes I mean “tough love,” as you’ll read below. We may have nearly 30 or so breweries by the end of 2015; 25 more than there were in 2011. And as with any growth spurt, there have been awkward fits and starts and certain things that just don’t fit, no matter how hard they try.
Let’s get to it. The state of every brewery and brewpub in Connecticut at the end of 2014, part 2. 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.
(Links go to their websites, not anything I’ve written.)
Latimer Brook Brewery, East Lyme (home brewers): Mirroring part 1’s inauspicious start, part 2 begins with some random garage brewery no one has ever heard of that I have on a list for some reason.
It doesn’t look like they plan on doing anything professional with their brewing skills, so we’ll just move along.
2015 Outlook: They will disappear from my listings
Left Lane Brewing, Norwalk (home brewers with designs?): These guys appeared on the radar back in late 2012 or so. You can go to their website and see that they haven’t really updated anything since May 2013. It serves as a great exhibit of those heady days when upstart wannabe breweries figured that step 1 was “merch.”
And they used the word “swag.”
Anyway, they used to have the craziest “About Us” page wherein we were told that Left Lane Brewing was the greatest brewery in the history of the universe, but they must have gotten wind of people making fun of that and have toned it down. Now all we get from them is, “There are a lot of great beers out there, but there are also a lot of crappy ones. The state of craft beer in Connecticut is especially pretty bleak. It’s time that changed, and we are on a mission to fix it!”
2015 Outlook: Swag, swag and more swag!
Brewery Legitimus, Canton (Brewery in planning): I’ll admit – the first time I heard this brewery’s name I sort of chuckled. I mean, which state has 3 breweries with names you can string together to say “Legitimus Veracious Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores?”
And how “legitimus” will this place be? I have no idea, but a friend did some digging and found that the guy behind this Farmington Valley upstart worked at Brewery Ommegang. And we all respect Ommegang, so that’s a great start.
From what I understand, this place is definitely opening in 2015; and not in the latter part of it either. They will feature Belgian and American ales. These guys that just quietly do what they have to do to get official without worrying about “swag” and instagramming are the guys I really want to have their beer with.
Let’s hope it’s good.
2015 Outlook: Legit
Lillinonah Brewing Company, New Milford (Mysterious entity): You’ve got me here. I’m 99.9% certain this doesn’t exist, but what I’m curious about is what it was supposed to be in the first place. The link I’ve provided only goes to a single page with nothing but a logo. Their facebook presence seems to be a lie. I remember a year ago it was supposed to a brewery, but now I’m finding stuff saying that it was to be a brewpub/restaurant/something.
My guess it was someone’s dream that fizzled into nothingness and all we have left is that handsome logo provided at the aforementioned link.
2015 Outlook: Nonexistent
New England Brewing Company, Woodbridge (Top 20 Brewery in the World): What can I say? When it comes to quality of product, NEBCO is the brewery every single other brewery in Connecticut wishes they could be. When it comes to fan base, demand, and buzz, NEBCO is so far ahead of everyone else it’s absurd. Release something “exciting” in a 35 degree ice storm on a Wednesday afternoon? Two-hour line.
(Who ARE you people who can do that anyway?)
Because they are the king, they get some grief for “purposely limiting the availability of [Gandhi-Bot/Fuzzy Baby Ducks/etc.]” and for perceived “poor business practices” and crap like that. Sure, every hyper-successful business has difficulties keeping up with demand, but really, NEBCO does pretty well. When they moved and upped their capacity, they were able to provide Gandhi-Bot to way, WAY more bars and restaurants than before. (They’ve doubled Gandhi production annually, and will do so again in 2015, so shut up already.) This allows way, WAY more people to have it than the lunatics who follow delivery trucks to package stores. I like that.
I also like pretty much every single beer NEBCO ever makes. I’m so sick and tired of all the FBD-hunters/hypers who haven’t bothered with the 25 or so other beers they released in 2014. They were ALL either excellent or great.
Relax, people. We are very fortunate to have NEBCO in our backyard and that their staples of Sea Hag, Elm City, and 668 are among the best IPAs, Pilsners, and Belgian ales you can buy – and all three are usually cheaper than anything else at or near their level.
NEBCO is a small operation with very few employees. They make incredible beer. They are very nice people. They keep the price of their beer ridiculously low. They publicly call out package stores and bars that price gouge consumers (Please note: Rob and Matt and NEBCO have ZERO control over the pricing once it leaves their brewery. None. Nada. If they did, it would be WAY cheaper in the stores). They are truly humble.
They are awesome. There is one brewery in the world that I hope/plan/will continue to procure every new beer they make.
And let’s hope that if you’re reading this after January 2015, we’ve all forgotten and moved past the Gandhi-Bot offensive-to-Indians thing.
2015 Outlook: Continued excellence, longer lines, collaboration with Lawson’s what?
No Worries Brewing Company, Hamden (Brewery in planning): Don’t worry, No Worries is sited and the build-out is happening. Not that you were worried. I wasn’t worried.
But as I write this, and look up 5 column inches at what I just wrote about NEBCO, perhaps I’m a little worried. I mean, opening up a new brewery 14 miles from them is a ballsy move. OR… or is it genius?
That is: “Oh man, the line at NEBCO is over an hour long… let’s just go to No Worries then.” Not that that’s part of their business plan, or anything, but hey… that can’t be terrible.
I just ran through their line-up of beers and they seem to have a good range of styles and such. However, one of their “experimentals” is called “Bacon Up, Buttercup” which uses “real bacon from our local butcher.” Which excites me slightly less than having the descriptor “buttercup” in the name – since butter is a telltale taste of a poorly made beer.
But names mean nothing, so let’s see how the beer is.
2015 Outlook: Hakuna Matata
Noble Jay Brewing, East Lyme (Brewery to be): They’ve got the website and the dream and the 10 years of home brewing experience. They’ve got the back story – no one there is named Jay; rather, the name is an homage to the brewer’s mother who passed away when he was very young. They’ve got the Twitter presence and the drive to become known.
But they don’t have a brewery site yet, as it appears stodgy ol’ Old Saybrook is being difficult. So who knows how far along they’ll get in 2015… but I’m pretty sure they will try their little butts off to get going.
Here’s something about Noble Jay that was just tweeted to me (by one of the guys there): “The brewer and I are oceanographic surveyors. Started planning the brewery on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico mapping for NOAA.”
Okay, now I immediately like Noble Jay and think these bright young men are very cool. (Though who would want to leave jobs as oceanographic surveyors for NOAA to run a brewery?!
2015 Outlook: They will become intimate with Old Saybrooks zoning commission
Off the Hook Brewing, Wethersfield (home brewer): When the website for this married couple’s fantasy brewery was sent along to me, it inspired a long series of rather funny tweets and such. And I’m not even talking about sentences on it like, “The smoothness of each swallow is unsurpassed,” though that is wonderful fodder.
And it wasn’t the random Photo Gallery of the attractive couple either, though that is fun too.
No, it was this:
It is? Cool. I’m just embarrassed that I’ve never been there and haven’t yet enjoyed their fine beer at any local bars. So my circle of jerky friends decided to show up at their house some random Saturday, growlers in hand, to check out this highly successful microbrewery in Wethersfield.
Ok, we didn’t actually do that but damnit, we should.
2015 Outlook: Someone will alert them to this blurb and they’ll change their website… and that’s it
Olde Burnside Brewing Company, East Hartford (Brewery with Outdoor Beer Garden): I suppose it would be proper to note which breweries on these pages I have real life friendships with. One of those full disclosure sorts of things. It would get muddled with those that I’m fake “social media/email” friends with though.
But you don’t care. However, Olde Burnside is one such brewery. Not that I’ve made a secret of that. Not before when I’ve urged you to seek out their rarer efforts and not now when I tell you that Olde Burnside should command your respect and your dollars.
Respect because they’ve been at this game for longer than almost anyone still at it. Back in the day, having a Ten Penny on tap was a joy. It still is.
Your dollars because they are good people and they quietly released one of the best DIPA’s you can find in our state – the Mons Meg. And the new outdoor patio thing they built is very nice (though the view from it isn’t the greatest, but who cares), AND some of the one-offs I enjoyed there in 2014 were as good as any beer from anywhere.
Olde Burnside keeps it real. (And they also keep Pioneer Brewing brewing, as they’ve sort of set up residency there.)
2015 Outlook: Further explorations into new styles (for them) and they will be solid
Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores (OEC) Brewing, Oxford (Brewery with lovely tasting room): Capturing OEC in a couple paragraphs is about as easy as understanding what the hell Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores means. And although it has been explained to me more than once, I still can never make heads nor tails of which of their beers is which:
That list constantly rotates, and they release new stuff weekly, not that it matters to any of us. No one – and I mean not even OEC’s biggest fans – can rattle off which beer is what from them. But here’s the funny part: Again, it doesn’t even matter.
Why? Because for one, you can be assured almost every OEC beer is either a wild, a sour, or a saison – or some mishmash of the three. Then a bunch have been aged in various barrels or mixed with international beers you’ve never heard of – or again, some mishmash of all of that.
OEC is owned by B. United who is a very monied international importer of fine booze and beer. OEC is their beer playground – and what a playground it is. Only the best and shiniest equipment – including an old world coolship! – at their pristine building at the end of an industrial park in nowheresville Oxford. Everything here is incongruous to its location and yet, everything works. Beautifully.*
*As long as you’re into sours, wilds, and saisons – and boozy (often BOOOOOZY) barrel aged stuff as well.
I’m not so much into the BOOZY beers or the oaky ones they pump out… but they are expertly done for those who do enjoy them. But everything else is wonderful to me.
So here we have a new brewery that sometimes uses old beer and barrels and mixtures from other breweries from around that world that is the most expensive brewery in the state that ONLY makes styles not suited to everyone in the middle of nowhere with impossibly named beers.
And it works.**
**Except when they do a random “limited release” of, say, 24 bottles***. That’s just stupid. Stop doing that, OEC.
2015 Outlook: Magna effercio
Outer Lights Brewing Company, Groton (Brewery-to-be): They “hope to be operational in early 2015.” (Update: “We are aiming for early March but are at the mercy of permitting and approvals.”) They will be located pretty close to Beer’d – about 13 miles. I wish I lived 13 miles from Beer’d. Hell, I’d work at Outer Lights simply because it would mean I work close to Beer’d…
Oops, I’m supposed to be talking about Outer Lights Brewing here. Sorry.
My family goes to Waterford a lot in the summer and after a day at the beach, we often grab some ice cream and then a growler or two at Beer’d. Damnit, I can’t stop.
I wish Outer Lights all the
2015 Outlook: Joking aside, a good brewery in Groton should work
Overshores Brewing, East Haven (Brewery with nice tasting room): I dig Overshores. I like their space and love the jazz music Fridays they do. That’s just cool. And I rather liked their 2014 roll-out and line-up of beers. (A couple of them were most excellent.) And I really liked how upfront they were during their initial runs about some messed up batches due to bottling/capping issues. “Hey, we messed up, but we’ll do better” – and they have.
Overshores does the Belgian thing, but thankfully doesn’t to the “American take on Belgians” thing. They are straight up Belgian for the most part, and I appreciate that. If you see their Belgique du Noire in a store, buy it. (Although, I’ve seen it range from $12 to $19 which is a little insane.) In fact, I gave a bottle of it to my brother-in-law in Delaware as this year’s token “CT Beer” Christmas gift.
Sidenote: I think my review of that beer as also my favorite from 2014, and not just because my wife is so freaking hot in it. It was fun to write.
Overshores also debuted in Washington DC for some weird reason in 2014. So until Shebeen weirdly debuted in South Carolina in late 2014, Overshores, of all breweries, was distributed further than any other Connecticut beer. (Ignoring the vagaries of OEC’s sort of international reach.)
2015 Outlook: Continued small growth; please do a Flanders Red and do it right
Pies and Pints Brewpub, Middlebury and Waterbury (fake brewpub): These guys shouldn’t be on this list, but they are and here I am writing about them. But I have a reason:
They say that they still hope to brew onsite someday. But they have local breweries do it for them for now. I had lunch at the Waterbury location 8 months after Cavalry Brewing closed and was told my Pies and Pints IPA was brewed at Cavalry. Which may have been true, since it was pretty terrible.
But now I hear they have Shebeen in Wolcott brew for them which doesn’t exactly inspire a return visit anytime soon – for their branded beer anyway.
However, their tap list seems to always have a few great local offerings on it, from a breadth of local breweries. And that’s good.
2015 Outlook: I’d suggest moving branded beers to Black Hog
Powder Hollow Brewing, Enfield (Brewery with rustic yet quite nice tasting room): Unfortunately for Powder Hollow, they opened in late 2014 during my month of internal soul searching. Just as I decided that I would no longer obsess over reviewing every CT beer, they opened. And I just didn’t care.
It was a defining moment for me. And it had NOTHING to do with Powder Hollow.
But lo, I found myself near Enfield with some time to kill so I stopped in. And I can report that this brewery just “is.” It’s a brewery. They make formulaic beer that is neither offensive nor exciting. They seem to always have 9-12 beers on tap, which to my mind is a little bit crazy for a brand new brewery. Each beer has a distinct “we’re new at this” flavor profile.
Powder Hollow will have the whole “neighborhood brewery” thing going for it though and will probably do okay for a while based solely on that situation.
2015 Outlook: Locals only, duuude
Relic Brewing Company, Plainville (brewery with stand-up tasting room): Ahhh, Relic. Relic represents all that we’ve come to love about the “craft beer revolution.” A guy (a really nice guy) and a dream. A can-do attitude. Stood up to initial town stonewalling with plucky grit. Started in a super tiny room with super tiny batches. Grew organically. Used social media with aplomb. Became part of “the community.” Was, and is, a friend to many in the “community.” Grew some more. Utilizes creative and talented local artists for some of the best labels in the state… the country, the world! Did a couple collaboration beers with the unstoppable force that is Beer’d Brewing. Is now contract brewing 4-packs at Hooker.
And I love all of that.
Dramatic pause with picture.
But I’ve fallen out of love with Relic’s beers. Not all of them, mind you, but a lot of them. And once one falls out of love with one Relic beer, one falls out of love with about twenty others.
You see the issue. Mark’s personal preferences do not mirror mine, which is wonderful and makes the world go ‘round. Relic has its yeast strain and it is a very noticeable yeast strain and is a strain that I strain not to taste in Relic beer after beer. I am friends with people who absolutely love “the Relic flavor.” For them, Relic is the greatest brewery in the world.
Especially since Relic releases a new bottle, with a new name and new label more often than perhaps any other small brewery in the world. It’s positively amazing to me how they do what they do considering the size of the operation. And yours truly is perhaps the only consumer who kept up with every single release through the fall of 2014.
Here, give me a sec to go check on that tally – it’s somewhere around 35 different bottles. I’ve had every. Single. One. (If you’re not familiar, those 35 bottles are nothing compared to the endless array of selections that have been on tap at the brewery over its few years of existence.)
Relic has (my opinion) been forced to dip its toes into more hoppy waters in late 2014 – Mark is resolutely not a hop-head. The new contract brewing deal up at Hooker should work out nicely for Mark. It appears any QC concerns that were an issue a year ago have been resolved. The stouts and porters Relic does can be fantastic – The Ryepocalypse was sublime and the Rococo, and the Huntsman Double Coffee Stout were both top notch.
But yeah. I picked a good time to stop trying to review every CT beer… because for one, keeping up with Relic alone is impossible and two, attempting to differentiate the Hypatia from the Genevieve from the Demiana from the… etc. was becoming very difficult.
2015 Outlook: More “new” beers that my lame palate can’t differentiate
Samp Mortar Brewing Company, Fairfield (home brewer):
A Samp Mortar is a tool for grinding dried corn (maize.)
It was made from the stump of a tree (ideally, white oak or pine) burned hollow, scraped clean and polished. You aimed to make your hollow an inverted conical shape — the fire could be guided by holes drilled in the stump.
Ideally, the tree stump would have a healthy sapling tree nearby, or a tree branch.
If so, you’d tie a block of white oak to the sapling or branch. Otherwise, you’d make a sweep coming off a post and hang the pounder off that.
You worked the device like a piston, with whatever you’d hung the pounder on acting as a spring to lift it back up for you to ease the work. Still, it could take half a day to grind up half a bushel of corn into cornmeal.
They were used in Canada and in America. Some small towns would make a public one for everyone in the public square.
There you go. Since I know nothing at all about Samp Mortar Brewing, I thought we’d learn y’all somethin’ today.
2015 Outlook: I have no idea
Shebeen Brewing, Wolcott (Brewery with better-than-average tap room): Look, I know a bunch of you clicked on the link to this page and immediately scrolled down to here. Heck, I bet Shebeen owner Rich Visco did exactly that. Hi Rich! I hope you are well.
But as much as many of you wish, I don’t really feel the need to pile on here. I mean, what can I say that would change the Shebeen situation one way or the other? Mr. Visco seems to have a knack for damaging his own brand way more than a clown like me ever could or would – Shebeen needs no help from me.
So I’ll just leave a few of the most recent greatest hits here and move along.
There was the now infamous article from the Waterbury Rep-Am in December 2014 which contained several gems. Notably:
That article spawned a Reddit thread wherein Mr. Visco himself attempted some damage control. If you haven’t read the thread, the Redditors do a good job identifying some of Shebeen’s issues.
This spawned another thread on Beer Advocate which if you didn’t get the point(s) about Shebeen, now you will.
I guess I should note, I do not post on Reddit or Beer Advocate, so none of that stuff is from me. Anyway, Will Siss, he of Beer Snob Writes AND the Waterbury Republican-American, then did a follow-up article about this kerfuffle wherein again, Shebeen tried some damage control. I liked this bit:
For what it’s worth, I asked around and no one can remember either J. Tim’s or Eli’s ever having Shebeen on tap. They are discerning. And gee, NEBCO “dominates” because, well, because NEBCO dominates. (But I can’t pretend what Visco claims is remotely true, as of course Hooker and Olde Burnside and Back East and Stubborn Beauty and Thimble Island and Broad Brook and Two Roads and Firefly and Black Hog, etc. are on taps constantly all over the state. Like, everywhere… all the time. Visco needs to get out more… I’d guess that Hooker and Two Roads have more tap lines than NEBCO. Bars carry brands that sell, period. I struggle to comprehend the confusion surrounding that fact.)
Visco’s contempt for NEBCO has been documented… notably by himself:
… and Gandhi-Bot tastes like “grass clippings” too
Ummm… what else. There is a lot more actually – much of it public, some of it not (oh man, there was some good stuff in that group that was sent to me in the fall) – but this is getting too long as it is. Cannoli beer, instant mashed potato beer, cucumber-wasabi beer, pumpkin scotch ale… Where was Alan Funt? Of course, I’ve been told (directly and indirectly) my thoughts on these beers are such because “I just don’t get it” which is probably true.
But you know what else I don’t get? I don’t get that they have 75% unused capacity and I really don’t get when brewers mess up a batch of whatever beer, resulting in a sickly sweet estery mess… and then put it on tap anyway, AND publicly tweet about it.
Bubblegum Ale?! “Put on cask” instead of dumping it? Is he mad?
But no, Shebeen’s problem is not an endless parade of poorly made stunt beer, it’s you and me – the horrible Connecticut beer consumer who buys Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Allagash and Jack’s Abbey and all those terrible no good yucky out of state interloper beers! And no, Shebeen’s problem isn’t an endless barrage of public screw-ups and QC issues, it’s bars and package stores that don’t run 3 dedicated Shebeen tap lines that would sit and get even worse with cobwebs and age.
Shebeen’s pricing is very fair though. I can’t front on that. They apparently have a new brewer, so that’s good. He ended 2014 with a straight up pale ale without any nonsense in it. Imagine that. His name is Justin and I want him to succeed mightily.
Oh, and Yelpers enjoy the brewery. Yelpers are always right, so don’t listen to me.
2015 Outlook: I said I wouldn’t pile on. So… good luck vs. Westbrook, Coast, and Sweetwater in South Carolina!
Southport Brewing Company,
5 sites um, 4 sites, errr 3 sites (Brewpub):
Sure, a couple SBC locations closed up shop in 2014, but this mini-Connecticut chain still appears to be doing okay. They just recently won some sort of magazine accolade for Best Family Restaurant or something.
But I’m writing about their beer. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually been to one of the locations that actually brews the beer, so I can’t really comment on the “on tap” portion of their business.
But from what hear, I’ve no reason to make the effort anytime soon.
I really want to talk about a recent “release” they did, but I guess I’ll save it for the next blurb which is about their bottled efforts.
2015 Outlook: Now “streamlined” with only 60% of the restaurants to run, I look for big things
Southport Brewing Company Bottles (Contracted with Hooker): Ok, so the bottles from SBC are generally terrible. (I really wish my friends at Hooker would care more about whom they bottle for, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.)
Anyway, so here’s my thing. In late 2014 SBC did an “event” at which they had a “release” of what they called “bottle-aged” Big Chill. Bottle-aging is, of course, a legitimate thing. But in this case, I’m pretty confident that this was, “No one bought this crappy beer, so let’s grab up all the dusty unsold bottles, slap a fancy idea on it, and make an event out of it.”
And that’s super lame.
Of course, I could be wrong. And those “aromas of port wine, ripe figs & whiskey” actually existed. And, as evidenced in that picture, perhaps “bottle aging” a random beer in those super handy six-pack cardboards and 12 ounce bottles is the new thing for 2015.
2015 Outlook: They could do a “bottle-aged” event every month. Make it all the rage.
State Line Brewing (by Cottrell, contracted specifically for Trader Joe’s): Does this stuff still exist? I have no idea. Even though I have a Trader Joe’s in my town (and two Whole Foods! Yeah, I’m white.) I don’t think I’ve been there in over a year.
State Line is an imprint that Cottrell brews for TJ’s. It’s dirt cheap beer. Like $6 for a 6-pack. There was an amber and an IPA. Both were merely “ok” beers, but a steal for a dollar a pop.
I hope they still exist. I want to go to Trader Joe’s this weekend to find out.
2015 Outlook: I’ll push my doll-size cart through the crowds of shoppers, find some drop-out in a Hawaiian shirt, ask about State Line, and just get stared at.
Steady Habit Brewing Company, Haddam (Brewery to be): Have you had Steady Habit? Haddam.
Good. Here’s the deal here – Jon is an excellent home brewer. He works at Tony’s Package store in Haddam, which is a great package store. (It’s right across the Connecticut from the Goodspeed Opera House if you’re unfamiliar.) Steady Habit will be in an adjacent building right behind the store. I’ve been there. It’s spartan, sure, but it’ll do the job. But it is an attractive spartan, I swear.
Everything is pretty much in place
except for some final tweaking and legalities. Jon’s been perfecting his flagship, which will be an IPA called “Our Daily Bread.” Because I’m super cool, I’ve had it. And it’s good. Amen. But Jon, as with all good brewers, is humble and always seeking honest opinions in his quest for IPA perfection. Every brewery needs a perfect, repeatable, consistent, delicious flagship or three. I’m glad Jon understands this.
They should be opening pretty soon after I publish this in early 2015. I’m going to go out on a limb and say…
2015 Outlook: After a purposeful small and quiet start, fanbase will grow. Buzz will build. Ultimately, The Goodspeed will produce an opera about Steady Habit.
Still Hill Brewery, Glastonbury (Brewery in Planning): Some guys in Glastonbury plan to open this brewery in 2015. The date has been pushed back a couple times, but things look good this year. The guy behind the brand is a home brewer who tells us on his website that his family and friends have provided feedback over the years.
Normally, I’d mock that a bit (everyone’s friend and family like free beer), but this guy has done his homework with Siebel and also became a certified beer judge. Since they will be relatively close to my house, I’m sure I’ll be checking them out when they open. Until then, I just can’t help but think of this timeless joke from King of the Hill when I hear about Still Hill:
- Hank meets Kahn for the first time.
Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: I live in California last twenty year, but, ah… first come from Laos.
Hank Hill: Huh?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: Laos. We Laotian.
Bill Dauterive: The ocean? What ocean?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: We are Laotian–from Laos, stupid! It’s a landlocked country in southeast Asia. It’s between Vietnam and Thailand, OK? Population 4.7 million.
Hank ponders this for a few seconds.
Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: [groans]
2015 Outlook: They’ll open
Stony Creek Brewery, Branford (Brewery to be): A.k.a. One and a Half Roads. This place is going to be beautiful, and OEC’s reign as the nicest looking brewery will come to its end. Stony Creek is a section of Branford and the brewhouse/tap room will be right on the water. Supposedly it will have “parking spaces” for boats.
That’s so Connecticut.
These guys aren’t messing around.
Which is ironic, because the first incarnation of Stony Creek (the contracted area code bottles, below) was nothing but a “mess around.”
Stony Creek will go through a massive rebranding in the first part of 2015 and try to make us forget all about that 860 and 203 beer nonsense. They will create and release all new beers. They will have a whole host of regular rotation beers, none of which will be named after area codes. They will also do limited release beers throughout the year. (As of early January they haven’t relaunched their website yet though.)
They’ve been barnstorming the state in late 2014 and early 2015, appearing here and there and making themselves known anew. It’s crazy that Branford will have three breweries in 2015 (Thimble Island and DuVig are the other two), but that’s how it is these days.
2015 Outlook: New (really cool) heron logo, new brewer, new brewery, new everything. I have a good feeling about them but I have no real reason to… yet.
Stony Creek Beer (Contracted bottles with Hooker): Can we all just forget about this? The odd thing is, Stony Creek doesn’t seem too intent on allowing us to do so.
And I don’t know why. They all but admitted the 203 and 860 (and 401 for you Ocean Staters) beers are not good. They will be disappearing soon enough. But with their new and surely vastly improved offerings coming in early 2015, why not just erase this swill from everywhere? Stop putting them on tap lines and tell package stores to sell them off at 50 cents apiece and for the love of god, let’s never do this again:
Unless you give gifts to people you hate.
2015 Outlook: The Borg will mindwipe the Connecticut populace of this crap and all will be well.
Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company, Middletown (brewery with small but sit-down tap room): You know how the large majority of our state’s breweries are in ugly industrial parks or repurposed old factory buildings? And how a lot of them have crappy parking lots and driveways? Stubborn Beauty has all of that – and more! Not only do you have to drive under a foreboding bridge and down through an ever-increasing depressing industrial area, you have to then cross to the proverbial “other side of the tracks” and double back down a Martian landscape driveway to get to the brewery.
But you should know that this isn’t just some random old factory. No, this is the Remington Rand building, which housed the internationally famous typewriter factory back in the day. There were some important strikes there with full-on violence and stuff.
And now it houses a bunch of small businesses, including Stubborn Beauty. The picture at the top of this page is of their entry way, and it’s dope. I wish I framed it better, but whatever. I must admit that SB has been a bit of a hole in my brewery resume – and for no particular reason.
They make good beer across a host of styles. I’ve only been once and tried most of their offerings, many of which tended towards the sweeter and fruitier side of things. They released a new DIPA called DERP! Which was super duper tropical fruity – a bit too much so, but it’s a beer that can be dialed in to be great. Oh – and as with many new breweries, they seem to forget the aroma hops in a couple of their beers, but again, that’s an easy fix as they get their footing.
2015 Outlook: With a more-or-less dedicated tap line at the very nearby Eli Cannon’s, they’ll have a successful 2015 campaign.
These Guys Brewing Company, New London (Brewery to be?): Theeeese guyyyss.
Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. And their webpage is dead so maybe they are too.
In a business sense, not like, dead dead, cause that would be sad. Though their Twitter bio says:
2015 Outlook: Invent time travel and open in 2014 to back up their Twitter account
Thimble Island Brewing Company, Branford (Brewery with stand-up taproom): Plucky little Thimble Island. Since their opening a couple years ago, I’ve always wished they were Thimble IslandS Brewing, but I’m sure I’m alone in that lament.
They started strong, with a lineup of good flagships. Then they busted out a coffee stout that was among the best Connecticut beers I had in 2013. Their labeling and artwork is perfect. The “big beer” hits kept coming with a DIPA and an imperial stout. Even their “dark pumpkin porter” was good.
Then 2014 happened and I found that they struggled, to my palate, with some of the lighter, more nuanced styles. The kolsch and the wheat ale were both… not good. Some friends of theirs went on Beer Advocate and gave all their beer 5’s across the board, which made them look stupid. I heard rumblings that their IPA’s quality had suffered. That their perfect coffee stout was no longer perfect. I got a sad face.
Then they announced a massive expansion. Then I scratched my head. Now we wait.
I should note that while most brewery folks are super nice, the men and women who run the tasting room at Thimble Island are incredibly super nice. Like, you want to take them home with you. And these days, that matters.
2015 Outlook: I really like Thimble Island and I want them to succeed in the face of the massive and well-funded Stony Creek down the street.
Tidal River Brewing, Canton (Brewery to be): “Connecticut” comes from the Algonquian word for “long tidal river.” The Connecticut River is indeed such a river. The Farmington River, where this Canton brewery-to-be will be located, is not. This bothers me more than it should – and I know I’m alone in this. Because I’m insane.
For a couple months in 2014, Tidal River championed their own cause by stating that “Canton really needs a brewery,” and all that type of stuff. Then Brewery Legitimus appeared on the scene, with designs on a Canton location and, well, does Canton now need two breweries?
Fear not! The dude behind this upstart is forging ahead (as he should), loving every other Connecticut brewery on the rating sites, and… quite frankly being a bit weird on the twitters lately, strangely paying homage (?) to Will Siss’s unique way of describing beer.
Let me have a go: Like a well-intended homebrewer who eats paste on occasion. (Tidal River Brewing)
I kid, I kid… I think I like this Geoff guy. He makes fun of preppers and is into qualitative analysis and seems a genuinely nice guy. Between him and his wife (who is part of the Tidal River ownership/branding/marketing team), they have 50 social media accounts. But I’m glad I found this one, because I kind of love this fake label.
But then this happened. So who knows.
2015 Outlook: My man is gung-ho to get Tidal River going, but I fear reality may be a harsh mistress in 2015. We’ll see.
Top Shelf Brewery, Manchester (brewery with stand up taproom): Christ, the hits just keep on comin’ on this list, eh?
Top Shelf’s logo is weak sauce, man. Amateur hour all around. But that has nothing to do with the beer, right? After all, correlation is not causation.
But…yeah. Top Shelf’s first year just wasn’t good. Back when I was stoopid and trying to procure “every Connecticut beer,” my trips to Top Shelf were positively Hitchkockian. I was scared they’d know that I was the jerk who drain-poured half of what I’d bought from them while at the same time terrified to attempt to drink whatever I was there to buy all the while confused as to why I was handing them my damn money to complete the Dante Circle of Hell all over again.
While it’s true that the steady diet of Band-Aid Ales and Vomit Stouts from Top Shelf did no one any good, I kept giving them chances. (This was one of the factors that went into my “quitting” the “review every CT beer” thing – when a friend gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Dude. Stop. You’re out of your mind with stuff like buying Top Shelf stuff” I was like, “yeah, good point.”)
Yet! Yet the beer run that inspired that friendly advice was actually pretty good. Some sort of “oatmeal cookie stout” thing. And they just got new tanks from Firefly. And they just canned a buttload of their beer. So Top Shelf is forging ahead despite past issues.
Let’s just hope they are all “past.”
2015 Outlook: Seriously. The phenol and diacetyl horrorshows must be all over… right? Please say yes.
Two Roads Brewing, Stratford (Massive brewery with super nice taproom): We have arrived at our superstar brewery. Some incredible beer comes out of here. Mikkeler! Terrapin! Stillwater! Lawson’s Sip of Motherhumpin’ Sunshine!
That’s the Two Roads joke anyway.
Look, I know lots of scenesters like to dump on Two Roads and much of that dumping is deserved. I’ve dumped on them in the past for my own reasons. But as 2015 gets going, it’s time to rethink the vitriol – I know I certainly have. Two Roads has made a few valiant attempts at “reaching out,” (a Reddit AMA for one) but quite frankly, they don’t need to bother.
Two Roads is HUGE. They spents tens of millions of dollars. Their beer is everywhere, in every store and bar, all the time. And yet, 80% or so of their brewing capacity is reserved for non-Two Roads contracts. That’s amazing.
They employ more people than nearly every other Connecticut brewery combined. Their marketing is great, their branding is better, and their beer is… good enough. They make beer for that massive swath of consumers who don’t want BMC stuff, but couldn’t give a crap about what a Hill-Farmstead is. And again, that’s FINE people.
And when they do their limited releases, they are often pretty good. The 2014 kriek was easily a top CT beer of 2014 and the sours the year before were also top notch. So they appeal to me with that stuff while also appealing to a hundred people I know with their more standard stuff.
But in the end, they brew Sip of Sunshine for CT-only distribution. So if you want to hate on Two Roads, stop – and realize that they have shown and will continue to show that they are willing to partner with tiny elite brewer/breweries to produce large quantities of some of the best beer money can buy.
Don’t front on Two Roads. (Unless you want to talk about their nickel-and-diming everything. Then it’s okay.)
2015 Outlook: Just saw they’ll be distributing to another state beyond MA, RI, and NY. There’s no stopping Two Roads.
United Nutmeg Beer Company, New Haven (Brewery to be?): I know. I’m tired of writing this page too. And you’ve never heard of United Nutmeg Beer, so you don’t care to read about them.
Especially since I don’t know anything about them either. Other than having just read that they guy behind it comes from the punk/hardcore scene in Connecticut back in the day. Just like Jon from Steady Habit Brewing (above)! And just like… yours truly! (Though I was more of a Jersey/DC/Philly hardcore kid, but whatEVS, man, I’m totally down with the Tune Inn show in the 90’s and every time I go to The Space in Hamden and see the old Tune Inn sign hanging up I get wistful and nostalgic and…
I have no idea about their beer.
2015 Outlook: I used to think that labels were just symbol of pride
but over time i’ve seen they only serve to divide
it’s so easy to judge people by the way they seem to be
we must overcome this problem to live life peacfully
break down the walls!
yes, we’ll break down the walls!
Veracious Brewing Company, Monroe (Brewery to be): Opening in March 2015, Veracious apparently feels no need for a website yet. They’ve loaded 8 beers onto Untappd though and have generated a small buzz.
The folks behind this brewery run the well-regarded Maltose Express homebrew shop, which will still exist right next to the new brewery. Those in the know (not me) promise that Veracious will be worth it for me to drive to flip-floppin’ Monroe to procure some goods on the regular.
And when’s the last time anyone said, “I’m driving to Monroe, Connecticut” on purpose?
I can’t help but be annoyed already at all the future times future me will see “Voracious Brewing” instead of the correct “Veracious.” So please note:
“My 3-year-old has a voracious appetite for snack chips.”
“You people like when I get all veracious about our breweries.”
2015 Outlook: More craft beer loving Nutmeggers will know where Monroe is than in 2014.
Weed Brewing (Contracted with Hooker): We’re almost to the end here, folks. So I’ll be brief – Weed is some label from some family named Weed in Cheshire who worked out some deal with Mt. Shasta Brewing in California. Hooker brews two beers for them and while they totally have the last name of Weed, they of course play up the fun part of that moniker.
You can read all about it here. I know one of the family members suffered a major health issue a couple years ago and you should buy some of their beer to help the guy out with his medical bills.
2015 Outlook: I don’t know, but I hope that the Weed guy who needs it, gets well soon.
Whaleworks Brewing, Hartford area: Like the mighty Hartford Whalers, this appeared to be a brewery-to-be that is no more. But alas! They have been renamed and are still making a solid go at it:
“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.”
That was from Joe Ploof, one of the trio behind this effort.
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.
Willimantic Brewing Company, Willimantic (Brewpub): Remember back when WillBrew was where you could get the best beer brewed in the state? Like, seven or eight years ago? Well, I do. And you know what? They’re still chugging along, pumping out some of the best beer in the state.
And they don’t just do the usual brewpub stuff either. They aren’t afraid to do sours and DIPAs and funky stouts and everything in between. The building, an old post office, is beautiful and just downright cool. The food is better than average as well.
WilliBrew is so good, in fact, that when I am asked about “the best beer in Connecticut,” I always slot them in the top 5. And people are always like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about them,” and I’m always like, “don’t do that” and they’re always like, “Why are you such a dick,” and I’m always like, “I’m not a dick, I’m just veracious,” and they’re always like, “you mean ‘voracious’? like, hungry for food there?” and I’m always like, “sigh.”
2015 Outlook: Same ol’, same ol’ – which is a very good thing.
Witchdoctor Brewing, South Windsor (Brewery to be?):
Ooo eee,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang…
Ooo eee ,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla ,bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang
Or you can watch their (sadly, failed) Kickstarter video, which makes about as much sense as those original “Witchdoctor” lyrics
I don’t mean to ruin your day, but you missed out. For $10,000, you could have had “your name and personal message permanently engraved into a piece of [their] brewhouse equipment. The kettle and mash-tun are prime real estate.”
2015 Outlook: Bleak.
That’s it! Hooray! Before we go, there are a few more things some people asked me to cover as well… and I suppose it only makes sense.
Connecticut Beer Trail: Are you a trailblazer? I’m not. Well, I might be – or I was – because my brother in law gave me a card. But I think memberships are only good for a year? I have no idea because frankly, I have no interest in this stuff.
But I think the guy who runs the beer trail has good intentions – and the Trail does a lot of good things with good charities. Personally, aside from the charitable stuff, I just don’t understand the point of it though. The $90 “tours” around that take drunkards to 4 or 5 breweries (that often give free samples anyway) seem to be fizzling out. They did a “collaboration” brew with Shebeen (of all people) that generated as much excitement as… as you’d expect a Beer Trail/Shebeen collaboration to generate.
Bottom line: the Beer Trail is a money-making venture – which is fine – but I’m not sure the participating bars and restaurants have any sort of ROI from it. Who knows. Rock on, Trailblazers!
Beer Advocate, untappd, Rate Beer: I’ll handle these in order:
I participate on none of these. Then again, remember – I’m old.
The CT Craft Beer SubReddit: I’m not a Redditor either, but I visit this sub on the regular. I like it. Props to my friends Chris and Chris for keeping it going and growing it.
Every Connecticut Beer Blogger: Terrible.
Just kidding… you just wanted me to say that. I’m sort of a pariah to most of them, which is fine by me. And really, they can justifiably laugh at me for spending the time to write this page that will generate about 1,000 views (I know! Crazy!) and have it as one page hit with no SEO and some negativity (gasp!) and no ads (I’m dumb). They win, I lose.
Leaf and Yeast is my fave, btw. And not just because half of the L&Y team is my friend, Jay.
National Beer Bloggers: I only read one – Will Gordon at Drunkspin (etc.) because he’s funny and smart and on-point and doesn’t suffer fools…
And is my friend too.
Weirdo non-existent fake breweries: These things pop up every year and I have no idea why. But all the sites look the same and they all confuse me. And no, these are not the ones that have to be licensed at “Connecticut Breweries” because they contract at Two Roads (seriously, if you’re bored, there are a whole host of licensees in Stratford). These are the weirdo ones that simply don’t exist.
What’s their game, man? I want to know.
Go to Tree House in Monson, MA when you have a chance and don’t mind waiting in a long line.
Go to a DeCicco’s location in NY. My favorite is the one in Brewster, just west of Danbury. Bring money and see how much great beer gets to NY but not CT. They are like a Whole Foods or Fresh Market or Wegman’s with a high-end beer bar on-premesis. Big fan.
Tickers, Hypers, Truckchasers, Hoarders, Price Gougers, Hinky Distributors: I hate you all.
That seems like a good note to end this on.
Cheers to a great 2015, with lots of delicious Connecticut beer!