Hartford Better Beer Co.
West Hartford, not really, brewed at Shipyard Brewing in Maine
I remember, years ago, happening upon a bottle of one of these beers and thinking, “Oh cool! A Hartford brewery other than Trout Brook!” Yeah that’s right, I just name-dropped Hooker’s precursor brewery. What’s up. The label of the Arch Amber was (and still is) very handsome featuring our famed Soldiers and Sailors Monument prominently.
The arch, as any good Hartfordite knows, was designed by George Keller, is a state landmark and, perhaps most interestingly, contains the ashes of George Keller and his wife Nancy. It also used to get crashed into by drunk drivers fairly regularly.
I realize the large majority of drunks don’t care what they get drunk on – recently a woman here in Connecticut was busted and found to have downed half a bottle of 130 proof hand sanitizer – but the question for me is, “would I want to get drunk on Hartford Better Beer’s beer?”
I can tell you right off the bat I would never want to be drunk and wind up perusing HBBC’s web pages. They are downright awful. While a website doesn’t make a beer, it is a foreboding start.
I cannot stress enough how awful their website it. Poke around. And then never go back.
[2015 Update: It has been updated… thank goodness.]
I should also note that when I began to tackle the five (as of this writing) Shipyard brewed beers branded and marketed to Connecticut, a twitter friend made his distaste for all Shipyard beers very clear to me. Strike two.
There is something that used to rub me the wrong way about beers that are so clearly labeled and marketed for specific geographic areas that are brewed a couple hundred miles away, but I don’t really care any more. After all, contracting your beer often makes financial sense, I’m certainly not against it, and I don’t really care a whit where a beer is physically brewed.
HBBC has deep (20+ years) roots in Hartford. But even so, to name your company after our state’s capitol city and then brew it in Maine is just kind of weird. HBBC got its start at the long gone Hartford Brewery that used to be on Pearl Street. They brewed a couple of these beers there up until it closed in 2000 and then shifted to bottling them. Fair enough.
(I just realized I should have given the whole history of Trout Brook cum Hooker on the Hooker page but never did. Does anyone care? How about how I used “cum” and “Hooker” in one sentence? Basically, Spaghetti Warehouse -> Trout Brook Brewery and Restaurant -> Infighting -> Trout Brook Restaurant -> Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield, the name which comes from Trout Brook’s “Hooker Ale.” I’ll leave the names of those involved out of it.)
None of that, of course, has anything at all to do with Hartford Better Beer Company. Or the Farmington River Brewing Company, which used to have a physical brewery in Bloomfield (and no, not where Hooker or Back East is now) but is now contracted out up to Mercury Brewing in Massachusetts. Somehow through these “CT Beer” pages, I’ve become quite the expert on this murky world.
Or should I say, “yet another murky world” of Connecticut’s dark corners.