Simply (edit: one of) the Best.
New England Brewing Company
This is one of the many pages here on CTMQ that I should have written long ago. Like when I first visited NEBCO. Or when I revisited it a second time. Or perhaps the third. Nope, not even the fourth. Maybe the 24th.
Alas, I never got around to it for no particular reason. But know this: I love NEBCO beer and while I need to stop proclaiming a favorite CT brew (because so many excellent new ones keep cropping up), at the date and time of this writing (August 9, 2012), these guys brew my favorite CT beer and probably 5 of my top 10. And while that very well may change, I’m pretty secure in saying that their “668 Neighbor of the Beast” has my favorite label blurb of ANY beer from all the world. Here’s what it says:
“Good fences make good neighbors” – unless you live next door to Satan. Then you may need something extra to help you cope – like our ‘668’. This hellaciously delicious Belgian Style Ale is brewed with pilsner malts, candi sugar and blended with American and German hops. ‘668’, Mortal tested… Goat Lord approved.
As Ina Garten would say, “How great is thaaahht?”
It’s really, really great. But delving deep into individual beers is what I do (kindasortanotreally) over here, on my Connecticut Beers page. This page is just about this small craft brewery, located in a nondescript brick building in a shopping plaza in Woodbridge. The best part of driving there is passing the giant black block lettered sign for “Amity Meat Center.” Makes me laugh for absolutely no reason at all – every time.
Once you find the place, you enter and notice a small sampling bar area to the left. There are a few stools and beyond that, the space opens up to the storage and canning area with the brew tanks just beyond.
Yes, I said “canning.” Many NEB beers are canned individually and by hand. I’ve seen it with my own eyes many times. They are one of the pioneers of putting quality craft beer in cans (the second one on the east coast) and upon being asked, they will helpfully explain that a) it’s cheaper, b) a single person can move a gigantor pallet of beer cans around without issue and c) canning quality and local-only distribution counter any “cans = poor quailty” argument. Having bought more than a few of their canned beers over the years I can confirm that they have a valid point.
In fact, this little brewery has been listed as one of Beer Advocate’s top 20 breweries for the last few years. These guys know what they’re doing.
When you visit, they’ll most likely have three taps running. It doesn’t really matter when you go, or what beers they have on tap because they are all excellent. I had the very good fortune of visiting once with Ghost Pigeon Porter, Imperial Stout Trooper and Ghandi Bot DIPA flowing. You really don’t get much better than that line up at any brewery of any size anywhere.
Except maybe in Belgium, but they don’t count.
For some inexplicable reason, I’ve had Damian with me the two times I visited with a camera. Damian does not allow for in-depth brewery tours. Although, as you see here, NEBCO has a resident lazy dog so my son was entertained while I talked beer with the guys from the brewery. And we didn’t just talk about some Trappist ales I’d recently had, no, we got dorky about a framed cease and desist order from one Mr. George Lucas. The best part is that the brewery proudly shows it off – framed it and everything.
Lucas somehow got wind of the brewery’s Imperial Stout Trooper which featured a Stormtrooper visage on the label and, well, George Lucas doesn’t like that. So now the trooper wears shades. I love trademark law skirting. And I wish the human race could issue him a cease and desist order regarding his constant meddling with the original films. Actually, he should have ceased and desisted after … ok, I’ll stop.
The imperial stout is phenomenal by the way. Smooth and delicious. With their imperial stout and their Belgian 668, both with ABV’s over 9%, NEBCO does an incredible job of masking the alcohol burn and taste. For me, this is pretty much the mark of a great craft brewer. (Incidentally, it’s also where Dogfish Head fails me every now and then.) These beers are impressive to say the least.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Ghandi Bot IPA, which randomly features a robot Ghandi on the can label. It won “Best overall beer” at some important beer event at some point. Like a real one, not the local fair where or Big E you see a bunch of Connecticut wineries trumpeting their ribbons all the time.
I asked how the quirky and funny beer names come about and was told, “Oh, we have a guy here who is just ‘out there’ and we turn to him and say, ‘we have a new IPA’ or whatever and he doesn’t blink and just comes out with these ridiculous names that we love.”
I didn’t get to meet the creative wizard behind the names, but he definitely deserves a CTMQ thumbs up.
NEBCO rules. They only distribute their more unique beers locally to the New Haven area, but often co-host beer dinners at some of the better beer bistros in town, as well as Mikro in Hamden. Well, you can find a few of their more “mainstream” brews farther afield (Sea Hag IPA, Elm City Lager), but the really good stuff is a bit more rare. They used to distribute their beers in a much wider radius, but their popularity has forced them to shift their focus more towards their roots in the central Connecticut area. If you’re lucky, you’ll score a Ghandi-Bot or 668 4-pack farther away.*
*They actually do distribute more further, but craft brew insiders (like me now) know when they ship, say, a few cases of their barleywine or imperial stout in bottles and they buy them up within a day or two. That’s just how it is.
Go here. It’s only a couple minutes off of the Wilbur Cross and you’ll pass a rare CT Drive-Thru Starbucks too. It’s well worth the trip.