Willi Or Won’t He? (Listen to Reddit Again)
Willimantic Restaurant & Pub Brewery, Willimantic
A’ight, listen up. I went to Willimantic Brewing Company, officially the Willimantic Restaurant & Pub Brewery, colloquially just Willibrew, which is how it shall be referred to henceforth – years before I started CTMQ. I enjoyed it very much, but I simply didn’t find myself in downtown Willimantic too often.
Then back in 2007 I stopped in with my boy EdHill one Saturday afternoon and had a beer. A very good beer. I wrote a few paragraphs and sort of set up a placeholder page for Willibrew once I decided to add a section on Connecticut breweries and brewpubs. (An addition I made way before the explosion of local craft beer, but I’m not complaining about that.)
The original Willibrew page was terrible. I even had a disclaimer on it stating how terrible it was.
Anyway, in late 2012 and on into 2013, I made it a point to start hitting up this spot as much as I feasibly could. My younger son was finally two (or thereabouts) and although annoying, I was able to introduce him to the wonders of Willibrew. I think that as of this writing (in July 2013), I’ve now been here four times in the last 6 months.
Nope. Never mind that I squeeze in CTMQ posts in my free time… I don’t get a dime for it, I have a demanding special needs son and another two-year-old, a full time job, a house and yard to maintain and blah blah blah. Not good enough. Because according to some Redditor, I’m a fraud because I have not given proper attention to Willibrew.
Never mind the 1200 or pages of free and original content on this site. I hadn’t properly sampled Willibrew! I’d never really spent any time on Reddit, but I guess this is how they roll over there. (Note: One of the “Steve sucks for not having written about Willbrew” guys read 2 paragraphs of the home page where I talked about going to UConn in the early 90’s and therefore should have written a book on the place. Because that makes sense.)
BUT – they did have a point. Even though I’ve reviewed a ton of Connecticut beer and even though my “reviews” (stupid as they tend to be) are forever long and involved, I really should have given Willibrew it’s propers by now.
Why? Because it’s a true gem. Great building, good food and great beer. Truly some of the best in the state and certainly the best brewpub in the state. Hands down. City Steam and Cambridge House both brew some very good beer. Willibrew brews some incredible beer.
And, not only that, they have this wonderful habit of rotating something like 12 different IPA’s throughout the year. I really wish it were closer to me.
The following factual stuff is from their website.
After a couple smaller successful efforts in town, the owners moved to the stately granite and limestone 1909 U.S. Post Office Building on Main Street. Abandoned in 1967 by the Federal Government this building lay vacant for nearly 30 years. I have no idea what it used to look like, but today it is sharp. Almost iconic.
(Isn’t it cool that Willibrew and City Steam are in beautiful historic buildings? It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, but I would love for Hooker to move into the old Hartford Times building.)
When used as a post office, Willibrew’s dining room was the post office work room, the pub was the customer lobby, and the private dining room was the Postmaster‘s office. The early 20th century architectural aspects have been well-preserved and there are cool historic post office items around the large space. (Not corny like at Friday’s or Chili’s, but cool.) The coolest thing is the huge 12‘ by 17‘ mural, created by Gordan MacDonald, depicting a 1920‘s Main Street scene. And the bar itself is quite a beautiful thing.
Willibrew pumps out an incredible array of beers from their 7 barrel brewery – which can be seen from the dining room. They always have around 10 of their own beers on tap at any given time.
Of course we’ve eaten here a bunch of times and the food we’ve had is really very good. Also, and just as importantly, even though it’s a brewpub, Willibrew is rather family friendly. It’s always comforting going into a restaurant on a Saturday afternoon and seeing a bunch of other tired looking people with little kids in tow.
The have good lettuce too
At the end of the day, New England Brewing makes the best beer in Connecticut. Period. Several other breweries are tied for second. But as far as brewpubs, Willbrew is tops and probably slots in right up there in the top 3 or 4 beer producers in the state.
I love their focus on IPA’s and their fearless deep dives into sours and unique saisons. They don’t seem to do too many different stouts or porters, but they do enough. Throughout the year, Willibrew produces certain beers “for the community” (the sales go to some local organization), which is great.
Willibrew: Proof enough that your preconceptions about Willimantic are probably unfair.
For the Curious: