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Something's Brewing



Suddenly, Connecticut is awash in beer. Good beer, locally crafted and lovingly brewed. At least seven new microbreweries are in the planning stages, two more brew shops will open by press time, and this year saw the formation of the Connecticut Brewers Guild, a nonprofit group formed to link the microbrew industry to tourism, promote beer festivals, work on beerrelated legislation and build more interest in local brews. The craft beer industry in Connecticut is “at a crossroads,” says Bryon Turner, who founded the CT Beer Trail website (www.ctbeertrail.net) and company, which serves as a kind of bulletin board for craft beer news in the state.

“We’re going to see a lot of growth rapidly. We have a good, solid foundation that’s been around for years, but we’re seeing a lot of new [brewers] coming in.” Curt Cameron, head of the guild’s board of directors and president of The Thomas Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield, hopes that increase will boost Connecticut up the United State’s breweries-per-capita list. “We’re way behind,” he says of Connecticut’s No. 33 ranking, compared with Vermont’s No. 1 spot, Maine’s No.

5, New Hampshire’s No. 11 and Massachusetts’ No. 22. “Connecticut is playing catch up,” Cameron says, “but I’m very encouraged by what’s going on.” Here are some of the microbreweries and brewpubs producing unique, locally-made beers in the state.

City Steam Brewery Café

942 Main St., Hartford, 860-525-1600, www.citysteambrewerycafe.com

Brown Thompson, the multi-level restaurant in the former department store building of the same name, became City Steam in November 1997. Brewer Ron Page draws on a repertoire of about 40 beers that cycle through the seasons with eight to a dozen beers on tap every day. “We try to keep [a selection] of light to dark, easy drinking to more crafty intense,” says Conor Geary, who manages the bar and City Steam’s comedy club. City Steam beer also is sold in retail outlets throughout the state. Besides a “mug club,” the restaurant offers a beer sampler, five mini steins served on a brass sword.

Thimble Island Brewing

53 East Industrial Road, Branford, 203-208-9099, www.thimbleislandbrewery.com

Co-owners Michael Fawcett and Justin Gargano haven’t quit their day jobs quite yet, but they are happily filling their evenings and weekends with brewing. The brewery was fully licensed in June and began production in July, supplying kegs to restaurants in Guilford and Branford. As of press time, they were working on labels for their bottled beer and on their website. Both men are IT professionals who started out as home brewers. Their main brew is an American ale, but they are developing a lager and an IPA. Also on tap are plans to open the brewery for tours and to convert the front of the space into a tasting room.

Bar

254 Crown St., New Haven, 203-495-1111, www.barnightclub.com

Brewmaster Jeff Browning says he has been fascinated by beer—its brewing, history and styles—since he was a kid. In the 1970s, he began collecting beer cans. By the time he was in his late 20s, he was judging beer competitions and speaking on beer history. For the past 12 years, Browning has brewed hundreds of kinds of beer at Bar, where brick-oven pizza and ale draw a loyal clientele. He brews about 1,000 barrels of beer a year and keeps 17 brews on tap daily—six of his own, including Damn Good Stout, and the rest from other craft beer brewers. His “early fall harvest ale,” available now, is a “big, rich, malty beer with seven percent alcohol,” says Browning, who describes himself as a “historically accurate English ale brewer.”

Back East Brewing Company

1296a Blue Hills Ave., Bloomfield, 860-242-1793, www.backeastbrewing.com

One of Connecticut’s newest breweries, cousins Tony Karlowicz and Edward Fabrycki Jr. opened its tasting store in July and began distributing bottles and 64-ounce growlers to restaurants, bars and package stores. The signature brew among their six styles is the medium-bodied Back East Ale. The two men had a similar dream of running their own business, says Karlowicz, and spent four years brewing and experimenting before developing a business plan for the brewery. Back East is open for tours, tastings and refills of its half-gallon growlers.

Cambridge House Brew Pub

357 Salmon Brook St., Granby, 860-653-2739, www.cbhgranby.com

Chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, stout-marinated steak and St. Louis ribs—these hearty comfort foods on the Cambridge House menu lend themselves to a pairing with a cold craft beer. Brewer Chris DeGasero maintains up to 12 beers on tap, including the signature award-winning Abijah Row IPA and Copper Hill Kolsch. Seasonal brews also turn up, such as the Octoberfest beer meant to pair with dishes from a special German menu. Owner Scott Riley, who is treasurer of the Connecticut Brewers Guild, says he suggests certain beers to match to dishes on the regular menu. The brewpub sponsors a mug club, which currently has about 200 members and a waiting list. Cambridge House also hosts quarterly beer dinners.

Cottrell Brewing Co.

100 Mechanic St., Pawcatuck, 860-599-3213, www.cottrellbrewing.com

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the name Cottrell was associated with printing equipment. Calvert B. Cottrell established a manufacturing company in Pawcatuck in 1855. The company was known around the world and held more than 100 patents. Today, brewing equipment has replaced printing presses, and Cottrell’s great-great-grandson, Charles Cottrell Buffum Jr., owns the brewery. The microbrewery, which claims to produce the oldest continuously brewed beer in Connecticut, turns out its flagship Old Yankee Ale, a medium-bodied American amber ale; Mystic Bridge, a New England IPA, and Perry’s Revenge Scotch Ale, a dark Scottish-style brew with 8.5 percent alcohol. The ale is named after Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry’s 19th century ship, Revenge, whose wreckage and artifacts Buffum and a diving partner found off Watch Hill. The brewery is open for scheduled tours Thursday through Saturday da y or by appointment.

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