Craft beers are big. Here’s the what, where, and how to tap some made-in-FC brews.
Made in quantities that are a small fraction of the size of the output of big name brewers, craft beer is known among beer lovers for its taste and freshness; this handmade thirst quencher can be produced in dozens of different and distinctive styles.
Last year, small domestic brewers produced over 11.5 million barrels of beer, with consumption of their products growing by double digits annually. This opportunity has not been overlooked by some local, entrepreneurial beer lovers—Fairfield County businessmen who see both fun and profit in making beer by the batch.
Scott Vallely, a New Canaan resident who’s been a home brewer for 30 years, started up Charter Oak Brewing to take his product to a broader public. His first style to market—1687 Brown Ale—like other Charter Oak styles, has a name connected to the legend that links Connecticut’s constitution to a hiding place in a huge oak tree, which is the company logo.
You’ll find 1687 on tap at South End in New Canaan, and in bottles at almost every restaurant in town. Chef Luis, as well as other chefs in restaurant kitchens around the county, uses the beer as a recipe ingredient, and the beer’s oak tree adorned 6-pack carrier is stocked at hundreds of package stores around the state. Currently brewed by Vallely at a friend’s facility in Western Massachusetts, he’s hoping to secure a Fairfield County site in the very near future.
In Stamford, Half Full Brewery is the inspiration of beer lover Conor Horrigan, and now has a production facility in town. The brew can be found around town and beyond—click the “on tap” button on the company’s website for locations. According to Jordan Giles, who holds the title of CBO (chief beer organizer) and handles much of the company’s marketing and communications, Half Full’s versatile staff of four handles the whole production process.
“We pour and mill the grain ourselves, watch over the brew kettle, transfer between tanks and package the draught beer ourselves.” Like most craft brewers, everyone wears a bunch of hats.
Brewer Todd Myers got the idea for GW Beer years ago when he found the recipe George Washington used to make his own home brew. Today, a Connecticut facility makes Greenwich-based Myers’ signature product, which he categorizes as an “easy drinking beer” or a “craft beer for everyone.” You’ll find the beer at various locations, including the Elm Street Oyster House in Greenwich; contact Myers via the website if you’d like to find it near you.
Southport Brewing Company, the oldest continually run brewery in Connecticut, has two well-known watering holes in Fairfield County. The original site in Southport, and the other, Stamford’s SBC Downtown Restaurant and Brewery, offer more than twenty styles brewed on-site at these county locations (the company also has venues in New Haven County).
SBC Downtown’s general manager, Marc Capasso, notes that 6 to 8 styles of SBC brews are on tap at all times at the restaurants.
“Our bartenders can tell you about each style, and you’ll always have a variety,” he notes. SBC just launched its first bottled craft brew, Connecticut Pale Ale, at a party at its flagship location in Southport. It will soon show up all around the county.
If you want to learn more about craft beers, or want an occasion to sample a variety of styles, the beer-friendly season of Oktoberfest is coming up, and venues around county offer a range of opportunities.
Here are two, coming up quickly, where you can sample the brands mentioned above:
Harbor Brew Fest
September 22, 12-5 pm at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport
New Canaan Nature Center Harvest Festival
September 29, 3-10 pm, New Canaan Nature Center