I didn’t used to like beer. At all. But somewhere along the way, as everyone always told me I would, I acquired a taste for it.
People keep telling me that about wine, too, but that’s not going so well.
But somehow I’ve turned into a total beer person. Pat’s dad and stepmom also enjoy beer… in fact, they’ve brewed their own before! So when I stumbled upon a Groupon for a tour and tasting at a local craft brewery, I bought it without hesitation. Ever since, brewery tours have become a tradition for the 4 of us.
As with the rest of the US, craft breweries are popping up left and right in Connecticut, and every time we crossed one off our list another two would open. Needless to say, we did not make it through the list.
But we have been it to quite a few of them, so I’m just going to talk a little bit about each one here. If you’re not that into beer… well, then this post is probably going to be pretty boring.
Alvarium Beer Company – New Britain, CT
The town of New Britain was founded around the tool making industry, meaning locals are hard-working individuals. Just like bees. In fact, their city motto (translated from Latin) is “industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.” The word “alvarium” is actually Latin for “beehive.”
In addition to many craft beers – including an odd smoke-flavored session beer – they sell pretzels and kielbasas in their taproom, both of which we enjoyed while playing a game of Chinese Checkers.
Back East Brewing Company – Bloomfield, CT
Back East is a fairly small brewery with very limited hours; they’re only open a few hours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so we initially had trouble finding the time to go. But we finally squeezed it in, and once we were able to snag a place to sit, we really enjoyed their beers. They had quite a few on tap, including a peach/melon flavored IPA and a good variety of other styles!
Black Pond Brews – Danielson, CT
Home to a jalapeño beer – which was interesting but not something I’m planning to try again – this small brewery in the quiet edge of eastern Connecticut seems to have remained relatively modest in the 4 years since we visited. If you’re a fan of unique craft brews (again – jalapeño beer), then this is the place for you!
Brass Works Brewing Company – Waterbury, CT
Two things stand out to me about our time at Brass Works: (1) we got a lot of samples with our Groupon; and (2) their cherry beer tasted like cough syrup. Exactly like cough syrup. I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new beers, and I like most cherry beers (Sam Adams cherry wheat, anyone?), but I just couldn’t handle this one. None of us could. But the rest of their beers were tasty, so I guess I can forgive them for this one brewing failure.
Broad Brook Brewing – East Windsor, CT
This was the first brewery we ever visited and they were very new at the time, so they only had about 4 beers on tap. But a glance at their website shows that they’ve expanded greatly in the last 4 years, so I’d love to return and try some of their new brews
City Steam Brewery – Hartford, CT
This is one of only three CT breweries that we visited without Pat’s dad and stepmom, and it felt very weird to be breaking tradition. But a good friend was moving away so we met him downtown for a couple beers on his last night. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I remember he ordered a black IPA, which I’d never heard of before, but which was less hoppy (and therefore more enjoyable) than a regular IPA.
Cold Creek Brewery – Ellington, CT
This is another place we went when they were still pretty new and small, so there weren’t a ton of beers on tap. What they did serve was good, though, just your solid standard array of beers.
They also had giant Jenga in their taproom, and we ended up in a never-ending game…you know, the kind where you keep hoping it doesn’t make it back around to you because there aren’t going to be any moveable blocks left. I kept my fingers crossed but it just kept coming back around to me. The damn tower wouldn’t fall until we actually physically ran out of blocks to remove. So Pat tried the tablecloth trick – pulling the bottom one out really fast in the hopes that everything else stayed put.
Spoiler alert: this doesn’t work with Jenga blocks!
Connecticut Valley Brewing Company – South Windsor, CT
Unlike most of the breweries we visited, this one didn’t start out in someone’s garage and then move to an old warehouse and then gradually expand. Instead, they built a huge facility right off the bat, complete with TVs, games, and a large back room where they host a variety of activities.
Cottrell Brewing Company – Pawcatuck, CT
If I was ranking all of these – which I’m not, I’m just listing them alphabetically – this one would probably be near the bottom of the list. It wasn’t bad, it just… wasn’t anything special. They only had about 4 beers on tap, and they were fine. But again, they just didn’t stand out.
We’d spent the day hiking before visiting this particular brewery, which means Pudgey was with us, so (much to my embarrassment) we brought her inside for a quick photo op.
DuVig Brewing Company – Branford, CT
DuVig is quite the contrast to the other 2 breweries in Branford (which are further down this list). This place is probably the tiniest of all the ones we’ve visited. They have quite a few beers listed on their website but not all of them are usually on tap. However, the ones they had were a solid representation of session beers. Also, their logo has the word “beer” very large right in the middle, so they definitely win points for their straightforwardness.
Hanging Hills Brewing Company – Hartford, CT
This was a completely unexpected brewery visit, and one of the three Pat and I went to without his dad and stepmom. We’d gone to the REI grand opening in West Hartford, and Hanging Hills Brewing Company had a tent there. This brewery always donates 1% of their profits to environmental nonprofits, but for this particular occasion, they’d collaborated with REI to brew the Old New England Trail IPA, from which 10% of profits went to the Connecticut Forest & Parks Association. At the grand opening, you could donate $5 to the CFPA and receive a stainless steel pint glass, which could then be taken to Hanging Hills Brewery that afternoon for a free pint of the New England IPA.
So we did.
IPAs aren’t my favorite style of beer so I can’t accurately compare this place to the others we visited based solely off our free pint. But it was pretty okay as far as IPAs go. Plus, it was free! And they had a nice tap room with wooden decor and a bunch of games. Hopefully someday we’ll have a chance to go back and sample some more of their beers.
Kinsmen Brewing Company – Southington, CT
This brewery is located in a former bolt company building that’s been converted into a very large taproom with a Nordic vibe. They have outdoor seating, there were a couple birthday parties going on when we were there, and they also had giant Connect Four, so we played a couple games while we enjoyed our beer. Of all the breweries on this list, this one was Pat’s favorite.
New Park Brewing – West Hartford, CT
This was the last brewery we all visited before Pat and I moved away. They’d had a can release party earlier in the afternoon and there was a food truck outside, so the place was packed! I’m not sure if that’s normal for a Saturday or not. We’d already been out for lunch (with beer, of course) the day we visited, so we all just ordered pints rather than samplers. They had 6 beers on tap, 3 of which were IPAs (as mentioned above, I’m not much of an IPA person) and 1 that was a milk stout (I’m lactose intolerant) so truthfully I wouldn’t have ordered a sampler here anyway.
Olde Burnside Brewing Company – East Hartford, CT
Located at the site of the former Burnside Ice Company, this small brewery has actually been around for 19 years now! They’re a Scottish brewery, so most of their beers are Scottish style ales. Probably the highlight of Olde Burnside is the outdoor taproom (called the Brewtanical Garden), so come prepared for the weather of the day!
Overshores Brewing Company – East Haven, CT
Overshores is a Belgian-style brewery located in southern Connecticut. It’s pretty small, with only a few of its own beers on tap, but it’s also a collaborative brewery, so they often have small quantities of beers by local up-and-coming breweries. I always enjoy Belgian beers, and Overshores offered a solid line-up.
Powder Hollow Brewery – Enfield, CT
It’s been a while since we went to Powder Hollow so I’m having trouble remembering all the details. But I do remember that their oatmeal stout was absolutely delicious! They also have a very unique (and surprisingly good) lime basil ale. I know it sounds strange, but don’t knock it till you try it.
Problem Solved Brewing Company – East Winsdor, CT
This is a newer brewery and the most recent one I’ve been to. We spent part of an afternoon here last Christmas when we went home to visit Pat’s family. They’re actually located in the old Broad Brook Brewing Company building, but it’s been completely redesigned and I really loved it! The owners are engineers so they built much of the furniture themselves, the walls contained framed copies of patents for beer-making equipment (and also toilets and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms…), and the co-owner we met was super friendly and happily told us all about how this place came to be. Plus, the beer was tasty!
Shebeen Brewing Company – Wolcott, CT
If the name doesn’t give it away, this is an Irish brew pub. It’s also the place to go if you like uniquely flavored beers. When we were there, they had a cannoli beer and a pineapple beer! Also, their pint glasses are shaped like beer cans and we love them!
Stony Creek Brewery – Branford, CT
Of all the Connecticut breweries we’ve been to, this one was probably my least favorite in terms of atmosphere. It’s huge and loud and we couldn’t find a place to sit and it took us forever to just get to the bar to get our sampler platters. The beer was tasty, but this wasn’t the relaxing beer drinking afternoon we were hoping for.
These Guys Brewing Company – Norwich, CT
Before moving away, we met a couple friends here one night for dinner and a beer. It was a nice place and the beer and food were good, but it made for a really expensive evening. The food in particular was pretty pricey. If I went back, I’d skip the entree and just order beer.
Thimble Island Brewing Company – Branford, CT
This is another that we visited when they were just a small location with a few beers. But included with our Groupon was a tour and 2 full growlers, so we had a lot of fun here. And from a quick glance at their website, it looks like they’ve expanded quite a bit in recent years as well.
Thomas Hooker Brewing Company – Bloomfield, CT
Of all the breweries on this list, Thomas Hooker was the only one that gave us so many free samples that we couldn’t get through them all. After the tour (during which we drank watermelon beer straight out of the bright tank!), they gave us a wristband with 12 tear-off tabs, each redeemable for one sample. I think I only made it through 8 of them. Also, it’s called Thomas Hooker (he was the founder of Connecticut and, ironically, a Puritan), so obviously the Hooker name was fully taken advantage of.
Witchdoctor Brewing Company – Southington, CT
First of all, their slogan is “we have the cure for what ales you” so they start off with a gold star just for that. Also, they’re located right alongside the Farmington Canal Trail in an old factory building. The taproom itself is spacious and the tables, chairs, and other woodwork inside is all crafted from lumber from the former factory. It’s a very rustic place, and their beers were pretty good too!
The Hop Knot: a beer and pretzel place in Middletown, CT. They don’t brew their own beer but they have an array of local offerings and every variation of soft pretzel that you could ever possibly want.
World of Beer: a restaurant in West Hartford that also has about 100 local, national, and international beers on tap at any given time. Seriously. Looking through the menu is like reading a short novel, and deciding what beer to order is pretty much impossible. It took me at least 15 minutes to figure out which 4 I wanted in my sampler.
Powder Ridge Beer Festival: not a brewery, obviously, but the 4 of us attended this festival a couple summers back and found ourselves overwhelmed with beers to sample. There’s also food, live music, and the chair lift to the top of the “mountain” is open.
There’s a lot of craft beer to be sampled in Connecticut. And if anyone has visited any of the other Connecticut breweries, I’d love to hear about them!