These days it seems like I’m able to turn any trip or outing into one involving beer. It’s a talent, actually; my parlor trick, if you will. So during my trip to visit a friend in Connecticut last weekend, I really got to flex my beer-infused (very, very
weak strong) muscles. It was a pretty dreary weekend, so what better way to curb the doom-and-gloom weather than to spend your whole entire day tasting beer at a few of the state’s awesome breweries!? I couldn’t think of any, so off we went!
We started our excursion Saturday afternoon at Two Roads Brewing Company, located in Stratford. Having arrived right at opening (because who isn’t ready for a beer come noon?) we made our way upstairs to the tasting deck of what used to be the old U.S. Baird Corp., a metal stamping and forming manufacturer. I loved taking in all of the industrial charm of the historical building that the brewery made their home in 2012. We sat down at the large oval-shaped bar that boasted tap after tap of Two Roads best brews and began to look over the beer list. The bartender was very helpful in recommending beers he thought we might like based on our preferred styles. I ultimately settled on the Honeyspot Road IPA, an unfiltered wheat based IPA with nice citrusy accents. We only had one beer each, and unfortunately no time for a tour as we already had tickets to one at the next brewery on the itinerary.
Always being a fan of the new kid on the block, or the underdog, I was really looking forward to our next stop at the lesser-known (at least nationally) Thimble Island Brewing Company, located in Branford. Founded actually 2 years prior to Two Roads, in 2010, Thimble Island has grown from two guy’s hobby to now holding the title of being Connecticut’s largest self-distributing brewery. Their production facility and taproom are located in what used to be the old Gravy Master building. The brewery, whose name pays homage to the string of islands found in the Long Island Sound, produces five staple beers year-round, as well as rotating seasonals.
Our 2pm tour was one of the most informative I’ve ever been on, with a nice opening consisting of the history of the brewery, that then segued into an in-depth explanation of the brewing and packaging processes. After the hour-long tour we set up shop in the tasting room to try a beer each. I decided on the Ghost Island Double IPA, a dry hopped, citrusy smelling, and crisp brew. I really enjoyed this brewery and hope to see their brews reach the craft-beer market of NYC in the near future.
Come Sunday morning the cloudy skies had finally given way to the sun and we made our way to the last brewery on our list. Stony Creek Brewery had the perfect set-up for the much anticipated warmer weather. The back wall of their taproom was lined with glass doors able to transform into an open-air space connected to their massive deck which overlooked the Branford River. Fire pits, life-size connect four, cornhole boards, and more can be found in and around the party deck and event space that is able to host up to 160 guests.
We snagged a high-top table along the deck’s railing and took in the sunshine with a flight of Stony Creek’s beers each. My favorite of the day was the RIPE and Cranky Peach IPA, the peach variation in a collaboration with Ripe Craft Bar Juice, a fresh-pressed juice company based in New Haven. The beer was super refreshing and slightly sweet with notes of peach, (hence the name) citrus, and honey. I was hoping to take a 4 pack home, but it sadly wasn’t available in the to-go shop. I settled for some cans of their Big Cranky Double IPA instead.
I had the best time experiencing three very different breweries within the span of just a couple miles. The power-house of Two Roads, the self representing Thimble Island, and the epic location of Stony Creek all bring something very different to the craft beer table. Learning about the history and values behind each one is always so much fun and I was lucky to knock three off my list in just two days time! Connecticut, like most areas nowadays, has a rapidly expanding craft beer industry growing from 6 licensed breweries in 2010 to now 55+ and counting. It’ll be fun to watch how these breweries expand over time in terms of offering and national reach, and I look forward to my next brewery adventure in the state!
Two Roads Brewing Company
1700 Stratford Ave.
Stratford, CT 06615
Brewery Tours held Friday, Saturday and Sunday ($5 each, tickets sold first come first serve day of, no reservations)
Thimble Island Brewing Company
16 Business Park Drive
Branford, CT 06405
Guided Tours held Saturday and Sunday
Stony Creek Brewery
5 Indian Neck Ave.
Branford, CT 06405
Tours are held Saturday and Sunday ($5 – includes sampling)