I went to the Witchdoctor Brewing Company on a Wednesday night in March, during the latter half of the Geek trivia night. It was busy. There were a decent number of people there for trivia night, but also several groups who weren’t participating.
Chips and snacky stuff are offered for sale. The chips were homemade style and were ok. They have a menu with hard booze for mixed drinks, but I couldn’t tell if it was leftover from an event or a permanent thing. They have some fliers for delivery food if you want something more substantial.
They had a Geek Trivia night going on. It was a fun atmosphere. They had a section in the back of the building with games to play like cornhole and such of its ilk.
Service: Our bartender’s name was Mike. He was a good barkeep.
Beer: I really liked the varied selection that they had for styles of beers.
Gose cross the border (Raspberry Gose): This beer is tart. I liked it a lot. They had the half growlers, or as some call them, squealers. I decided to buy one of their 32 oz bottles and took this Gose home with me. It was a nice, light drinkable beer. I was a fan. This will appeal to people who like fruity in their beer. If you aren’t into fruity beers it might not be your jam.
Paupers Porridge (Oatmeal Amber): I liked this beer a lot. It was very nutty and ever so slightly bitter. It was a clever beer and I was a fan! It wasn’t as heavy a beer as I was expecting from an oatmeal beer.
Antidote Kolsch: It is a perfectly acceptable Kolsch. Not my favorite Kolsch from local breweries, but just fine.
Nutter your business (Peanut Butter ale): It was fine, a little bitter. The Peanut butter isn’t a strong flavor, so it just seems like odd flavors in your mouth. It wasn’t terrible, but was also not really my thing.
Brown Eyed Bear (American Brown Ale): This is a nice beer, but a bit uninspiring and forgettable. It was just ok.
Vanilla Pexto Porter: It had a smooth Vanilla aftertaste. I liked it. I like the texture of the mouth feel on this one. It was smooth. I’m a fan.
Bathrooms There were two genders single stall bathrooms. They had a nice air freshener. It was a stocked bathroom and was decently clean, but untidy. They had obviously given up on keeping it tidy until after closing.
Parking: There is a very small parking lot. Finding parking on a busy night would be a bit obnoxious.
Area and safety: It is a small town and if you live in the area from the glance I got I think it would be somewhere you could walk to.
Overall: I really liked Witchdoctor. I found the environment inviting, the people friendly, and the beer delicious. I was really interested in the variety of beer styles. I bought one of their 32 oz containers filled with their beer to take home.
Why you should go: They have a great selection of beers. There is a great environment. If you are doing the Ct Beer trail they are very close to Kinsmen brewery so doing two stops at once is very easy.
What could be improved: More of a variety of snacks would be nice. Also more parking.
I went on the secret Kickstarter pre-opening day. It was a friday night in April, and very rainy. It was very full for being a secret kickstarter opening, but then again their kickstarter got backed. That requires a lot of people. When I read their kickstarter, I saw them as a mostly IPA brewery that seemed very generic and a wee bit boring. However, even if I don’t like a beer or brewery style I want to support the local brewery business, so I threw a token donation their way. Anyone who donated got their name put into a custom piece of art they were making for the brewery. I really liked the art they created. Their logo is a poison dart frog. One of the brewers, Dayne, works in the medical industry and saved various medicine caps of different colors and sizes. Those caps were used to create a mosaic of a frog. People who donated had their name written on these caps.
With much consternation I found out my name has been misspelled. This was after an email from TOX asking specifically how I wanted my name spelled. I brought this up to Dayne who was apologetic and assured me that a change would be made. (I have messaged them about that change. We will see what the response will be. I will probably revisit them just to find out if they actually changed it. It did annoy me. Not that I gave a lot of money to their kickstarter, but for the principle of the thing. All in all, I have to say my preconceived notions of their beer offerings have been altered by my visit to Tox. They, in point of fact, offer a wide and varied selection of beers.
I have spoken to Dayne via their Facebook. He has told me that they have fixed the spelling, and would sent me a pic. I would post that pic here, but the pic never got sent and I really wanted to get this review out.
I don’t know if it was just an opening night (or rather pre-opening night) thing, but there were bowls of popcorn on the tables. They offer snacky chips for sale and some non-alcoholic beverages. My friend and I brought a subway sandwich to split. It’s definitely a BYOF sort of place. Either way, if they do end up offering popcorn on a normal basis, I am a big fan. I really appreciate a free crunchy salty snack to eat while drinking beer. They also offer cans of hard cider for sale for those who don’t like beer and want a different option.
Atmosphere/vibe: It has a small town feel. I was kinda disappointed with a lot of their design choices. There are many opportunities with the frog theme they could have went with, but instead they chose generic coffee house pop up. Some elements were nice. I liked the choice of overhead lights. With a low ceiling you don’t have a lot of options for lighting. The lights were interesting, unique, and very close to the ceiling without being boring track lighting or hanging long halogen bulbs.
I also liked the beer themed chalkboard bathroom walls. There were a few little frogs thrown around, but it seemed like more of an afterthought rather than a central design theme. There didn’t exactly seem like there WAS a central design theme. I absolutely LOVED the old Mac computer that was turned into a holder for the IPAD register. Super bad-ass! It was so cool! I’m super impressed. It is definitely a conversation starter. I only wish I had an old computer to do this to.
The front room was a small room. (which could pose problems as if this place becomes as popular as their beer should make it) I don’t see a lot of options for expansion. The taproom had the bar, then some high tables with chairs, and then a couch seating area. In the back (which they had open) you could see the tanks. They offered naming the tanks as one of their kickstarter rewards and each tank was outfitted with labels that read Delta Kilo, Eagle, Charlie, etc.
Service: Service was great. Because it was pre-opening day all 3 brewers were there on deck. I met two of them. Dayne was who I interacted with the most as he poured our flights. Dayne was very knowledgeable. I also spoke with Jon back in the back room where the vats were. We talked about ideas they had for future beers. I did not meet the 3rd of the trio who, upon website investigation, is supposedly named Mike, but I have no direct proof of Mike’s existence. Prove you exist Mike… Prove. The two that I interacted with were very friendly, interesting, and passionate about beer and about their new brewery.
So, one thing I have to say about Tox Brewery is that they are very deliberate with every choice they make in their beers. There is a high quality of craftsmanship. Even if there were beers that I didn’t particularly care for, I can appreciate the deliberate decisions and thought that went into it. They made pointed decisions. None of their beers are just a sort of generic. I’ve been to a number of breweries now, and one thing I have found is that some breweries make generic inoffensive beers that will appeal to a mass audience, but are frankly forgettable. Now, I understand that that might give them wide market appeal, but I find it boring and predictable. I was very impressed with Tox brewery’s ability to make such well crafted intentional decisions about flavors, texture, etc.
The all important point, what about the beer? I went with a friend and they had 8 beers, so we got a flight of 4 each so we could both taste all of the beer that Tox had to offer. As is well known, I’m not a fan of coffee beer or IPAs. Tox had both on their menu, but I gave them a college try. I also noted my friend’s opinions on them because she does like IPA. I tend to like going to breweries with friends who like IPA so I get an opinion on them other than me. Sadly, most people I know who like beer also don’t like IPA and eschew hops. I find that a lot of my friends who love beer seem to avoid the “brewery scene” because of the prevalence of hops. I was lucky on this night in April because the friend I did bring does like IPAs and hoppy beer, so I got some good info on their flavor opinions as well.
Like I said, the flights have 8 beers. Now, I don’t know if this is just an opening event thing, or what, but they don’t give you a flight all laid out. Instead they give you a small tasting glass and tokens. You pick a beer, and then when you are ready, you bring back the tasting glass, they rinse it, then fill it with your next choice in exchange for a wooden nickel. At the end we got to take home the tasting glass. I really like their tasting glasses btw. They look like a beaker with a little tiny pour spout and have the little frog logo on them. Their tap pulls also have a little frog on top of… well I’m not sure an oddly colored pinecone? An oddly shaped mushroom? Dunno, but there are little frogs on those too. So we tried ALL of the beers Tox had on their pre-opening day. We started light and moved our way to darks. I really like my little science measuring glass I took home. It’s cute!
Placebo Effect (cream ale): It is light, kinda sweet, subtle. It is drinkable, but a little too sweet for my taste. I was very interested in this one because they use corn as one of their grains. The sweetness is definitely from the corn. I found it interesting. It was a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I really like what they were doing with it. Gift (Vienna style lager): I have to say this was my favorite of their beers. I took one sip and was delighted with how bready it was. It is very malt heavy. Lagers are hard to achieve something really unique and good with and I am really impressed with Gift. It is definitely heavier than a usual lager and the hops are much lighter. If you like more hops in your lager it might not be for you, but I’m in heaven with a really malt forward lager and this one pulls it off so well. The hops are very subtle. I just keep coming back to bready. It is a really bready beer. I really loved it. I think it was my favorite of all the flight. I was going to take some of this one home, but ended up taking 1 crowler home of something else, I don’t regret bringing the one I did and I’ll explain why later, but I think I regret not bringing a second one of this. I really loved this beer. If you are passing through New London and don’t stop to taste this I feel that you are missing out.
Mantis (table beer saison): This is a complex beer with interesting flavor profiles. If you go, have them tell you the story of the super secret yeast strain. Supposedly it is a brand new yeast and they aren’t telling anyone what it is called. I got a lot of spicy flavors in the beer, but I’m assured no spices were added. It is all the yeast. It is complex, spicy, and has a creamy mouth feel at the end. I was very intrigued. I enjoy being intrigued by beers. I will explain why later, but this is the beer I brought home a crowler of, even though Gift I say was my favorite beer from the flight.
Angel Wings (IPA): In their description they say it has a “delicate halo of bitter”. They had really good copy btw. Hats off to whoever wrote their copy. Anyway, I think that I couldn’t describe it better. A delicate halo of bitter is the perfect description. It was hoppy, but not overpowering. If you like IPA I think this should be a definite try. It wasn’t for me, but that wasn’t the beer’s fault. I can appreciate how well it is made and still just not like it. I also appreciate Jackson Pollock and don’t like his work either. As for the structure, it is a little dry on the finish, very citrusy and acidic.
Citra Pollen (pale ale): It is very front hoppy, and well, also very back hoppy. I wouldn’t say it is overwhelming hops. I would say it is permeating hops. If you like hoppy beer that is bitter you might like this one. There are some front citrus notes which are nice, but the bitter sticks to the roof of your mouth even after you are done drinking. Heavy hops in a beer is not for me.
Achievement Day (IPA): This was a collaboration of all three brewers where each took an ingredient the other brewers hates. There are rye grains with a very complex citrus flavor. It struck me as grapefruit rind. I don’t think I’d order it, but I would drink it if it were in front of me (that says a lot for an IPA). I generally tolerate IPAs that have the grapefruit rind flavors more than the other bitter citrus flavors.
Belladonna (chocolate coconut stout): I liked this one. It had real coconut flavors. I find that coconut in beer often tastes like… well… hrm coconut flavoring rather than real coconut flavor. This hit a toasted coconut flavor without being cloyingly sweet. The coconut flavor is smooth and complex. The chocolate is a secondary and complimentary flavor instead of being the front flavor. It has a smooth buttery texture that is creamy. The chocolate is dark and subtle. I love the toasted flavors. I think these toasted flavors come partially from the malts, but also from the coconut. It is really interesting and I liked it a lot. I highly recommend this one if you like dark beers.
Deadly Nightshade (coffee stout): I roll my eyes. I don’t like coffee stout. I will say, however, that for every strong opinion there is the exception. This might be the exception. Do I want to drink it all the time, no. Would I maybe occasionally get off my “I don’t like coffee stout get off my lawn rocking chair” set down my cane and have a pint of this occasionally… yes. If you are in the (I like coffee beer) camp, then I really think you should try this one down at Tox Brewing Company. If you are in the (Coffee Stout should be poured down the drain) camp, you should take a swallow of Deadly Nightshade and have an open mind. Most coffee stouts taste like coffee grounds to me. This tastes like how a coffee shop that grinds and roasts their own coffee beans SMELLS. Even people who don’t like drinking coffee usually like the smell of a coffee shop. This tastes like that smell. I’m not talking about St. Arbucks or Dunkies… I mean like one of those hipster places that roasts their own beans and their patrons wear lumberjack shirts or free Tibet bracelets. That lovely toasted roasted smell that commercials about coffee want you to believe can happen at your house. It tastes like that smell. There is also a nutty flavor that comes through like sweet almond. It is a milk stout so it also has a nice creamy round texture. It is a pleasant beer. I’m a curmudgeon and don’t like changing my mind on things, but I’m willing to admit there is always an acception to the rule. This might be the acception to the rule. It is very drinkable.
So they used cocoa nibs in their brewing process for their chocolate beers. They had some bits of the nibs in a little jar and Dayne let us taste some. They were nutty. It was like if you had that 90% dark chocolate and crossed it with toasted walnuts. I liked them. Very nice! I regrettably didn’t get a picture of the dark beers in the tasting glasses.
Bathrooms: Clean. They were simplistic, no frills, but clean and stocked. Of course this was like pre-opening day. I would like to see how the bathroom faires after a few months of being run be 3 men. I hope they maintain it, but I worry it might fall into the category of “bathroom in a brewery run by 3 men”. There is an entire market of women who love beer. Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting that woman take a bathroom really seriously.
Parking: The parking lot is smallish, but the taproom is smallish. It is definitely not going to be a big enough parking lot if this place kicks off.
Area and safety: The area seems nice, but it is on a main road. When I went it was dark and raining, so I didn’t get a good enough judge on if the road is very walkable or not. The parking lot is fine. Lots of other businesses around. I don’t know the area well enough if you had to park off site and walk.
Overall:This is a solid brewery. Generally a lot comes down to “did I have a good time” and yes. I did. It was comfortable, the people were friendly, the beer was good. I got to take home a cute little tasting glass. I could pee in their bathroom without wondering if I could hold it till I got home because I didn’t like the strange sticky substances lurking places. So yeah, solid brewery. That being said, consistency is hard. Consistency with beer is hard, consistency with cleanliness is hard. Everyone was pumped for the opening and excited. I hope they can translate that into their daily enterprise. I would like to go back again in a few months (it is a bit of a hike for me) and see how well they match up to the expectations they have set. They are a new brewery, just barely opened, so if you are in New London you should definitely give them a try and help get them on their feet.
Why you should go: Go to support a new brewery getting on their feet. Go because the beer is thoughtful, interesting, and very purposeful. Go because they have a variety of styles of beer and there is surely something for every beer lover’s taste. Go because if your friend/significant other doesn’t like beer, they have some options that aren’t beer for purchase. I was really impressed with their beer and I think this one is a definite try if you want the top tier of breweries in Ct under your belt.
What could be improved: They need to figure out exactly what their interior design is… It seems a little confused. If they are going with the frog… then go with it. It kinda has a cobbled together from Wayfair sort of look. Half brewery, half coffee shop, half 3 guys ordering “things that look cool I guess” off the internet and TJ Max. I worry if they become very popular due to their very good beer that parking will become an issue. They have a teeny tiny parking lot. I would hate to make the drive all the way to New London and then not find parking.
I went on a Wednesday around 5pm with a family member. It wasn’t overflowing, but it was very busy for a Wednesday early evening. Many who were there came for supper and the added benefit of good beer just enhanced the experience.
By the by, that last bit is a perfect transition into the “do the offer food” bit that I like to include in the blog reviews. YES They have a decent sized menu which is available on their website. In fact, you can order online, then show up and your food will be ready while you order your beer. They have pizza, salads, and sandwiches in addition to snacky things like big pretzels. They also have gluten free options. Their kitchen had only recently opened, so I’m sure that their menu will evolve as they discover what best suits the beer loving people of Milldale. They also offer cocktails and other drinks besides beer for the non-beer drinkings in your life what you want to drag to breweries.
Atmosphere/vibe: They want a sort of Scottish/Irish vibe, and while their logo emphasizes that, it come off as sort of a combination between polished refined barn and old industrial repurposed mill, and heah… it IS in an old industrial repurposed mill. The sign at the road is easy to see, but once you are in the parking lot you have to do a quick double look to where the actual entrance is. Not too difficult though. There is a small room before the spacious main taproom. This small room has a pool table and chairs and hang out games sort of area. That is also where the bathrooms are. The main taproom has a very long bar, then a variety of long tables and high round tables. I like the big round hanging lights. They are indicative of stone castle eating hall chandeliers. Something very Game of Thrones style. They also have a fireplace which could be really fun in the cold winter months! There is a lot of seating and table space. However, that being said. It was decently busy on a Wednesday night. It might be jam packed on a Friday or Saturday night. It is a kind of not full light environment, but not too dark. High ceilings make the room look even bigger. I liked how long the bar was. It gives a lot of options for people to have a seat at the bar, or at tables. I liked the atmosphere. They have a chalkboard in their hallway on the way to the taproom that shows upcoming events and beers that are currently being brewed and will be coming soon.
Service:Jeff was our bartender and was great. As is clearly known by now if you rea this blog at all, I am not a fan of IPA, but I’m always willing to let someone try and change my mind. Jeff let us try a few IPAs. My mind isn’t changed, but I did like trying a few of them and get an idea about the style of IPA they brew.
Beer: Flight are 4 tulip style tasting glasses in a wooden board.
Thicc Berry Krunch Fruit Punch (IPA Milkshake): This IPA has more of a grapefruit rind bitter flavor. I didn’t get much fruit punch, just the grapefruit. What I can say is that if I do have to drink an IPA I prefer the grapefruit rind flavors more than the other citrus rind flavors. I’m glad I tried it, but it wasn’t for me. It was unique. If you like IPA, I would suggest at least trying it.
Milldale Light (Lager): Obviously there is a play on Miller Light with the juxtaposition of the town of Milldale thrown into the name. Personally I don’t think they should do it as Miller Light isn’t particularly good beer. Milldale Light is a decent beer. It is crisp. It tastes light. It is drinkable. A very inoffensive beer that would appeal to a wide audience. Not thrilling, but very acceptable. I tend to like more malty lagers, but it was fine.
Iroc (New England IPA): It has a strong bitter front and after. I found it unpleasant. If you like very hopped up, very bitter beer you would probably like it. If you do not like very bitter very hopped up beer then, well, you are like me and probably won’t like it.
21.3 (IPA): It has a very bitter taste with only a slight citrus flavor. The Bitter stays in your mouth after drinking. I was not a fan.
Great White Bat (Wheat Beer): The flavors are good. It is a great German style wheat beer. It is a little more carbonated than I personally like. Overall a solid beer. I tend to like wheat beers. I think I would have liked it just
PB W (Peanut butter spelt milk stout): Smooth, really awesome texture. Very Peanutbuttery. Delicious. Some slight chocolate notes. Did I mention delicious? It has lovely malts. It is a drinkable beer candy, but watch out. It is not a session beer. Don’t drink too much beer candy with this ABV or your will get sloshed.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms were clean, well stocked, and pretty.
Parking: There is a large parking lot, but potentially not big enough if the entire place is packed to the gills. There are signs nearby saying certain places NOT to park or you will get towed. So, I suppose that when it is really busy there might not be enough parking.
Area and safety: The area seems safe. I wasn’t able to really see if it is somewhere you can walk to. The parking lot was not particularly well lit, but I didn’t feel unsafe in the area.
Overall: I really liked the brewery. The bartenders were friendly. The taproom was comfortable and inviting. The beer was good. So, I have talked about growlers. I had a growler a friend had given me and I decided to fill it with the Peanutbuttery goodness. I just don’t think growlers are for me. There can be too much of a good thing. I don’t drink enough at home to make it worth it. The first time opening the growler at home the beer was just as good as at the brewery. The second beer was ok… the 3rd beer was meh and then after than the beer just wasn’t fresh or that good. I just can’t drink that much fast enough. I think the only way I would do growlers is if I were having a party where all the beer would get consumed the day I open the growler.
Why you should go: They have an interesting variety of beer. I really liked the PBW. They bathrooms were clean. They offer food which is nice if you want to go and eat as well. They tend to offer a lot of IPA, so if you like IPA they have a variety to sample.
What could be improved: They offer a lot of IPA. I wish they had more selection of other beers. They didn’t have a sour on tap when I went, I wish they had a sour on regular tap.
I went with a friend on a Wednesday around 6pm in March. It was cold, but the weather was nice. There was still snow on the ground. They have an outdoor space which looked to have a lot of promise, but it was covered with snow. I was amused by the “cow seat”. Looks to be a nice space for the warmer weather.
Food: They offer some select snacky foods for sale. They also offer they nubby bready bites for free. I’m always really 100% down with free bar snacks. It has been a staple of breweries and beer venues since forever. I support the tradition of giving me salty snacks so I drink more beer. While they don’t offer FOOD FOOD. There are some snacky options like chips, nachos, and maybe some other things I didn’t see. They also offer soft drinks for sale as well as tea. Again, can’t express enough how much I like having the free nubby bread things for free.
Atmosphere/vibe: There are multiple rooms going on, with multiple seating options. There is a long bar area with the traditional bar seating. (and hooks for purses and coats under the bar) There is area with small tables great for an intimate date night or catching up with an old friend. They have a larger area with long tables for larger groups. There is another side room with some high tables and another long table. The decor is farm chic. It is nice, but not particularly original. It looks like it was mass ordered from like Wayfair or Marshals. I would have liked a little more personality, but it was all very nice. It has a contemporary American farm feel with an open floor plan. It is warm and inviting, but not very original or distinct. I tend to like unique and quirky and somewhere that screams “remember us”.
Service was top notch. Our bartender’s name was Shelby. She was great. She was very knowledgeable about the beers they offered. She was very friendly, and a great bartender.
Flights are 5 beers in a small tulip style glass. They are nestled into a wooden rack that has metal handles. There is a line of chalkboard for them to write the number of the beer in front of the corresponding glass. They have the initials of the brewery on the glasses. I kinda think that was a mistake. They should have a logo that is more recognizable. From a marketing perspective even if they just stuck with the initials, the letters should be a quarter of an inch further up the glass so they are more prominent. People take pictures of the beer flights and put them on social media. They are missing out on a change for free buzz marketing by not making a more immediately recognizable individualized logo in a prominent place for social media pictures to take full advantage of it. I like the mini tulip glasses.
They have a large variety of beers, but are a little heavy on their menu with IPAs. It seems that even their non-traditionally hopped beers seem to have hops added for some reason. Not sure why they made that choice. It kinda limits their audience. I was pleased that they had a large enough selection so that I could get a flight without an IPA. The two out of my flight that I liked the most were the Belgian Triple and the Kolsch.
Sickle (Belgian Triple): This beer is acidic. I like it. It has distant buttery creamy texture to it. There are definite hops, which I think the beer would be better off without. It doesn’t need it. I think this is one of the beers in the flight that I liked the most. I think if it wasn’t so hoppy it might be my favorite beer that they offer.
Goulet’s grade A (Maple Red Ale): It is very sweet. I don’t like how the hops interacted with the maple flavors. I like how interesting it tastes, but I think it is too sweet for me. If you head to the Norbrook Farm, and get a flight, I would suggest getting this as one of the options. It is really interesting. I like interesting beers and I think they are worth trying.
Beckley Furnace Ale (brown ale): Almost a bitter or old ale in taste and composition. They added hops. Hops are stronger in the after. It is toasty on the front end. I like the toasty, but feel like the hops detract from the beer.
Cog Ale (Kolsch): I like their kolsch, but I feel like they really focus on adding hops to almost all of their beers where it was completely unnecessary. It had a crisp end which was nice. I think it would have been better without the strong hops flavors. There should be a much milder hops used in a Kolsch. It isn’t supposed to be an IPA.
Dennis Hill Estate (Saison): This wheat beer has a citrus rind aftertaste. I wasn’t a big fan. It was ok. I usually really love wheat beers, but the bitterness of the citrus rind flavor wasn’t for me.
Cletrac 15 (American Stout): Coffee… added hops. Not impressed or interested. Please brewers don’t’ add hops to stouts. It is very… boring, unoriginal and forgettable. Maybe there is a push to try and get people who like hops to try other styles of beer by adding hops to other styles of beer? I dunno… I feel it just alienates the people who like non-hop beers because the things offered that aren’t IPA also have hops, even a stout. So this stout was definitely NOT for me. It had coffee and hops in it. These are both things I don’t like in my beer. It made me sad because while I didn’t try their porter it also had coffee in it. Why? Why ruin perfectly good beer by adding coffee? On top of this why have BOTH of your dark beer options with coffee. It shows no range.
Bathrooms: Let me tell you they earn the BEST BATHROOM ribbon. Their bathroom is a delight! It was so clean, so fresh, so well stocked. They had fresh crisp linen air freshener and lotion! They also have a baby changing station! As a mom who doesn’t bring my kid to breweries it doesn’t help me, but as a mom I notice places that are actively trying to make it easier for parents! I note and applaud. Now, I didn’t go in the men’s restroom, but I hope they also have a changing set up in the men’s room as well. Changing diapers is the responsibility of parents! Men change diapers too. (I’d love if someone could go into the men’s room and give me the skivvy on if the men’s room has a baby changing table too. They also have fancy soap. I’m super impressed and award Norbrook Farm Brewery with the blue ribbon of brewery bathrooms!
Parking: They are in possession of huge tracts of… parking. Well, if not huge at least reasonably sized. They have a nice sized parking lot.
Area and safety: Too far out of the way to talk to, but the parking lot and generally area is safe. The main road is a back road that isn’t lit. I wouldn’t walk there especially in the evening. It wouldn’t be safe as cars won’t see you until they are right on top of you.
Overall: If you are doing the Ct Brewery passport there are a few breweries I feel you could skip, this isn’t one of them. I feel that Norwood Farm has enough charm to be a pleasant experience for anyone. The staff are friendly. They have yummy noms free to eat while drinking. The people we talked to there were friendly. It had a small town brewery feel where you walk in and feel a part.
Why you should go: Well, first of all the bathrooms alone are worth going. The staff is great and friendly. They tend to be more hops heavy in their brews than suits my personal taste, but if you like hops, they have a lot of hoppy beers. They have a variety of spaces which make it great for different kinds of groups from small intimate 2 person tables, to large long tables for large groups. The set up is great as it is all open floor plan, but there are distinct and separate rooms so if you are looking for just a bit more space for a private group you can be slightly separate. It is a really nice set up.
What could be improved: Well, I personally think that they shouldn’t add hops to ALL of their beers, especially their dark beers. Their two dark beers were both also coffee based. It really shows lack of skills. A good brewer can make distinctly different styles of beers without adding hops or coffee in as a crutch. I kinda feel that adding hops is exactly that, a crutch for brewers who don’t know how to develop flavors with malts or yeasts, or any other things other than hops. Also, I tend to feel that when the only dark beers you offer are coffee that it is as if you are trying to mask the fact that you can’t develop well rounded stout flavors. I also kinda wish they had less of generic wayfair design scheme.
Hours: Mon-Wed 3-8 thurs 12-8 Fri 12-10 Sat 11-10 Sun 12-7
I went on St Paddy’s day at about 1pm with my father in law. I originally had a large group and we were going to hit a bunch of breweries on St. Paddy’s day. I’m going to say I’m a bit salty that literally everyone canceled on me except my Father in law. So Vini Vidi Viche. Or something or other. We hit up Thimble Island first. My husband bought me a groupon for Thimble Island for Christmas. We had 2 flights and got to take home Pint glasses. I’m gonna say right here, please breweries when you make pint glasses have they etched. Etched can go in dishwashers. I hate washing things by hand. Anyway… they also have tours which we were able to go to their tour while we were there. Tours are free. I like tours. I was given a groupon for Christmas, so we used that. The groupon was $16 and you got 2 beer flights and 2 pint glasses (empty) to take home. The groupons for tastings at breweries usually cost more than the flights themselves, but less than if you purchased flights. The basic flight at Thimble is $9, so this groupon deal is actually a decent deal as it is $2 less than just the flight and you get the bonus of a pint glass.
They sell snacky bites like chips and stuff. There was a food truck outside, but it wasn’t open yet for service. You can also bring your own food to the brewery.
Atmosphere/vibe: It is a traditional brewery taproom. The staff is interactive and friendly. The space has standing room only bar area. They also have some table area. They have a nautical theme going on with ropes and old timey diving helmets etc. They advertise events and live music, but nothing was going on when we were there other than their lager was green for St. Paddy’s Day. They had picnic tables outside on the grass and an outside seating area as well for the nicer days or evenings. There were string lights I assume go one in the evening when outside seating becomes viable.
Service: our bartender was named Christian. He was knowledgeable, informative, helpful, and friendly. We were talking to him about the beers. With the groupon you had no choice in your beer flight line up. It was a standard line up. I didn’t like that as choices like that tend to favor the IPA range and as we know I am not a fan of IPA. I love me some malts, but when breweries get to choose the line up they make assumptions that drinkers like hops. To be perfectly honest, most of the people I conscript to go with me on these brewery trips universally dislike hops and IPA. Maybe people who like malts are more likely to be friends? Dunno, but I think it was a bad decision on the part of Thimble Island to set up the flight this way. If the point of the groupon is to draw people into your establishment who them become customers then you are NOT putting your best foot forward. In fact you are limiting your potential customer base and potentially driving people away. If someone who doesn’t like IPA is given a lineup of mostly IPA, they are simply going to assume that they don’t like your beer because they are not exposed to your more malty options. That’s just my opinion. Anyways I really liked Christian. He let me try the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) they had on tap. They had a stout base that they had turned into 4 different kinds of stout (listen up kids it is high ABV so drink appropriately). Anyway the flavor they had on tap was a ginger infused beer. It was great. Then Christian dug up a 4 pack of cans where each can was different. There were four different flavors all made from the same base. I went ahead and bought it. Christian also gave me an unmarked bottle of the base concoction. I will be doing separate blog posts on all of these beers that will be drunk at home. They also had a free tour of the behind the scenes stuff and Christian was nice enough to keep our purchased beer etc behind the counter for when we came back.
The tour was conducted by a woman named Gina. Their packing plant was interesting. The tour guide was ok, but she was very opinionated and some of the information she gave us, upon looking it up afterwards, was incorrect. At the time I questioned it, cause it seemed off, but upon research afterwards I became convinced. I’m all for people having strong opinions, but in a service industry you are going to easily cause a negative opinion of your company if you have only negative things to say about your town, your state, and your fellow breweries. Anyways some things we learned about Thimble Island Brewery. 1. Their IPA Sea Mist takes 9 days to brew (in kegs). 2. They are the largest brewery that distributes themselves in Ct. 3. Their machines and tanks were made in Italy.
They have really nifty tables in the back that have maps of the Thimbles on them! I really liked them. I think they should have those tables out on their taproom. For those not familiar with the geographic area of Ct called the Thimbles, they are a bunch of tiny islands off the coast of southeastern Ct. They are mostly only inhabited during the summer and boat is the primary way of getting to them. Many are private islands.
So, as I said before, I did not pick this lineup of beer. It was pre chosen by Thimble Island as part of the groupon flight. Again, I would like to point out I think this was a bad move on their part. Generally I feel like quibbling over the costs of different beers is a turn off to me as a consumer. Just change an extra buck for every single flight and then it will make up for the ones that choose a beer that you want to charge more for. Charging extra for certain beers in a flight seems quibbling and stingy in my opinion. I totally get that some beers are more time intensive and costly to make and therefore in order to make a profit you need to change more for them. I’ve totally had some flights where they give you half a pour of that kind of beer. Part of what I love about breweries is that open and inviting feeling like you are going somewhere where they are passionate about what they do and want you to be a part of it. Making different beers within a flight different prices seems like squabbling over… well… thimbles. Charge an extra dollar on all your flights and it will all even out in the wash an you won’t make people feel like you are nickel and diming them.
The beers in our flights were as follows
American Ale: This is their flagship beer. It is nice, smooth, bubbly on the tongue. Not at all bad, but not the kind of beer I’m gravitate to. It’s a clean crisp beer that would appeal to a wide audience. It’s a nice amber color. It claims some caramel flavors. I don’t get those. It is a very light beer which would make it nice for summer drinking, but it’s ABV is just a hair too high to be a session beer.
Coffee stout: meh. It’s not the worst thing in the world. I really do not like adding coffee to stouts. I’m always disappointed when the brewery chooses to make their 1 stout be a coffee stout. It wasn’t the best coffee stout I’ve ever had… not was it the worst. It was… predictable and forgettable. What wasn’t in the lineup that I would have loved to try was their Baltic Porter, but I wasn’t allowed to pick my own beers, so I didn’t get to try it.
Thimble Lager: They dyed this green for St. Paddy’s Day. Very festive. It is a solid lager. No complaints. I tend to like my lagers more malty than this one, but I can see how it probably appeals to a large audience.
Sea Mist: (IPA) It is very hoppy and very citrus. If that is your thing, you will probably like it. It was too bitter for me. They said it was their best selling beer. I guess if their main audience likes IPA I could see it being their thing. It is a typical style IPA with citrus notes.
Flights include 4 beers held in a mental frame. I like that their logo is a nautical knot. It is a nice logo.
If I could have made my own flight, I would have probably tried their lager. I would have also tried the Baltic Porter. I would have like to try their Ruby Tart Blonde ale, and I would have loved to try their Scarlet Siren a sour ale with orange and raspberry
Bathrooms: I have to say I have no info on their bathrooms. I totally forgot to visit them. My bad.
Parking: Plenty and voluminous. There is a large parking lot with plenty of parking.
Area and safety: The area is a kind of newer industrial area. It seemed safe and I wouldn’t have a problem walking or parking there alone at night.
Overall: I liked it. I liked the bartender Christian. I enjoyed my beers for the most part. I wasn’t thrilled with my flight line up. It wasn’t very interesting or inspiring. The flight itself seemed boring and generic. Had I only had the flight I wouldn’t have said it was a bad trip, but I would have no interest in going back. However, the sample of M.A.D. with Chipotle and ginger really opened my eyes and I was, without difficulty, convinced to take home a 4 pack. I will be doing a separate blog post about drinking those beers at home. I feel if Chrisitan hadn’t suggested this I probably wouldn’t think twice about Thimble Island again. Having this pre-canned lineup I think served them very ill in that regards. I ended up coming away with a mostly positive experience. I enjoyed the day I drank the beer and it was fine. Like our experience wasn’t bad. I feel bad, but I just came away with (excepting the taste of the MAD stout and Christian the bartender) that it was very generic and uninspiring. They have a lot of product, but not a lot of originality. I feel my experience would have been totally different if I had a lineup of beers that were unique and different and made me say WOW. I mean I immediately took home the one beer that did make me say wow.
Why you should go: If you like stouts I would highly advise trying something from their M.A.D. series. Interesting flavor combos. Their other beers are inoffensive. They are generic kinds of beers that would appeal to a mass audience because they are very generic. The bartender, Christian, was a gem. We really liked him.
What could be improved: The tour guide was very negative towards other breweries, the state of Ct, and the city the brewery was located. Sure, I understand sometimes certain things might be frustrating on both the state and city level for a small business, but people who want a tour don’t want to hear that. It makes the brewery seem like they’ are whiny and malcontent. I also strongly oppose this “canned” flight lineup. It forces people to have a lineup of things they very well could have no interest it. I found the lineup boring and generic. I would have loved to try some of the more interesting beers that Thimble Island has to offer, and it only leaves me to question why they are hiding them? Is this that the beers aren’t that great? Or is it because they just have bad marketing choices. I’m really impressed by the M.A.D. line and for that reason alone I hope they change some of these things.
I had a growler that a friend gave me. I have brought it along to a few breweries in case I found I beer I just couldn’t survive without taking home and they didn’t offer in cans. The beers I like never seen to be offered in cans. I had yet to fill it. I went to Kinsman Brewing in Milldale. They had a really lovely peanut butter stout. I decided that I was going to finally fill the sucker and make my own judgements on the process. I do drink a little at home, but I’m not a “drink more than 1 beer on an average night at home” kinda person. The first night at home that I opened the growler I had a friend over. We both had a pint. It was good. A few days later I had a pint at home alone while watching TV. It wasn’t bad… but there was less foam at the top of the glass.
I also bought the half sized growler that many have called a squealer while at Witchdoctor Brewing. I filled it with their raspberry gose at Witchdoctor.
Here is a picture of my two filled growlers on the way home. They are safety buckled into my son’s car seat. Can’t be too protective of your beer.
My thoughts? Well, I think my thoughts were solidified and confirmed. I do not drink beer fast enough at home for growlers to make sense. They just lose freshness every time you open them and since I don’t drink that much at one time I would open it up frequently. I think I won’t be filling another growler unless I’m having a get together where enough people can finish the thing off at once. Unless you drink a lot of beer, I feel that there are better ways to preserve quality. Cans are the best. They are light proof and can seal without the oxygen at the top of bottles. I understand why a lot of breweries don’t do it. It is expensive to buy the canning machines and the extra space needed for the infrastructure is something small breweries don’t have. It is a sadness.
So what about this half growler or squealer. I think if a place doesn’t have cans in what I want, which is inevitable, I might fill a half growler or a crowler. It has only a couple of glasses full for home drinking which is about what I want so it doesn’t go flat or lose it’s freshness. I opened up the halvsies one last Sunday and had 2 glasses. It is a low ABV. Like only .02% above traditional Session beer ABV. For those not familiar with the lingo a session beer is a style of beer with a low ABV (Alcohol by volume or how much boozy is in the booze). Generally a session beer is below a 4% ABV so the idea is a session beer can be drunk slowly and have another and you can do the long haul of having several beers over a period of time because the ABV is so low you aren’t going to get drunk. Anyway the low ABV of the Raspberry gose lends itself to that session style drinking. Where I generally only have 1 beer if I’m drinking at home, this I easily had 2. This was the first time I had opened the mini-me growler and the quality of the beer was still great. I am having people over tonight and hopefully will finish it with them tonight. I really like the smaller sized growler. I think I’ll only be filling growlers if I am planning a party with a lot of people where the beer is going to get consumed right away.
The follow up is that we did have the rest of the half sized growler that night. The beer was great. Everyone liked it. I really think the half sized is the way to go. That being said, my birthday is in June. I plan on having a chill sort of party. I do plan on filling up a few growlers, getting a cake from Mozzicato’s bakery and hanging out on our 2nd floor porch with people. Not yet sure which breweries I will get growlers from, but I want at least 1 dark beer and one wheat beer. Yes yes yes the cake will be the fruit layer cake, I mean what other cake are you going to get from Mozzicato’s except their fruit layer cake? I do love me some Mozzicato’s cake. If you haven’t been to Mozzicato’s bakery in Hartford in the South End, you really need to go. They have some of the best cannoli, rainbow cookies, and layered cake with fruit ever… If you go to the bakery you need min $10 to run credit and they ONLY take cash in the cafe. So worth it… so worth it…
So, to sum up… growlers are a no from me, unless you drink a LOT of beer in a short time frame, OR you are having a party. Half growlers or crowlers, I think I might be brought around to! Lastly, I prefer cans. they maintain quality the best without any extra oxygen getting into the beer… please breweries… start putting things I want to drink in your cans instead of only IPA and Coffee stout!
I went with a friend on a Wednesday night in late February. It had started to snow, but it wasn’t particular bad, just a light snow. They don’t offer food, but there are local restaurants nearby and they have a stack of menus to order from. We ordered from a place that is almost across the
Atmosphere/vibe: It is a large tap room with many long tables, a bar area, and a couch seating area. There is a also a narrow shelf along the back wall with more area to either stand or sit. There are a few high chairs for this back shelf. They have a pay it forward cork board where people can pay for a beer and leave it for a specific person, or a person in specific circumstances. Some were left for any EMT, another was left for a government worker affected by the shut down, another was for anyone who was the parent of a newborn. I’ve seen this at a few breweries in Ct thus far. I love how this can tie the community together. I liked that they had one. I don’t particularly know how to say the vibe was. In the brewery genre, it lent itself to dark colors, in a high ceilinged room. It was definitely “gathering place” vs brewpub, or hangout. They had games on a shelf. The room was suited to large groups, small groups, couples, or single drinkers wanting to hang out and meet people. The gender ratio was definitely mixed. I’ve been to some breweries where it is definitely a “boy’s hangout”. This was a very mixed crowd both gender and age wise, but I think the median age range was 20s and 30s.
Service was great. Matt was the bartender on that night. He was pleasant and friendly. We liked him a lot. My friend and I both got flights. The flight boards you have a marker and write on the board the type of beers you want in your flight. I took the opportunity to also doodle on mine… cause…
Church Pool (Kolsch): This beer was fine. It had a very slight bitter taste. It was good but not great. I tend to have a high bar when anyone slaps on “German style” to a beer. I have been to Germany. I have had wonderful German beer. I would say this is not a German style kolsch. It is definitely an American style Kolsch, which is fine. I have had some kolsch beers from craft breweries that I came away from saying ah yes! This was good, but just not AS good.
Counter Surfer: Nutty. I like nutty in my beer. It was good. I felt like there was a slight coffee flavor in it, but I really liked the nutty flavors that came out. It advertised caramel and chocolate. I didn’t get those flavors, but I did enjoy the beer. I did like the very malt forward flavors.
Coffee Surfer: coffee as advertised. Creamy texture is nice, a strong coffee front flavor. Not a big fan. The coffee is too strong for me. However, I do really like the smooth texture while drinking.
Where’s Winter: Slight coffee notes. It isn’t thrilling, but also not bad. It is definitely a dryer stout than the Chelson. It was the only beer that had a frothy head out of my flight. However, I kinda wanted a bit more froth. I do like a frothy head on a good stout. If you like stouts it is worth a try.
Linger (Blond ale): Smells of strawberries, don’t get the advertised cranberries. It is sweet… a bit too sweet. When cranberries were advertised I was hoping for tart. I liked the reference to The Cranberries. Do you have to? Do you have to, but if you have to let it linger… give me more cranberry flavor. I wanted tartness. I kinda think they should have called this one strawberry fields forever… and made a cranberry sour called Linger.
Chelson (American Stout): Tang bitter aftertaste. It was aged in bourbon barrels. I’m not a fan of whiskey, so I generally feel that doing that to a beer ruins a good beer. I think I might have liked this one had it not done a stint in bourbon barrels. It had a nice color. I had someone tell me it would be like Guiness. I think it is only like Guiness if you know nothing about Guinness or stouts and compared the two because they are both stouts. This is an American stout. Guinness is a dry Irish stout. They are not, in fact, the same. That’s like saying Belgian hot chocolate and Mexican hot chocolate are the same.
Felix (Saison): It has a strong clove cinnamon flavor. Not their fault but I’m not a fan of the flavor of cloves. However, forgetting my dislike of cloves, it is a nice rustic saison. It is a light beer with a dry finish. If you like spice style saisons then this should be on your “try” list, especially if you like cloves. For a winter light beer I can see how the flavor profile could be very nice.
Dad Beer with mango (IPA): Surprisingly good. It’s not too hoppy. It has more fruit flavors come through. I didn’t have this one in my flight. My friend got it. I’m glad I tried it, however. I was pleasantly surprised. I do not like hops, but this had a low bitter hops flavor and it really delivered on the fruit. I was surprised because I also don’t particularly like mango either, so I thought this would be a lose lose for me, but I was very much surprised at how well the flavors worked together, especially for a person who liked neither of the flavors as a general rule. I’d say at least give this one a taste even if you, like me, are not particularly impressed by IPA or mango.
Bathrooms: So there are 2 single stall non-gendered bathrooms. One was clean and stocked. The other was messy and dirty.
Parking: There is multitudinous parking in a mostly lighted lot.
Area and safety: It is off of a main road without sidewalks. Do not walk here. The parking lot seems to be lit enough and the area seems very rural. I would NOT walk here. The main road, especially at night, would be dangerous to walk on.
Overall: There have a great room. While it wasn’t super busy, it certainly wasn’t dead which says a lot for a Wednesday night… while it is snowing. They do seem to have a following.
Why you should go: They have a fun board where you can buy a beer for someone specific or a generic occupation or situation. That’s super fun. The room is nice with a great space for multiple kinds of brewery attendance. The staff was fun and engaging. I even didn’t hate their Dad beer with Mango. I don’t like IPA and I don’t like mango, but the combo and the low hoppiness of the beer worked. What could be improved: They seem hung up on adding coffee to most of their “not IPA” offerings. Not a fan of throwing coffee in everything. If you want to drink that much coffee go to a coffee shop. They have a lot of IPA which is not for me, but if you like IPA you should check out what they offer.
So the below picture has nothing to o with the brewery. It is from the restaurant that is kinda across the street. This is… no joke, cross stitch. Somebody’s grandma toiled away tedious hours to create this. I feel they need some kind of acknowledgement… even if it is completely ridiculous. We got some takeout and ate at the brewery. BTW I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but they didn’t give us napkins or ketchup… I’m still a little sour about that.
I went on a Thursday in the early evening in March. The weather was nice. They had a Jamaican food truck outside. It looks like the coordinate with a rotating food truck offerings. My friend got some food from the Jamaican food truck. It was decent food.
Atmosphere/vibe: Their website says that they will occasionally have live music. There was none when we went. There is a long room. On one half there are long tables, the other side are high, large, round tables with high chairs. I don’t like this large square table set up. For some reason it seems more awkward to join a round table or a square that has only 2 people sitting at it, but it is not awkward to sit at a long table with only 2 people at it. The rounds all had like groups of 2 or 3 people at it and were ¾ empty otherwise. It felt like a large waste of space. The decor was fine, but to be honest forgettable. There were some strings of lightbulbs festively festooned back and forth across the ceiling. They had some plants. They had a nice outside seating area, but it wasn’t quite warm enough to sit outside yet. They had generic modern art. They seem to have a loyal following. They have some cans and they also fill growlers.
Service was fine, but also kinda forgettable. Usually I will at least talk to the bartender enough to find out their name and chat about stuff. They were pretty busy and there wasn’t much interaction outside of “order beer- deliver beer”.
Beer… so, their beer selection is excessively IPA heavy. They had 1 stout which was coffee and I didn’t bother to try. I usually get a flight, but they literally only had 3 beers that weren’t IPA. I am not interested in coffee stout. I will sometimes try them if I’m with someone else who also wants to try it. So that left was their witbier and saison.
Powder (Wit Bier): I really liked this beer. It was crisp . They advertised coconut and banana flavors which I didn’t get at all. Overall it was a solid wheat beer. Not particularly german style as they advertised flavors of coriander and banana. I enjoyed my beer.
Market (Saison): I was disappointed in the Saison. It was sadly forgettable. It was also inoffensive, but just kinda forgettable. Saison beers generally highlight local in season ingredients. They often can have a bit of a spice flavor or fruit flavor. This one had a mild citrus flavor, but not much else. It was fine… just nothing to write home about.
Bathrooms were clean, but kinda boring. I think they share the bathroom with the other businesses in the building.
The area is very close to a fast track bus station and to a city bus stop. There is a decent sized parking lot, but it is also near a Home depot parking lot that is very walkable if you needed parking. It is a fine area to be in, but there are a lot of panhandlers around especially around the bus stops. They aren’t going to bother you, except to ask for money.
Overall I feel that the high tables are too big. You could easily sit 8 people at one of the high square tables, but if you have a small group it is too big, yet the table feels too intimate for multiple groups to sit together. Maybe 2 couples could share, but then you still have a lot of unused seats. I feel this brewery is not for me. They offer mostly only IPA.
Why you should go: It is very convenient to get to if you are in the Hartford area. If you like IPA, they have a large selection. If you don’t own a car and need a bus to get around this location is ideal as they are close to 2 different bus routes. They had an interesting rotation of food trucks and a nice outside space for the summer. Sometimes they offer live music.
What could be improved: I wish they had more interesting beer offerings that weren’t IPA or Coffee based. I don’t like the large square tables. It doesn’t feel inviting if you are looking for a seat. You feel bad if you are 2 people taking this whole table, but it feels weird to sit with others at a square table. It is just odd…
I went with a friend on a Friday night in early March. When we came in there were only one other group there at a 4 seat table. While we were there, another group came in and sat at the couches. It was comfortable and clean. The bathroom was clean and well stocked single unisex bathroom. They recently added more hours and are now open on Thursdays and Sundays (they weren’t before).
They have free popcorn. It was great! I loved that they had a salty snack to munch on while drinking beer. Next door was a place called Tata’s. They had great food. We ordered an appetizer sampler and split it while drinking our beer. I always love when breweries have bar snacks. Extra points for them here as the popcorn is free for people drinking.
So this brewery had a coffee shop vibe. While many breweries completely embrace the industrial feel, show their brewing vats, and focus on the exposed brewing as part of the decor and vibe, Cliffside abandons this, and really goes for the small town coffee shop feel. It is nice, but I don’t feel like I’m in a brewery.. There is a section with couches and a coffee table, but most of the seating is small 4 seater tables with chairs. There is no actual bar with bar stools.
Service was fine. The guy behind the bar wasn’t particularly interested with engaging with the customers, but was immediately ready and expeditious with pouring beer when anyone wanted one. I tend to like more witty banter at breweries and friendly talk. I missed the fact that there wasn’t an actual bar. The coffee shop set up made it very disposed to small groups and couples, but not to mingling or interaction between customers and other customers, or customers and the bar staff. I did miss that.
I know I’ve talked about my frustration with Groupons from breweries, but I was given a Cliffside groupon for Christmas. It was a decent groupon. We got 2 flights and then a pour each. If they still have this groupon when you go, it is worth buying. It all comes down to the beer, so these are the ones I tried while there.
Graceful Shutdown: (Bock Maibock) It was interesting and complex. It lay heavy on the tongue and really smacked the back of your mouth when drinking. It is a malty beer. There are some hop flavors, but very mild.
Stonewall: (Red Ale) I liked it. It was sweet and very malty. I like the malts in this one. You go in expecting it to be a heavy beer, but it is, in fact, very light. It has some roasted flavors in there which are nice.
Enlightenment: (fruit beer) I wasn’t a big fan. It is far too saccharine. It is how I imagine a super floral soap in your grandma’s guest bathroom that you aren’t allowed to use because it is the special soap would taste if it were a beer. It has an artificial taste. I wasn’t a fan, and I generally like fruit beers. It is supposed to have an apricot flavor. I love apricot, but I didn’t get any apricot. This was just a miss for me.
Rockslide: (Brown ale) This was one of my favorites. It was malty, toasted, and delicious! There are lovely nutty flavors with this one, very nutty. I got chestnut and maybe a hint of caramel. There was a slight sweetness. I am a fan. If you go and they have this one on tap, I highly recommend.
Moonless Night: (Imperial Double stout) I think I’ve talked about this before, but adding the word “imperial” to a beer today basically means double the “thing”. If it is an imperial stout it will have double the malts. An imperial IPA will have double hops. Anyways, This was a perfectly fine, uneventful imperial stout. No complaints, but it didn’t blow me away either. Stouts are harder, in my opinion, to get REALLY GOOD at a brewery. Most go the lazy route and throw coffee in. I’m glad they didn’t. They just tried to make a traditional imperial stout. It was fine. I would have liked it to be a bit more creamy, but it was fine.
There was a free parking lot a short walk away. On their website, Cliffside Brewing have color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining what each one was. Not to mention the aerial photography…
For those of you who didn’t get the reference… go educate yourself on Arlo Guthrie. Also, it is in fact a google satellite picture, but yeah there are colored arrows and lines and such to show you appropriate parking areas. Very helpful for those not familiar with Wallingford. Which I was not.
It is on a well lit, walkable street. I mean there is a graveyard on the other side of the street, but for many people (me included) that is a bit of a plus. Memento Mori. There are local businesses and bars in the area.
Overall: I liked it. I don’t know I would make the trip all the way out there from Hartford just for this place, but if I were in the town anyway, I might stop back in. It is a nice sort of coffee shop hang out vibe which is nice. Their website advertises things like craft nights and bingo nights. That seems fun. Nothing was going on the night we went.
Why you should go: I like the coffee shop feel, even if I was disappointed in the lack of an actual BAR area. They offer free popcorn! A nice free salty snacky thing while drinking beer is the best! They have a few beers I really liked. If you are going to go, try the Rockslide. It is nicely situated if you are already in that area to stroll in and have a beer. It is a nice place if you are doing the Ct beer trail. You are sure to find at least 1 beer you like. Did I mention the Rockslide yet? I did? Well, let me mention it again. It is worth trying. I really liked it. What could be improved: I really wish they had a bar. I kinda really miss having a bar to sit at. I also wished the bartender was more engaging. I like talking about the beer at breweries and learning about what is coming up, etc. I didn’t like their fruit beer. It tasted artificially sweet and saccharine.
Well, it’s many a days I’ve traveled a million miles or more, But a short list of breweries I’ve never made before.
So, I’ve decided to start a short list. These are breweries that have a little extra oomph that makes them on a short list. While I started this blog for Ct breweries, I did the RI brewery trail in 2018 and I feel like I really should start with an honorable mention. If you find yourself in the Ocean State, I know I’ve mentioned it several times already, but you really should try out Revival Brewery. They gots them some good beer. Also, their smoked BBQ there is do die for. I will still make trips all the way to Rhode Island just to go to this brewery and stock up on beer once or twice a year. I have 1 can of Pinky Swear still in my fridge. It calls to me, but I can’t bring myself to drink it because once it’s gone there will be none left in my fridge! I have found some of Revival Brewery’s beer sold in cans at my local booze store (Total Wines and Liquors in West Hartford). Sadly, they only import the IPA and if I have made anything abundantly clear it is my dislike of IPA.
What does “short list” mean? Well, for you these are the breweries that you really need to make the effort to go to. If you are at all doing the Ct beer thing you should hit these up or your really aren’t getting the best of what Ct has to offer. For ME these are the ones that after the year of beer is over I will make the extra effort to go back to. These are the ones I will talk to my local beer store and say. “Please contact these people and stock these beers. I will buy them.” These are the ones that I will, when I’m having a party, buy a growler from. For me the short list are the ones I will make the EXTRA effort to go back to after the year of beer is over. That isn’t to say I won’t go back to some other ones if I’m in the area, but I might not make a SPECIAL trip JUST for them.
Without further ado… EB Savage’s short list…
Hog River: Located in Parkville in Hartford, Ct. This little gem is great. The beer offerings are varied, interesting and extremely good. It is a vibrant atmosphere. There is lots of seating. Food trucks are available and rotating. It is located where other food is easily accessible. They are a highly recommended short list addition. (downside: parking is limited).
Willimantic Brewery and Cafe: Located in Willimantic, Ct. This one is extremely good. They also have food. I love the interesting things they are doing with beer. I’m sold. There was a wide variety of beer styles and all of them were well crafted. There is a lot of seating in the restaurant side, and another traditional brewery section available as well. There is parking, and it has a great vibe going on. I definitely have this on my short list. (Downside: It is a bit of a drive if you aren’t from the area)
Labyrinth Brewery: Located in Manchester, Ct. This place has the cutest set up for flights! They also have good beer of a wide variety. They show their chops in the brewing business by having quality beers to suit a wide variety of tastes. If you can get past the occasional mediocre cover singers, you will understand why this place is HOPPING on the weekends! (downside: mediocre cover singers on some nights)
Alvarium Brewery: Located in New Britain. This brewery has a vibrant scene going on with different functional sections in the brewery, a couch seating area, a bar area, and a large table area. They have a wide variety of beers to suit any tastes. They are doing some interesting things with their beers and present solid classics alongside experimental stuff. The people there are really friendly and engaging and love to talk about what they are doing now and plans for new beers to come. Parking is abundant. (Downside: not a lot of bathrooms per large space)
That is my short list for now. I will do new short list updates as I progress through the Ct Year of Beer. What puts a place on the short list you ask? Here are my criteria.
A warm welcoming environment with friendly staff, comfortable interior, and plenty of seating. Staff understand what they are talking about when you ask them questions about the beer.
A variety of beer. Not just 1 beer I really like. A wide variety of different styles of beer, and I LIKE most all of them. Dark beers, light beers, wheat beers, sours, etc. They aren’t just hampered into to 1 or 2, but are working with a variety of things and they are all quality.
Experimentation! Even if I don’t like it personally, I’m impressed by experimentation outside of the IPA sphere. Push the envelope. Try something next and exciting. Even if it doesn’t work I like supporting new and exciting innovations.
Do I just plain like the beer? Sometimes beer is good, but mildly forgettable. Do they have something that I come away saying. WOW that was unforgettable beer. I want more of it! I want to go back and drink more of that beer! YEAH! Not just good beer, but unforgettably good beer.
If it hits all of these points, I feel the brewery should be on a short list. A place that if you are going to do the Ct brewery trail you are remiss if you don’t hit “THAT ONE”.