635 Broad St, New London, CT 06320 https://www.toxbrewing.com/ Hours Fri 4-8 Sat 12-8 Sun 12-6
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.