Front Porch Brewing

226 N Plains Industrial Rd UNIT 4, Wallingford, CT 06492 (Their website isn’t particularly helpful. Their Facebook has more information.)

Hours Thurs & Fri 5-12 Sat 12-12 Sun 12-5

I went on a Friday on March 1st around 6pm-ish. When we got there they had a Uhaul pulled up inside an open pulldown industrial door. They were unloading crates of cans and kegs. It was rather chilly, but we kept our coats on and survived.

They don’t offer food, only bags of chips for sale. On the Friday when we went there were no food trucks. They also offer sodas and wine for sale. They had a guest cider on tap, but as we were focused on beer we didn’t try it.

Atmosphere/vibe: There was a funky sort of hang out spot vibe to the place. They had couches with video game setup. There were some loose strings of christmas lights hanging on the wall. There were a couple of picnic tables. It was very “warehouse” converted into a hangout area. It was like an upgrade from “Mom’s basement” kind of hangout vibe where you go when you aren’t a teenager anymore and can afford to rent a small industrial unit.

There were two people working there when we arrived. Their names were Dean and Ryan. I felt like something way kinds lost in the fact that one person’s name was ryan. I mean if his name were Sam… and their friend in a tan trench coat showed up every now and again… but I digress. They were both unloading cans and kegs from the uhaul with Dean being the primary on this task and Ryan being the main bartender personage. Dean promised my friend and I that since we endured the cold open roll up door for so long he would buy us a beer on him the next time we came by. We shall keep you up to that promise Dean… The North Remembers…

Proof that Dean and Ryan exist, as do also the many pallets of cans and kegs and barrel they unloaded from the Uhaul.

Note: I do not like whiskey, but I did notice they also sell whiskey. I am unsure if they distill it themselves or it is just an offering they have. If you like whiskey, you should inquire.

A Toaster is just a Death Ray with a smaller power supply: This is an interesting beer because it isn’t exactly fitting into any specific box. It isn’t a “fruit beer”. It isn’t a “sour”. It is a wheat ale, but with pomegranate flavors. It is tart, but not sour beer tart. It is very delicious and very drinkable. It is light, but not in the way “light lager” is light. I am a big fan. I liked it a lot.

Gin Party: A big trend is to age beer in bourbon barrels. With the fact that they also offer whiskey and whiskey flights here I was surprised and pleased with this interesting switcheroo by aging this beer in gin barrels. I am a big fan of gins and the distinctive junipery/pine flavors do come through, but not in an oppressive way. It it a nice, tart, fun beer, especially for people who also happen to like gin.

Where is the Madness that You Promised Me?: (note… this is a single hopped citrus IPA) I hear the chorus of tiny internet voices… but haven’t you said over and over and over how you don’t like IPA? I have… and I still don’t, but I will try them… for SCIENCE! Also, every now and again I find one that I’m like “eh… it’s not so bad. I’d drink it.” This was… ok. I wasn’t a fan, but if you like IPA please do not take my advice on IPA. For what it’s worth it wasn’t exceptionally hoppy. It had more of a bitter citrus flavor to it. I kinda felt I wanted more madness… I felt it was a very unoffensive IPA, so maybe it is all explained in the title. WHERE IS the madness we were promised? (I’m a sucker for witty beer names every. single.time)

Crepuscular: (Story time! So we are talking to RyanWhoIWantToCallSam. He told us how this beer came about their experimenting with sour beer. For those who aren’t familiar with how sours are made they use special wild strains of yeast into the mix. These strains of bacteria or yeast are different from normal brewers yeast and like to throw giant rave parties in the beer. The problem with rave parties is that the ravers are having such a good time they don’t want to be contained! They want their fun rave to spread to the world! Or it is just really hard to contain these wild strains when brewing with them and you risk cross contamination with other beers you happen to be brewing nearby. Wild strains of brewing yeast/bacteria used for making sours are like the HeLA cells of beer! So the story time aspect of this is that they were making a sour beer and it was fermenting next to a stout. The wild yeast strains contaminated the stout and started growing in it. Now, these wild yeast strains are what give sours their yummy tart sourness, but they aren’t the type of yeast you are supposed to have in stouts.) I was intrigued when I saw a “sour stout” the flavor profiles are so different. The mouth feel is so much different. My brain was intrigued. I felt that this would either be absolutely disgusting or I would love it. My reaction… “oh… (long pause) well… OH! *another sip* Yes… oh yes!” Please sir, can I have another?” It is tart, but mellow and smooth. It has the smooth creaminess of a stout with the nice malty aspect, but it also is tart. It really is a beer that makes your brain do a double take. As this was an accident, I’m curious if they can recreate it. It is definitely worth trying to recreate.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Sweater: It has lots of peanut butter goodness to it. Very yummy. It’s base is an imperial stout so there is a lot of heavy malt to it. It had only a little bit of foam however. I liked it.

The flights come in choices of 4 and they are served in a little rectangular box with a tiny box for each glass of beer. I think since the place has such a retro vibe to it, they should come up with a less traditional way to serve their flights. Something more apropos to the whole vibe of the place.

Bathrooms: So, I am enamored by their bathroom! It looks like a crazy cat lady grandma decorated it. I absolutely love it. Also their sign was hilarious! It was a clean bathroom which frankly made me happy. It seemed like a mostly male hang out and I generally expect toilet seat up and pube hair, but it was clean and tidy and well stocked. I’m thinking the cat lady grandma also cleans it. They win best decorated bathroom. I love the cat theme!

Parking: Parking is adequate, but there isn’t a whole lot of it. I think, for the size of the brewery it is adequate, however there are other businesses that share the strip of parking.

It is not a walk-to place. It is off a main road, especially at night it would be dangerous to walk to as the traffic on the main street, especially in the dark, might not see a pedestrian. The parking lot is not exceptionally well lit at night.

Why you should go: We had a good time here. I really like some of the beers. The sour stout really blew my mind. I know it was an accident, but I hope they can recreate it. The people there are friendly, both the customers and the staff. It seems like a fun place to hang out.
What could be improved: They don’t have a lot of offerings for cans or growler fills. I hope they never change the design on their bathroom! In fact it needs MORE cats… Also, bigger signage, especially from the main street. Maybe a flag at their door or something that catches the eye and makes it a bit more easier to find. It took us a few minutes to actually figure out where it was.


A Steam Room in Hartford

This blog has been all about the Year Of Beer, but my general life philosophy is that life is full of adventures and one of the best things in life you can collect is experiences. Experiences are what make us interesting human beings and give us a way to understand the world around us. Not everyone needs to have the same experiences, but go out and have as many adventures as you can! This past weekend I had a great experience at Real Art Ways. They have a pop up combination art installation, maple syrup boiling and community steam room. They created a pop up steam room in the parking lot of the Real Art Ways parking lot. The steam is pumped into the room through a series of pipes connected to the maple syrup production equipment. Now the first thing that everyone seems to ask is, “So does it smell like maple syrup?”, “Is it pumping maple steam into the room?”, “Will I get sticky?”. The answer is no.  The maple syrup is in container in the maple shack. Those containers are in water. The water is boiled to keep the maple sap boiling so it will turn into maple syrup. That water creates a large quantity of steam. The steam is pumped into the steam room.

I really like the idea of a community steam room where people can come, sit, visit with others, and enjoy the health benefits of the steam room.

Steam baths date back to the Roman times. They were a place where people from all socioeconomic strata of society could come and mingle. There are many cultures who use steam baths. Some famous ones include Russian baths, Turkish, baths, and Japanese Sento baths. Saunas, a cousin to the steam bath are popular in even more of a variety of countries.

Steam rooms help with circulation, help to detox the body, and open airways. For me, especially in the winter, I am constantly congested with terrible sinus pressure. I spent an hour in the steam room and I could breathe again. My body felt lighter. I had more energy and generally just felt amazing. It was a great experience. There were people of all ages and backgrounds there enjoying the room.

They charge $10 per half hour and offer clean towels and disposable flip flops for your use. There is a small changing room before you enter the steam room, but you could also change in Real Art Ways and come out in a bathrobe you bring from home. They suggest bringing your bathing suit, but some people just wore shorts and a t-shirt or something similar. Be sure to bring clean clothes to change into after as what you wear in the steam room will be soaking wet.

I went on March 16th 2019. They will be there for a few more weeks, then it will move to Keeny Park in Hartford. Signing up for time slots ahead of time is advised for busy times. They had “tree juice” which you could taste. It was great. I say it was like coconut water, but with a hint of maple flavor and sweetness.

Alvarium Beer Company

365 John Downey Dr b, New Britain, CT 06051

Hours: Wed/Thurs 4-10 Fri 4-11 Sat 12-11 Sun 12-7

I went on a Wednesday in late February. It was very busy for a midweek night. The weather was cold. There were some clumps of snow on the ground, but none on the street or parking lot. Alvarium, defined, means bee hive. They definitely have a beehive, or hex design theme going on. I kinda wanted to see them experiment with honey beer, but sadly I didn’t see much of that. Feels like with a name like Alvarium there needs to be a signature honey beer on tap, but that’s just my opinion. (if you are listening Alvarium my opinion is obviously the most important, so get on that…) I loved the hex honeycomb lights hanging from the ceiling. Generally I found the whole theme fun.

Food trucks are often there are weekends. I was there on a Wed, so there wasn’t a food truck.


It had a hopping (see what I did there) atmosphere. They had a paint night going on. They tap room is in loosely 3 open floor plan sections. The first, when you walk into the taproom, is a large area with long tables. This was where they were having the paint night. There is a very long bar area, then some very comfy couches. The staff are very friendly. It feels like a very inviting local hangout where you go with your friends and to make new ones. Out back there is a great outdoor seating area that was completely covered in snow, but in the summer has promise to be a great space!

The bathrooms were single non-gendered bathrooms. There were two of them. They were not tidy, but not dirty. They were well stocked.

They offer very select cans, and they fill growlers. I think the only thing they offer in cans is IPA.

Service: Taylor was nice.  She was a bartender. She had quick answers to questions and knew what she was talking about.

We talked to Brian Bugnacki. He is one of the owners. He showed us the cold room and told us about the new beers they were developing and how they designed the cold room and the brewery. Brian was great and it was so interesting to see all the specialization they have done to their cold room.

So, let’s talk about their beer. I was very impressed by the variety, quality, and number of beers offered. They offer a wide range options from very light IPAs to stouts. They don’t just offer the predictable selections, but they have impressive creative range.

Tangerine Pale Ale:   As it is perfectly clear to anyone who has read this blog, I do not like IPA. I didn’t order this one for myself. I went with someone. He ordered it and I tried it. I found it obviously  hoppy, but not too much. It was mild. There was a bitter citrus. It wasn’t terrible (and that means a lot coming from me). I’m not saying I loved it, but for an IPA I could drink it.

Ripe Pomegranate Sour: This one was great. I really liked it. It was not too tart, more cidery. There was a pleasant cidery after taste. It was crisp and bubbly on  the tongue. The pomegranate is not a strong flavor, but the overall beer is delicious and very drinkable.

Crunch  Roll Japanese Rice Lager: I was super excited to try this beer. When I saw it on the tap list I was instantly intrigued. It has a distinct acidic flavor, but hard liquor aftertaste. I was getting some interesting flavors maybe honey maybe lemongrass? There was some bitterness on the back of the swallow. I liked the beer. It was very different, interesting, and I liked the oddness. It made my mouth think.

Griff Vienna Lager: It was very nutty. It had a  full body and was smooth very smooth. I liked it a LOT I usually like Lagers fine, but aren’t overly excited about them. This one changed my mind on Lagers. I loved how smooth and nutty it was. A Sheer delight! I would say this was my favorite of my flight.

Pug Life Coffee Porter: So I’m not a huge fan of it. I don’t like adding coffee to my dark beers. (I’m not the only one either I’ve been to a lot of breweries and it is, in fact, a trend when talking to people. There are those who like it, but there are generally more that don’t.) Back to Pug Life. It had a milder coffee flavor. There were notes of Chicory, but not strong. It was nutty. It advertised coco nubs, but I got not of chocolate flavor out of it.  Overall, it was a standard inoffensive but uninspired coffee porter. I would have been much more interested in them leaving the coffee out and going all chips in with the chicory flavors. That would have been very intriguing.

The Hoff an Imperial Porter: I do like the name. I love fun names of beers. I’m a sucker for them. So they advertised coconut. It has coconut in spades, but a creamy coconut. I found it a bit too sweet, like they put some kind of concentrate in it, but a bit too much. Chocolate coconut is the after taste that that stays hovering in your mouth. Coconut is also the forward tasted. I wish more malts came through. Overall it isn’t a bad beer, especially if you love coconut.

Parking: There is plenty of parking. Especially at night when the other businesses are closed.

The area is not one you should walk to. It is on a main road without sidewalks. The parking lot was lit and seemed fine, but it is not a “walk to” venue.

couch seating area near the back
canning operations and cooler

Overall: I liked the place a lot. OK, so not while I was there, but seems like the peeps at Alvarium have got a honey IPA on tap right now (as in not necessarily when you read this, but when I write this. In case it was in any way confusing to the populus). It is called Honey Shot. It is a double IPA. Blah. They need some honey in a lager or something not so hoppy. I really liked the multi section setup. There are 3 sections in the open floor plan that really lend themselves to a variety of situations for which  people might come to a brewery. I liked the people, very friendly and willing to talk. It was clean and contemporary. They had a variety of styles of beer and several options within each style.

Why you should go: They have a great tap room set up. They seem to have events there, and even on a Wed night in Feb it seemed busy and bustling. They have a wide and varied beer list with something for every taste. I really loved getting an entire flight of beer with options none of which was an IPA. I didn’t even try all of their non-IPA options that night.

What could be improved: More experimentation with Honey in beer! I don’t really have a lot of complaints. I would like to see some non-IPA in cans. I would love to see that Crunchy Roll in a can, or the Grif Lager I loved so much! I’m not yet ready to commit to growlers. I don’t drink enough by myself in my home that I’m afraid it would go flat by the time I got to it. If I drink at home, I have like 1 beer, and that is maybe once or twice a week if I am NOT going out.

Brewery Labyrinth Brewing Company

148 Forest St, Manchester, CT 06040

Hours: Mon-Thurs 4-9 Fri 4-10 Sat 12-10 Sun 12-6

I went mid February on a Sunday towards the end of the day. They were very busy. There were 3 of us, and originally we couldn’t find a place to sit. We found a bar area for 2 of us with 1 standing, then someone vacated their table, and we swooped in and nabbed it. It was a cold, but otherwise sunny, beautiful, and snow free day.

They do not sell food. They sell only select beer in cans and fill growlers. There was a food truck outside for BBQ. It looked good. I didn’t get anything, but my friends did get something right before they left. I don’t know if it was good or not, but walking past the BBQ food truck smelled delicious. The food truck was for Thomas Smokey Pit Stop.

Atmosphere/vibe: Live cover music. Loud… lots of dogs. Lots of varied seating, lots of plugs everywhere for phones.  With exposed brick, shiney wood, hanging numbered mug over the bar, and a variety of seating options, it has a fun, lively atmosphere. The building has a set up to be friendly to wheelchairs.  It is a longish brick building with a small but adequate parking lot. It is in a revitalized industrial area with old mills converted into businesses and apartments. This building looks newer and is set apart from the other larger mills. There are flame simulated torches outside.
They haven’t even been open a year yet. They opened in Aug 2018.

Very friendly bartenders that were fun and talkative, but expeditious and multitasking. It was very busy, and the bartenders were doing a very good job keeping up with everything while still bringing a lively vibe.

Beer: I really love their flight layout. It is a circle, unlike the usual rectangular I’ve seen at most breweries. It is charming. I was charmed. 5 snifter glasses are part of a flight. Did I mention I was charmed? Charmed I say.

Wyvern’s boysenberry: This is a wheat beer. It was excellent very fruity, but not overly sweet or unnecessarily saacrine. Many fruit beers make the mistake of being too sweet.  The Wyvern’s Boysenberry does not make that mistake. The beer has lovely color, very appealing. Just writing about it now makes me kinda want one. If you head there and they have it on tap you need to try it.

Imperial Stout: While not listed on their description, this is a coffee stout. It smells like coffee grounds, as opposed to smelling  like coffee itself. They are two distinct flavors and smells. It tastes like chocolate covered espresso beans. I’m not a fan of coffee beer as a general rule. If you like coffee beer then you should try this. It is a unique beer worth trying. The taste in my mouth after is nice. I wouldn’t want to drink a lot of it, but I did really like the after taste in my mouth.

Baba Yaga: This a berliner weisse. It was tart, but not pucker your mouth into wrinkles tart. I liked it. I really loved the name. It advertised cranberry. I don’t remember much cranberry, but I really did like it anyway.

Wail of the Banshee. This is a Scottish ale. It claims caramel notes and butterscotch. I get caramel notes with a light efervescent after taste. I sadly did not get butterscotch. I did like it.

Bugbear:  This is a strong bitter bear. It is very bread-dy but not too  bitter. It claims caramel notes, but I didn’t get caramel notes. It was a fine bear. Not my favorite from the flight, but it is a solid beer. It really reminds me of a nutty bread.

Cloverleigh: I don’t have a lot to say about this one. It is a completely me issue. It has a very strong clove flavor… too strong. I’m not a fan of cloves.

Parking: There is an adequate parking lot.

The area is safe, but I don’t believe it would be safe to walk there. There aren’t any sidewalks on the main street, or any lighting. If you are going there at night, then drive, don’t walk. That is, unless, you like at one of those mills converted into apartments. That would be a fine jaunt.

I was very impressed by Labyrinth Brewery. It has a nice vibe, a comfortable tap room. I liked the variety of beer they had. I wasn’t thrilled with the music. It was loud and mediocre, but the brewery itself was really good. I plan on going back after the Year of Beer is over.

Why you should go: Good beer. Like I said before, they have a large selection of beer. They show their chops by having a variety of well made beers. They don’t limit themselves to IPAs, remember this is just their first year open, and most new breweries do. They have solid beers, a fun and energetic tap room with a variety of seating. There is bar seating for communal drinking. There are tables for groups. There are secondary standing ledges. It has a variety of areas to maximize the amount of people who can comfortably drink beer in the taproom.

What could be improved: Not a lot of complaints. I didn’t like the clove beer, but that isn’t on them. I just don’t like cloves. I didn’t like the live music, but also that isn’t on them. Really, I think this is a solid brewery that anyone interested in beer and lives in Ct should show up to and give them a fair shake.

2nd Bridge Brewery

642 Hilliard St, Manchester, CT 06042

Hours Thurs 4-9 Fri 3-9 Sat 12-9 Sun 12-5

I went on a Sunday in mid-February mid afternoon. The place has 2 small rooms and was decently busy.

They do not offer food, however, they encourage bringing a lunch, or ordering take out or deliver from local restaurants. I went with friends and we stopped at a restaurant called Shady Glen. It was an… interesting restaurant. The outside ring were where the booths and counter service seats were located. The inside ring was where the cooks cooked and the wait staff walked. They never left the inside ring. It is a place lost in the 50s. Not just merely a 50’s style diner, but rather a restaurant where the prices, decor, outfits, and cash only payment style hasn’t changed in the last 5 decades… at least. Food was good and cheap, but this blog is about beer, so let’s get back to 2nd Bridge Brewery.


It wasn’t quite a sports pub, but more a small town UK pub that sports fans hang out at. Dogs were welcome. We actually saw a group with a dog later that day at another brewery as my friends and I went to 3 breweries throughout the day. There were tables with benches against the wall, high top tables in the middle of the main room, and then counter seats by the taps. In the smaller first room there were a few tables and a dart board against the wall. There were scarves of UK teams hanging up around and sportsball on a TV, but there was also local art on the wall. It didn’t have a sports bar vibe, but rather long hang out where many are interested in sportsball.

Service was good. We could easily get the attention of bartenders when we wanted them. We didn’t sit at the bar, but at one of the high tables in the middle of the room. Jasmine was friendly and knowledgeable. You can tell when people are enjoying their day and interacting with people.

What about the Beer?

They didn’t have a large selection of beers I was interested it and we were hitting 3 breweries that day, so I split a flight with a friend. That way we both could taste multiple, but since I was driving I wouldn’t have too much.

Sock Hop: It had a neat crisp tart clean taste… not too much apple, not too strong. This was an apple beer that I believe was a guest tap.

Know your onions: It was strong, verging on Medicinal. This was an English strong bitter ale. It is something that is interesting, worth trying, but an acquired taste. You need to enjoy a bitter beer to enjoy this.

Brug Heght: It is a dark Belgian with front bitter that turns smooth upon more drinking. It was my favorite of the beers we had there. It is very malty.


It has an adequate parking lot. The brewery is not particularly safe to walk to. There are no sidewalks on the main busy street, which is not lit at night.  This is an old industrial part of town. It is definitely somewhere you drive to. There are other businesses in this old industrial factory complex. Most of them aren’t going to be open during the brewery’s hours, so the parking lot will be more or less available.

Overall: I liked it. I liked the bartender, Jasmine. I liked the beer, I liked the ambience, even if it wasn’t catered to me.

Why you should go: They have interesting beers. I really liked their dark Belgian. If you like UK football (soccer) It is a great atmosphere for watching matches. It is cozy and comfortable. I like that they have a guest tap cider option.

What could be improved: They are a small brewery so they don’t always have a lot of options on tap. More options as they expand would be great.

Ct Valley Brewing Company

Address: 765 Sullivan Ave South Windsor

HoursWed. & Thurs. – 3PM to 8PM
Fri. & Sat. – 12PM to 9PM
Sun. – 12PM to 6PM

I went on a Sat with some friends. We pulled into the parking lot right at noon. I thought I would be the first there, but there was already some people at the bar. We got a table right next to the bar. It wasn’t very busy right at opening. There were about 3 or 4 people at the bar.

The food truck was setting up around noon when we got there

They do not offer food. We got there right when they were opening, and there was a food truck parked outside that was preparing for food service. It looks like that is a normal set up. The food truck looked interesting.

Back in the brewing room there was a woman setting up tables which looked like for a party. I’m guessing that they have birthday parties and such. The main tasting room was VERY big. It was a very large room. Off of the main room (although  glass french doors were closed) was another good sized room. I can see this room being used for events, or private parties. This place has space in spades. It had an “airplane theme” with pictures of airplanes, vintage propellers, etc. The whole place had a very “man cave” restaurant theme. There were big tvs with sportsball on them. It really went with the man/bar restaurant vibe. If you are into the sports theme restaurant bar, it has it in spades. I went with 2 friends on a Sat morning in early February. They had the inside decorated for Valentines Day with pink and red paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The place had a VERY “restaurant feel”, but they do not serve food which felt a little disconnected.  The bathrooms were VERY clean. Probably the cleanest bathrooms in a brewery/bar that I’ve seen. The whole place was very clean.

The very clean and well stocked bathroom with a fantastic floor!

There is no table service or food service. You can go up to the bar to order your beer.  Service is acceptable, no complaints of negligence. It was not overly engaging. A lot of the breweries, maybe because of their small taprooms, seem intimate like you are part of something even if you aren’t engaging. This  has such a large room, which I think is great. I hate showing up to a brewery, especially with several people, and can’t find a seat. No problems here, but couple that with lack of homey engagement from staff it feels a little… stiff. It would have been nicer to have a little more engagement with staff. I like to talk about the beers and brewing. They had the aura of “we are here to help you if you need help, otherwise we are busy.”

The Ct River Valley Brewing Company is a very IPA heavy brewery. I didn’t try any of the IPA, because I don’t like IPA. I did like that they had half pours. I’m not sure if they do flights, but I liked that they have half pours so that you can try several or one. They have cans. I was disappointed. They had a sour on their tap  list, but it was crossed out. They did have a sour in cans. Had they had the sour on tap and I tried it, I would have been very likely to buy it in cans. Sours don’t get canned often at breweries.

They did have a stout on tap, but it was a coffee stout, which I’m not a big fan of. I ended up ordering a half pour of the Double wasp Doppelbock lager. One of my friends ordered the Ace of Aces Lager. She does not like hoppy beer, but she enjoyed the lager very much. Her words were “When I burp it has a good flavor.” “I  don’t know how to talk about beers, but I could say it was crisp.” “It’s not very bitter.”

I enjoyed the Double Wasp as well. It had a nice flavor. It was creamy, a little sweet, but I wouldn’t say it was a “Sweet” beer, it just had a little sweetness to it. There were a little nutty toasty to the flavor. I liked it.

I have to say the artwork on the cans is great. Really awesome artwork. I was really disappointed they did not have a sour on tap.

Plenty of parking. There is no lack of parking. There are handicaps spots, and there aren’t any steps to get inside. It is very handicap friendly, however all of the bar stools and high tops (near the bar) are going to be difficult for handicapped. There are shorter tables farther away from the bar, but then anyone in a wheelchair will be quite a ways away from the bar.

Area and safety

It is in a rural area. Easy to pass as they do not have a large sign on the building and do not have a logo sign out at the street. It is set back from the street. The area seems like a safe parking lot at night, but I wouldn’t walk there at night. It is a busy main road that doesn’t seem lit for pedestrians and doesn’t have sidewalks.

They had an extra closed off room that would be great for private events and parties.

Overall: It lacks the intimate vibe that many of the breweries in Ct have. It feels more like a chain restaurant. I think this could be combated by adding homey elements. It seems like it would be easy to rearrange their VERY LARGE tap room into areas, perhaps some comfy couches and chairs in little intimate seating areas. Maybe adding some kind of break up of the restaurant-like rows of tables. The very beige walls didn’t help.  Dunno… It just felt very chain-restaurant. I wanted something more intimate and homey. They seem to have a great following, so that might be my opinion.

Why you should go: If you like the sports bar guys restaurant vibe it is the vibe for you. They have a lot of IPAs. They seem to be able to accommodate private parties with a separate room. They are very clean and have lots of space and parking. They seem to have events like beer and chocolate pairings. Several advertisements were poste on this.

What could be improved: They don’t have a lot of non-IPA selections, but the 2 we tried were good. If you are looking for the local craft brewery intimate feel it doesn’t have it. It has more of a generic dude chain sports restaurant vibe. The staff weren’t very interactive.

Mama Bear Growls

Or rather… not yet?

Anyone even remotely aware of the craft brewery scene is aware of a few basic facts.

  1. Breweries seem to really rely on the sticker as a marketing strategy. I have also seen very few people actively use them…
  2. People who frequent craft breweries seem to like growlers.
  3. Growlers are glass jugs of various sizes and bedecked with various designs and logos that can be filled (but not consumed) at the breweries. They are taken home and consumed rather quickly to preserve quality

So… I have yet to get into the growler thing. I’m not opposed… but I just haven’t done it. They are an awkward size to fit in my fridge. I don’t consume large amounts of beer by myself at home. Occasionally I will like opening a beer in the evening, but that is a lot of commitment to beer drinking in a short span. Being the only beer drinker in the house (My toddler is firmly in the apple juice camp and my husband doesn’t drink) it is a large commitment. I’m tempted, sure… but I’m afraid I won’t drink it fast enough and it will go stale. Yet I occasionally taste a delicious beer and I say to myself, “Self, speak to yon barkeep and request to take their wares to your domicile!” to which I am informed they don’t bottle or can and they only fill growlers. Yes yes it makes sense. There is a lot of overhead cost and potential loss in the canning and bottling business. I’ve not ruled out the growler club, but I just don’t know if it is for me.

As an addendum, I know someone who has some growlers and wants me to take it to get it filled on one of my trips. I think we will see how that works.

Little House Brewing

Address: 16 Main St, Chester, CT

Hours: Wed & Thurs: 3pm – 8pm Fri: 2pm – 9pm Sat: Noon – 9pm
Sun: Noon – 6pm

I went on a Friday night in early February. The weather was good. I went later at night about an hour before closing. It was very busy, but we were still able to find a table.

They do not offer food. They do list that they allow you to BYOF, however, the list a lot of restaurants in the area the suggest within walking distance of their building to have dinner at. I went wit Thai Riverside which was very good.

Oozing with small town charm

The atmosphere was cozy. While very busy it didn’t seem overcrowded. They had really lovely glassware. The design is smart on the pint glasses. It is minimalist and quaint and New Englandy. Like many placed they had a wooden plank with holes for the tasting pours. The vibe of the place was a cozy hidden gem of a local spot at a ski lodge. I’m sure nobody was toting ski gear, but I feel like in my mind’s eye they should have. It is a small room, but didn’t feel overwhelming small. I believe there might be an outside patio in the back when the weather is nicer, but I’m not certain. There was a back door that seemed to lead that way and it seemed to be set up for that. My one big annoying, glaring, disappointing, gripe was their bathrooms were pretty disgusting. It was college bar on a Thursday night disgusting. It was a single room unisex bathroom… It looked like drunk guys didn’t bother to aim. The floor was sticky. There was toilet paper and paper towels all over the floor. It decimated the charm I was enchanted by when I walked in the door. If I wanted to go to a college bar bathroom, I would have done it while in college. Note I didn’t in college because college bar bathrooms are disgusting.

The bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. The staff are easy to access for drinks. They are astute to notice when someone approaches, yet have casual conversation with the people sitting at the bar and those ordering at the same time. It does not take long to get a drink if you want one.

So, let’s talk about the beer.

I did a flight which included

Kirby’s Kolsch: It is a German style beer. Very solid. I enjoyed it very much.

Winchester:  It is very malty. I like malty. It is a wheat beer that is very light. It is a low alcohol beer, but doesn’t sacrifice flavor. It is clean flavor.

Little Bear: It delivers on flavor and is satisfyingly smooth. There are hints of chocolate, vanilla, and toasted coconut. I really cannot stress enough how smooth it was. How smooth you ask? VERY

Molasses Disaster: As someone who lived in Massachusetts for most of my teenage years and through college, I really do love the name and the token nod to the Boston Molasses Disaster. They really come forward on the molasses flavor. It is front and center and bold. Go big or go home bold.

My flight

Parking: there is literally no parking at the brewery. There is some very limited on street parking along the main street where the brewery is located. There are some lots nearby listed on their website. I parked at the restaurant we at at, Thai Riverside, and left my car there. As the restaurant was in the process of closing and there were no other businesses open in that little strip I had no problems leaving my car there, but during times where those businesses are open there might be an issue.

The area is very safe. While you do have to cross some main streets, it is a very walkable small town feel and there are plenty of crosswalks and lighting.

Overall I liked the place. The beer was a combination of solid traditionals and experimentals that pulled it off. I like that. It was just overflowing with charm and being adorable.

Why you should go: They have some excellent beer. The atmosphere is charming and cozy. The glassware is charming. The staff are charming. It is like Hallmark Movie charming. I’m expecting the hurried businessman from a big made up Hartford insurance company who is stuck here while selling his grandmother’s house and happen to run into the woman who owns a cupcake shop or a dog grooming business and they agreed to have a drink would show up here for their charming argument where she introduces the concept that he needs to stop and take more joy in life. Literally… I’m expecting that to happen in this small town cozy brewery. The only thing that would make my imaginary scene more Hallmark is if there was a Golden Retriever. Hold on a second… lemme go check their website… Well, they don’t say that dogs are allowed at the brewery, but they also don’t say they AREN’T allowed.

What can be improved: Their bathrooms are absolutely disgusting. There is limited parking. My big big big complaint is that the bathrooms are really disgusting.

I’m going to go off on a wee little tangent here. While I’m trying to focus on getting as many stamps on my brewery passport (50) to get the VIP pass to the Ct Brewery festival. I don’t have unlimited free time to go back to breweries I’ve already gone to. I’m in the process of making a short list of those I plan on going back to more regularly when I’m not trying to hit 50 in 1 year, but the Little House brewing just sent me an email with their new on tap beer.

There is a Pilsner, a Double IPA (which I have no interest in at all), and a dark chocolaty malty beer. Then, in their tanks they have

Sleepy Bee – Honey Kölsch, Hell Melon – Munich Helles, TBA – Blood Orange Sour Lager, Brutal Brunch – Brut Mimosa IPA (collab w/ Bad Dream Brewing), Gone Muddin’ – Coffee Porter, Home Grown 5 – All CT-grown Pale Ale, Three Sheep for an Ore – West Coast IPA, Wave Racer – Milkshake IIPA

I’m super interested in this Honey Kolsch, Sour Lager, and am even curious about this brut mimosa IPA. I am sorely tempted if I happen to be in the town in the next month to stop by a second time.

Fox Farm Brewery

Address 62 Music Vale Rd, Salem, CT


Hours Thurs-Fri 2-7 Sat/Sun 11-5pm

I went on a Friday around 5pm in early February. The weather was brisk, but nice and we still had daylight when we arrived.

Food is not available. Their website states that you can bring light snacks for consumption on premises, but due to limited seating they would rather you didn’t bring a large sit down meal. There were not food trucks.

Atmosphere/vibe: Is “farm hipster” a thing? There was a cross between clean industrialism and woodsy. There was a 2nd floor balcony catwalk open to to the downstairs. There were some tables up there. There was a counter that runs around the edge of the wall with backless stools to sit on. It was busy, but not uncomfortably crowded.

They had open viewable access to the brewing area.

Service: They had a separate line for growler fills and several registers open for buying beer to drink on site. The bartenders were friendly and informed.

The Cabin: Didn’t think I’d like it, but the smoke comes through nicely.  It has a tang.

Amble: I didn’t like it. It was a very hoppy IPA, but don’t take umbrage at it because I said this. I don’t like IPA, so I’m a an unreliable narrator.

Gather (Pilsner) Crisp, clean, solid Pilsner, classic

Hearthbound Porter: I liked this one a lot. It was creamy, nutty, and toasty. It has a full body and was very smooth. It is a really nice beer.

Parking: There is plenty of parking. It is a large parking lot.

Area and safety: The area is off in the woods. You can’t walk there.

Why you should go: It is a clean, organized place. The Porter I had was really good. They have small pores, which I like. Their outside area looks nice (but it was too cold to use in when I went in February)

What could be improved: Having a food truck outside would be nice. They have mostly ales. It would be nice to have more of a variety then primarily ales.

What in the IPA hell?

India Pale Ale, or variations of pale ales have the fastest turnover for craft brewers and home brewers. Between 2-5 weeks and BAM a new batch of beer is made. Brewers can experiment. Failures aren’t as big a deal with a fast turnover. I feel like there is a chicken and egg thing here. Making IPA is cheaper and quicker so people who want to be part of the craft beer scene drink a lot of IPA because it is faster and easier to make. Do they develop a taste for it because it is what is available in the scene or are they experimenting with it because they like it? Chicken and egg.

For smaller operations that only have  they ability to have 1 or 2 brews fermenting at a time it is hard to devote expensive machinery to longer fermenting beers. Lagers generally take 2 weeks longer than IPAs. Stouts and Porters… well, generally the darker the beer the longer it is going to take to brew up it’s dark malty goodness.

Ok ok so some people like it. Some people I know like it. I’m really not sure why? But then I love pretty much anything pickled. Put it in vinegar and I’m like Boy howdy. My husband looks at me like I’m a crazy woman. When a brewery does have like 1 dark beer option 9 times out of 10 it is… *drum roll please* a coffee stout. I I think it is because they think they are being trendy. (They aren’t) It isn’t trendy because everyone else is doing it. It is trendy because everyone wants them to be doing it. I talk to a lot of friends about beer. Most of them do not want coffee in their stout, but I guess there is no accounting for taste. Is it that when a brewery ONLY has cans of Coffee Stout and IPA it is because everyone wants it, or there is so much of it because everyone doesn’t want it? I think breweries are doing it for the same reasons. It is easier…  It is hard work to make a good stout. Guiness perfected it. Yeah a nice beautiful glass of guiness with just about an inch of lovely foam is a thing of beauty. It is smooth and creamy and has a velvety mouthfeel. It is glorious… They have been making Guiness since 1759. That is literally over 250 years to perfect the glory that is the dry Irish stout we all know and love. I don’t expect a newbie brewery to crank out the perfect irish dry stout, but… stout is hard. It takes longer to make. It is harder to develop good flavors. It is less forgiving. So instead of working hard to develop complex flavors, let’s throw some coffee beans in there and WHAM BAM Thank you ma’am… We have a dark beer to offer the public. There is only 1 coffee beer that I actually like. It is from Evil Twins Brewery and is called Biscotti break. It isn’t a straight coffee beer. It has nuanced and complex flavors of which a subtle coffee flavor is one. I find when microbrewers make coffee beer the front load coffee flavor is like all the bitterness of coffee grounds. It’s like they say “there are not hops in this beer to make it bitter, let’s make it like they are drinking coffee grounds.” No thank you. Anytime a brewery has an offering of a dark beer that isn’t coffee stout/porter I want to try it. Even if I don’t like it I want to try it. I appreciate the effort it takes to craft a good dark beer! They are making a statement that they are trying to develop a beer that isn’t using coffee as a crutch. I respect that. It takes more skill and artistry. When I see a coffee stout my first gut reaction is… oh… I see they feel they need a crutch to make a stout. It makes me sad…

What often rubs me the wrong way is when breweries advertize flavors that don’t come through. If you tell me hazelnut. I want to have hints of hazelnut. If you tell me peanut butter. I want peanut butter. If you tell me chocolate. I want chocolate. If you tell me S’mores I WANT some grainy graham, some chocolate, and some creamy toasted marshmallow hints. When a brewery says Stout… I’m happy. But if it says coconut stout and there is no coconut… I’m annoyed. I probably would have liked it fine if they had just said stout, but when I’m looking for toasted coconut and don’t get it… I feel let down. Why don’t I taste it? BECAUSE IT IS HARD! Hats off to brewers who are willing to experiment with dark beers. Remember folks it is a lot more time and effort and skill to experiment with dark beers. You have to have a big pair of coconuts to make that coconut stout that may not, in fact, have hints of toasted coconut. It is easy to experiment with Apple Crisp. It is harder to experiment with Pound Cake. Baking is a science and cooking is an art. When you do something so complex as experiment with dark beers you are doing the double of baking and cooking… science AND art! Sometimes your experiments fail, but please brewers keep experimenting. Please skip the easy path of throwing coffee beans in. Didn’t they read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Don’t mix uppers and downers! Experiment with other things.

Things I would like to see in dark beers: Toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc) warm spices (cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, nutmeg not cloves… I hate cloves) hardy flavors (coconut, sage, carrot, oats, sweet potato, dates, Chili, rosemary, juniper)  Sweet flavors (caramel, maple, vanilla, cherry, chocolate, fruits)

Things I do NOT want in my dark beer. Aged in bourbon barrels, coffee, cloves, hops. Please for the love of all that is dark and foamy in my glass don’t add hops to my dark beer!

Some might notice that the term “Imperial” gets bandied about a bit, especially with stouts, but now more often as not with IPAs. Imperial used to mean one thing, then slid into a second meaning and now kinda just means a 3rd thing. It’s original meaning was for a beer brewed in Europe, then shipped to the Russian Imperial Court. So Imperial Stout meant stout that was made outside of Russia, then shipped to the Russian Imperial Court. Then brewers began selling this same beer to the people around where they were brewing. The idea then morphed into “top shelf” style beer. This is what the royals drink and you can drink it too! Now, it kinda just means that the brewers add double or triple the hops or malts to the beer. It usually makes the beer much more alcoholic. It supposedly ups the AMPS on the flavor. Imperial IPAS are going to be more hoppy. Imperial Stouts more malty. Frankly I feel that this is just another lazy way of pretending to be different. A way to “experiment” without really taking risks. Show me your coconuts. Throw some honey in my beer.

That’s my two cents. Not that it amounts to much. Brewers are going to continue to make academic dark beer with “safe” little differences like coffee and more malt. I will continue to raise one eyebrow and be mildly annoyed and every now and again I will find a brewery that does something fantastic and I will be overjoyed and sing Hallelujah and then be disappointed to find out… they only offer growlers to take home…