16b Center St, Wallingford, CT 06492 http://www.cliffsidebrewing.com/ Hours Thurs & Friday 5-9 Sat 1-9 Sun 1-8
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.