Cliffside Brewery

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.

Beer

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.

SHORT LIST

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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”.

Front Porch Brewing

226 N Plains Industrial Rd UNIT 4, Wallingford, CT 06492

http://frontporchbrewing.co/ (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.