Brewery Name: Aspetuck Brew Lab
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 3389 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06605. The tap room is located right in the heart of Bridgeport's historic Black Rock neighborhood.
Facebook: Aspetuck Brew Lab
Twitter: @Maltmaster1 (Founder and Chief Beer Scientist)
Background: The first new brewery in Bridgeport, CT since 1940 (until recently, Connecticut brewers were the victims of some outrageously arcane brewing laws in the state), Aspetuck is named after the river from which they draw the water for their beer. The brewery’s co-founder and Chief Beer Scientist, Peter Cowles, was a long time homebrewer who won so many contests for his beer (and even his mead and cider) that he eventually decided to make it his living. Along with his wife, Tara, they have made Aspetuck a popular beer destination since the tap room first opened its doors last year.
Growlers: Yep. Aspetuck offers their beer in both 32 oz and 64 oz growlers.
The Beers: When I stopped by, there were seven beers on tap in a variety of different styles. As someone who really loves trying new and exciting types of beer, I was pretty happy to see that. Even within the pale ale style, there are a few different options, and I’m guessing that you’ll be greeted with a great selection of varied beers anytime you stop by. Here’s what was pouring when I arrived:
Vibe: I’m a huge fan of the vibe of this place. The tap room is gorgeous, with an awesome metal bar and barback, awesome branded artwork on the walls, and (most importantly of all) seven full taps. The fact that they can offer not just tasters, but half-pours and full-pours as well is a welcome sight. After seeing so many breweries in my home state of New Hampshire hamstrung by brewery laws prohibiting full pours in any place without a kitchen, it was nice to see another state coming around.
That’s not to say that Connecticut is a bastion of beer freedom--while there, we heard the brewer remarking on the fact that Connecticut used to mandate that all breweries had to give away free samples. Not exactly an ideal way to to business. In fact, it’s only recently that the laws have loosened enough to allow a small brewery like Aspetuck Brew Lab to open a tap room like theirs, and I couldn’t be more excited that they they.
The staff was extremely friendly and more than happy to talk about their beer, which was outstanding. It’s amazing to see a relatively new brewery hit the ground running as well as Aspetuck clearly has--in fact, earlier in the day I was in a liquor store and saw a sign advertising that yes, they do, in fact, carry Aspetuck kegs. It’s pretty clear that not only do I love Aspetuck’s beer, but so does the community at large.
Oh--and one more thing. Aspetuck is incredibly accommodating when it comes to food allergies. No one could reasonably expect a brewery to make accommodations for people with gluten allergies--after all, they make beer, and beer is just a giant gluten bomb. But Aspetuck does! Not only do they offer cider for non-beer drinkers, but they have a variety of wines to choose from as well. As someone who has dragged his gluten-intolerant girlfriend to more than a few breweries, I HUGELY appreciated their sensitivity to the fact that not everyone can drink their beer, but a lot of people might still want to check out their space. Huge props.
I would have happily spent another hour there if I didn’t need to hit the road. Fortunately, Aspetuck’s growler’s are reasonably priced, and I happily walked away with a 32 oz growler of beer.I.am to share with a few friends back home. This is a brewery that seems to be turning out new and exciting beers at a pretty decent pace, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s on tap the next time I come through town!
Dogs: Hard to say for sure. I didn’t see any dogs while I was there, and they keep the tap room pretty immaculately clean.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Tasters are just $2, and they also offer half-pints and pints, all of which remain pretty reasonably priced. Growlers are reasonably priced, too.
Food: No food (at least not beyond some bags of chips and other snacks), but they invite you to bring in your own. They have an impressive stack of local menus behind the counter, which they’ll be more than happy to let you browse and order from.
Final Thoughts: Outstanding beer and a really cool tap room. Friendly staff. Reasonable prices. And I’ve never seen a brewery so dedicated to making sure everyone who enters has a positive experience--even those who can’t drink their beer! I’m incredibly impressed at both the quality and quantity of fantastic beer that Aspetuck is brewing, and I’m really excited to see how they move forward.
Brewery Name: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
Type of Brewery: Brew Pub
Location: 320 Rehoboth Ave, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
Facebook: Dogfish Head Brewpub
Growlers: Yes (for the distributed stuff, not the Brewpub Exclusives).
Background: Okay, so this is place is a little bit of a ‘station of the cross’ for me. This was the second brewery I ever visited. Way back when I started dating my now wife, I was looking for something fun to do on a Saturday. I decided we should visit a brewery. I didn’t know where any were around me, but I knew Rehoboth was where Dogfish was, and that it was close-ish to DC. I drove us out there with no idea how to get there (or that it's actually a long drive for a day trip), but we ate there and managed to make it back to DC safely. Now my wife and I make sure to plan a trip out to Rehoboth every summer, because this place is that special. This is one of the founding fathers of brewing, and this is the original location that he opened to change the way beer tasted in this country. The pub, to me, is like museum chronicling how brewing started and how it continues to flourish. They always have wonderful, interesting beers on draft, a selection of the current releases, and collection of “Vintage” releases that you can try.
The Beers: During this year’s visit, I was able to sample:
Vibe: This place is a classic beach spot. They have wood grilled pizza, cool bar food, and a cool beach shack vibe inside. They have art and unique paintings all over the place. They have a nice outdoor location that you can buy six-packs and merchandise so it doesn’t interfere with the restaurant. You can also get a selection of their hand crafted spirits, which are wonderful. I still have some bottles of their “Jin” and peanut butter vodka that are top notch. This is just a perfect beach experience. They have live music most nights, and the staff is really great and easy to talk to.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$
Food: Yes. They restaurant is based on the original ethos of wood grilled food. The pizzas are awesome, the fish is fresh, and the beer is used liberally in the cooking. It’s an easy going and approachable menu for a quick lunch or a long dinner. Definitely recommend getting the spinach and artichoke dip and working your way through the brewpub exclusives and finishing the meal with a nice vintage Fort (their imperial raspberry beer). Cheers!
Brewery Name: Kent Falls Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Production Brewery
Location: 33 Camps Rd, Kent, CT. If you’re coming from Route 202, don’t take Gunn Hill Road. Instead, turn onto Sawyer Hill Road, then hang a right on Camps Road when you get to what feels like the top of a mountain. From there, you can’t miss it. Be forewarned: the roads are a little narrow and treacherous, but the payoff is tremendous.
Facebook: Kent Falls Brewing
Background: Kent Falls Brewing Company is a local staple in Connecticut, but they only opened their brewery to the public a few months ago. Each Saturday, from noon to 4:00 pm, the brewery opens its doors to sell beer to the public (don’t worry, though--they have a robust distribution network in the region, so you don’t need to scramble to get there for a shot to taste their beer!) and even offer a couple of farm tours. The brewery is located on a beautiful farm property, and the brewers go out of their way to emphasize their respect for the land. They are passionate about what they do, and it should come as no surprise that farmhouse ales are their specialty.
Growlers: No. Kent Falls sells bottles on-site, but you won’t be able to get growlers (or samples, for that matter).
The Beers: When I came by, Kent Falls had listed three available beers on their website: Farmer’s Table, Lade Øl, and Sweatpants. When I arrived, I was thrilled to learn that there was a fourth beer available: Fleur de la Mort, a wild ale, which is a style that I generally love. I also went out of my way to acquire a fifth beer, Solstice, when I saw it in a nearby store. All in all, I think these beers offer a solid glimpse into Kent Falls and what they do.
Vibe: I find myself in Litchfield, CT every so often, and this time I decided to poke around and see what local breweries were in the area. As soon as I stumbled upon Kent Falls, I was sold. Kent Falls is located in rural Connecticut, at the end of some of the steepest, windiest roads you’ll ever see, depositing you practically on top of a mountain. And it’s serene.
I’ve written before about the difficulty in judging production breweries: the goal is usually to get you in and out with your beer as quickly as possible, so what criteria do you really grade them on? Well, Kent Falls makes it incredibly easy. The very first thing you see when you get out of the car is the beautiful pond across the street. Yup, even at this elevation, you can still find ponds in New England. It’s beautiful. Then you’re treated to a beautiful view of the farm and its many buildings as you walk up the dirt path to the brewery itself.
Since Kent Falls is a little out of the way, you don’t have to fight through the crowds that production breweries often attract, either. This gives you time to enjoy your surroundings (and you will enjoy them) and talk to the brewers about their beer. The facility is extremely well maintained, and the backdrop of shining silver tanks serves as an excellent reminder that there’s more beer yet to come from these guys.
After buying a few bottles, I took a few minutes to wander around the immediate area. We were a little too early for a farm tour, which was too bad, but even just the area around the main building itself is gorgeous. You can see a nice little relaxation area with a few benches and a fire pit, you can see a chicken coop with a flock of chickens nestled inside, and you can get a fantastic view over the rest of the farm property off in the distance. It’s not your traditional "sit and have a few beers" vibe. Instead, it’s your "sit and stare and think about how beautiful all of this is" vibe.
Dogs: There is a sign on the brewery workshop that says “no dogs,” and it’s unclear whether this applies to just the workshop or the farm as a whole. Since the brewery is located on a farm, there are animals all around, including chickens. If you can’t trust your dog to behave around farm animals, I’d say leave him at home as a courtesy.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. I was actually shocked at how affordably Kent Falls prices their beers. For beer of this quality bottled so nicely, I was expecting to pay upwards of $10 a bottle. Not so! The beers I purchased started at just $4 and went only as high as $7. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a massive understatement!
Food: No, but there’s a caveat here. Kent Falls is a production brewery, so their goal is primarily to get you in and out with your beer as quickly as possible. There’s no bar, no way to sample beers, and definitely no kitchen. That said, the brewery is on a farm, and they are only too happy to sell you some of the farm’s offerings. If you want to buy a whole chicken, they’ve got you covered. On a more interesting note, they also sometimes offer homemade cheeses that have been washed in their beer. As I’m writing this, I really regret not leaving with some.
Final Thoughts: It’s hard to imagine how a production brewery could be much better. Kent Falls offers amazing beer, an amazing property, and amazing views. The beer is affordable. The people are friendly. It’s just a great place to be. It’s a shame that the brewery is open to the public for such a limited amount of time each week, but that’s all the more reason to make sure you stop by if you’re in the area on a Saturday. Pop in and grab a few bottles--you’ll surely be glad you did.
Brewery Name: Dewey Beer Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: Dewey Beach, Delaware
Facebook: Dewey Beer Company
The Beers: While there, I was able to try three beers:
Vibe: This location is wonderful. Dewey has built the brewery into the structure in a way that doesn’t feel cramped. Sometimes you go into places that have MacGyvered the brewery and it just feels awkward: the tanks are all over, or there is equipment everywhere. This place lets you sit and enjoy a beer while appreciating all the equipment and fact that you are in a brewery. It doesn’t smell like a brewery, but it has a nice beach shack vibe to it. The front windows can open up so you feel like you’re sitting outside. It's a perfect summer drinking spot after the beach. The service is great, and the food is just right. They offer beach/pub food with just enough of a twist to keep things interesting. Nothing better than some fried oysters and an IPA after laying around all day!
There is just one negative to the location: if you are not staying in the proximity, it is really difficult to park. Not just difficult, almost impossible. The building has 4 spots total, and the area around does not have any parking to speak of. I would not have gone if I wasn’t staying so close that we could Uber cheaply. If you are seeking this brewery out, you will need to plan accordingly, because almost everywhere is reserved/permit parking. I still recommend going here, because it is truly a wonderful drinking experience, but plan wisely.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$
Food: Yes, American pub food with a lot of local fish. They really go that extra mile to support local down to the hot sauce.
Brewery Name: Great Rhythm Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 105 Bartlett St, Portsmouth, NH. Just off Lafayette Road, less than a mile from downtown Portsmouth. It’s a little hidden, but you can see it from the turnoff. Just head down past the Ace Hardware store and it’ll be right there.
Facebook: Great Rhythm Brewing Company
Background: Great Rhythm has been around for a little while now, and their Resonation Pale Ale is a local staple, distributed in beer stores throughout the region. Unfortunately, they didn’t really have a place for people to hang out and enjoy their beer. That changed this past Saturday, August 13, when Great Rhythm opened their doors for the long-awaited grand opening of their brand new brewery and tasting room. Since I live about a five minute walk from Great Rhythm’s new location, I was only too eager to stop by.
Growlers: It doesn’t appear that Great Rhythm is offering growlers--at least not yet. But they have dramatically increased the number of beers they are canning. Resonation continues to be available in its classic 12 oz can format, but three new beers are now also available in 16 oz cans. It isn’t clear yet whether Great Rhythm will be distributing these news beers the way they distribute Resonation, but it looks like you should be able to pick them up from the brewery for the foreseeable future.
The Beers: As I mentioned, Resonation is Great Rhythm’s flagship beer, and the one that has earned them acclaim in the region. Starting on opening day, Great Rhythm began making a few new beers available. Naturally, I made sure to try all of them while I was there.
Vibe: Really cool vibe. The staff could not possibly be friendlier, and that’s impressive on its own--I walked in around 3:00, after they had already been managing the opening day rush for three hours, and they were still all smiles. They also handled the line extremely efficiently. It only took me a couple of minute to reach the front and get my flight, and when I arrived the line was almost out the door. They deserve huge props for figuring out the best, most efficient way to get people their beer.
I’ve already spent enough time telling you about how awesome the beer was, so I won’t waste too much time diving back into it here. That said, the fact that they had three brand new beer releases ready to go for their very first day and were able to keep both the taps flowing and the fridge fully stocked speaks volumes about their preparedness and dedication to their craft. They could easily have sat back on the already much-beloved Resonation Pale Ale and let the new location draw people to them. Instead, they made great use of their expanded brewing capacity and gave people something new--and a whole lot of it!
I’m interested to see how the new location develops. It looks like their goal is to eventually offer some outside seating, but right now they aren’t able to do so. The tasting area did feel a little small, but that might just be because the expansive brewing area is right next to it. That said, on a normal, non-grand-opening day, I think there is probably plenty of seating. A few high top tables sit alongside some lower ones, with some overflow space for people to stand around if they can’t find a seat. I had to stand off to the side, but there was enough space that it didn’t feel awkward at all.
Dogs: Use your judgment, I think. I didn’t see any dogs during my time there, but it was also opening day, so it was a little bit packed to be bringing dogs inside. Still, Great Rhythm doesn’t serve food, so my guess would be that dogs would be okay on a normal day. That’s just a guess, though.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$ / $$$. Pours are just $2 each, and you can get a flight for $8. Cans will run you a little more, though. You can pick up a six-pack of Resonation for less than $10, but four-packs of Cutaway, Squeeze, and Hi-Fi will run you between $11 and $15 a pop. That’s still a good price for really good beer, just understand that you’re paying that premium.
Food: Not yet. I’m not sure if Great Rhythm has plans to add a kitchen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they added some sort of food element at some point, if for no other reason than to be able to offer full pours of their beer.
Final Thoughts: Between the amazing beer, the friendly staff, and the really cool, modern tasting area with a fair amount of room to grow, there isn’t much that Great Rhythm could do better. I’m not sure if they have any plans to expand the tasting room or add food options, but if they do this will easily be a 10/10 experience. I came into the day expecting great things from Great Rhythm’s new location, and boy was I not disappointed. They lived up to or exceeded every expectation I had going into opening day, and I can’t wait to spend a whole lot of time here in the coming months. Great job!
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