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Pies & Pints could become Waterbury brewpub by September

Pies & Pints owner Theo Anastasiadis, left, and head brewer John Watson at the new Pies & Pints in Waterbury.

Pies & Pints owner Theo Anastasiadis, left, and head brewer John Watson at the new Pies & Pints in Waterbury.

Pies & Pints, known for its diverse beer list and Greek-inspired cuisine in Middlebury, Conn., has expanded into Waterbury, and could become the state’s latest brewpub by September. It is serving its own beer, an American pale ale called Chill Nuggz. Created by head brewer John Watson, the beer was brewed at Cavalry Brewing in Oxford, according to the brewer.

I grabbed some lunch and drank a few pints with Watson and owner Theo Anastasiadis today, and we talked about their plans for Pies & Pints. Anastasiadis has renovated the restaurant, most recently Dreschers, at 25 Leavenworth St., making it brighter, but keeping much of the look the same. He’s waiting on proper licenses to be able to brew beer on the premises. For more about the opening, read this Republican-American article.

The brewing system at Pies & Pints in Waterbury, which is yet to be set up.

The brewing system at Pies & Pints in Waterbury, which is yet to be set up.

Watson is a long-time homebrewer with credits at other local professional breweries, including the former Hammer & Nail Brewery in Watertown, the former Colorado Brewery and Trading Company in Danbury, and the very-much-existing Willimantic Brewing Company.

“Right now it’s not about how great we look or what nice guys we are,” said Anastasiadis, “it’s about the beer.”

I’m working on a full column, but get on over to Waterbury to check out the beer yourself. They have a nice draft list, which today included Founders Breakfast Stout and Ommegang’s Game of Thrones Fire and Blood.

Pies & Pints of Waterbury, Conn.

Pies & Pints of Waterbury, Conn.

Pies & Pints
25 Leavenworth St.
Waterbury, Conn.
(203) 573-1743

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When the world discovers Connecticut beer

Ted Pert, left, and Ryan Crowley working the taps at Two Roads Brewing Company. (photo: Andrew Sullivan for the New York Times)

Ted Pert, left, and Ryan Crowley working the taps at Two Roads Brewing Company. (photo: Andrew Sullivan for the New York Times)

You know how when you go to see a band, and the opening act is just amazing? You’d never heard of them, and weren’t even expecting to see them play. They were so mesmerizing, in fact, that you don’t remember much of the headliners. All you know is that you’ve been listening to the openers nonstop for two weeks and are checking up on their live gig schedule.

And then you hear them on the radio. And their video goes viral. You think, I knew them first.

There’s a parallel with breweries there, I think. Once the world discoverers “your brewery,” there’s a dual twinge. One is, “Hey, they’re MINE! You’re going to just ruin them… somehow.” The other is, “Cool. Good for my brewery. I mean, OUR brewery.”

The buzz around the Feb. 27 New York Times piece by Christopher Brooks, “Slaking a Thirst for Beers at Craft Breweries,” reminds me of this duality. The piece covers the latest generation of Connecticut breweries that have cropped up in the past year. Firefly Hollow, Top Shelf, Broad Brook, Beer’d,  Shebeen, and Two Roads are highlighted, with brief quotes from the brewers. Continue reading

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Stubborn Beauty ready for its close-up

Shane Lentini (left) and Andrew Daigle in Stubborn Beauty Brewing's tasting room

Shane Lentini (left) and Andrew Daigle in Stubborn Beauty Brewing’s tasting room

It’s a name that conjures so many images.

A sunset marred by clouds, a muscle car that won’t start, Marilyn Monroe refusing to leave her dressing room.

The name of Connecticut’s newest brewery —  Stubborn Beauty —  is whatever you want it to be, its owners say. Open to interpretation, like one of their ales that spins the needle around the style wheel.

Unlike their blasé view of their brewery’s name, everything that Shane Lentini and Andrew Daigle have done to get Stubborn Beauty off the ground has been calculated and deliberate. That’s not to say they’re overly confident.

“Realistic to a fault,” is how Lentini put it.

A couple weeks before the brewery’s grand opening (this Saturday, March 1 from noon to 5 p.m.), I chatted with the two men as we stood over their bar in their welcoming maroon tasting room. The brewery is housed in 2,500 square feet of a remodeled former bicycle factory.

While we talked, Shane poured samples from a tap system complete with Stubborn Beauty handles, into Stubborn Beauty snifters. A Frank Zappa live album echoed in the cavernous, exposed-brick space. Continue reading

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Magic Hat dreams big

Coming out March 1: Magic Hat’s first new year round beer in nearly 10 years, according to a beautifully packaged press release. Dream Machine IPL (India pale lager) pours slightly copper, has a floral aroma, is crisp with a bitterness that accents a tangerine splash. It finishes a bit harsh, but the light body rewards resipping.

I was lucky enough to get an advance package, which included a sample glass (shown in the psychedelic video I made). I recommend having it with turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, primarily because that’s the only food with which I’ve paired it.

RELATED POST: Drinking Vermont beers with T-Day leftovers

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Very indie breweries

Ed Silva of Lasting Brass Brewing

Ed Silva of Lasting Brass Brewing

When you step into Lasting Brass Brewing Co.’s tasting room in Waterbury, the brewer himself pours from the taps.

This kind of personalized experience extends to the tour itself. As you navigate your way past the grain sacks and gawk at the Lasting Brass posters, brewer Ed Silva ushers you into the brew room. Next to six of the Lasting Brass display bottles, you get a chance to see the brewing vessels up close.

This Town Plot brewery is gaining a lot of buzz from those in the know. And its Olde Colony Saison and Clock Tower Pale Ale might be flying off the shelves, except for one thing. Lasting Brass doesn’t exist. Continue reading

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Down on the corner…

Ryan Whipple, co-owner of The Corner Tavern

Ryan Whipple, co-owner of The Corner Tavern

It was like meeting up with an old friend you hadn’t seen in five years.

Maybe your friend has had some work done. A chin-tuck maybe. Hair dyed a smidge. Leaner.

That’s how I felt stepping into The Corner Tavern, which for decades was known as The Old Corner, on North Main Street in the Union City section of Naugatuck, Conn. It was old school, with tin ceilings and walls and a shiny, deep bar. The jukebox was still near the entrance. Tables were still scattered about.

But the walls were a ruby red, the ceiling a bright white. The tables were new and organized. The partition that divided the restaurant portion was down. And there were two giant television screens over the bar. So, some elements were flashier maybe. No big deal…

Until I saw the beer line-up. This is when I knew that the 103-year-old bar was really entering into a new era. Connecticut beers were there: Two Roads, Back East, New England, Olde Burnside, and Thomas Hooker.

But so were beers from Allagash, Stone, Southern Tier, Otter Creek, and Evil Twin. Nearly 30 taps, and only one named Budweiser and one named Coors Light.

The former owner, whom I profiled in a column from 2009, was John Woermer. He’s a guy that didn’t drink, but had a great work ethic when it came to running a bar, and the pride he had in the bar showed. It always drew a happy crowd, and the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were legendary.

Woermer sold the bar, and for five years the new owners tried to keep it afloat. I don’t know why it didn’t work, but last fall the Old Corner became the Corner Tavern, complete with a brand-spanking-new beer list.

I got to talk to co-owner Ryan Whipple for a while today, while I sucked down a Back East Porter and started-then-abandoned a Two Roads Holiday Ale. The Naugatuckian has a degree in education, hopped around for years as a DJ/karaoke host, then decided to open the bar. He’s a homebrewer and understands his beer; his recommendations show a keen understanding. He’s affable and the kind of guy you want to have listen to you, since he actually listens.

My time was spend poring over the latest issue of The New Yorker and listening to the jukebox blaring Dave Matthews Band and Metallica. I wished I could have stayed to try the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous American Black IPA or Stillwater Cellar Door porter. But I needed to head on my way. I plan to write up a full profile before St. Patrick’s Day, so keep your eyes open.

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Last call at The Old Corner Cafe

John Woermer

John Woermer

The lunchtime crowd has left, and John Woermer is behind the bar washing glasses.

Woermer’s presence at the Old Corner Cafe in Naugatuck is as connected to the 98-year­old, one-room tavern as the tin ceiling and broad picture window.

The trim, smiling borough native with the calm focus of a diamond cutter was 30 when, after working for a Ford deal­ership, he bought the North Main Street bar. That was in April 1972, when Schaefer, Reingold and Ballentine Ale were on tap; you needed only to be 18 to drink; and smoking was allowed.

This week, the 68-year-old Woermer will pull his last draft as owner of the Old Cor­ner. He has sold the bar to an­other local businessman.

“It’s been a good ride,” he says, relaxed in the nearly empty establishment that is bathed in golden afternoon light. “I’ll miss the people. This is my kingdom.” Continue reading

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Everybody’s thirsty

Firefly Brewing headquarters

Firefly Brewing headquarters

There’s just something about a Sunday at a small, local brewery.

If you’re a prowler of the scene like me, you’ll step into a little brewery, and there’s an instant snap of recognition. Not the recognition like, “Hey, I’ve been here before.” But more like, “Yeah, I know this vibe. I like this vibe.”

One of the best things about small breweries is that their tasting rooms have no televisions. If you come across one with a television, kindly tell the owner to rip it out and crush it into bits. The beauty of this forgotten no-TV experience is that people are forced to talk to one another. And it doesn’t matter if you know your beer stuff or if you’ve ever been there before. The conversation starts with beer, and it could go anywhere else. Continue reading

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Free beer-conflicted

madeofglass.com

madeofglass.com

Dear Abbey (Belgian Style Ale),

I’ve been wrestling with this issue periodically, and while it’s not as big a deal as, say, rising sea levels or prescription drug addiction, it’s something that weighs on my mind.

As a beer blogger, I’m sometimes approached by brewery-professionals of some stripe to try something they’re selling… but for free. Sometimes it’s in the form of a pint, but I’ve been given a six-pack or even more just for being me. Twice I’ve been mailed beer by a major brewery. This is an awesome event, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I just feel uneasy with it.

I’ve never advertised myself as a reviewer, so it’s not as if I’m a kingmaker or anything like that. I have a small following at best, but I do have a writing platform that extends to people who crave recommendations. I’m a craft beer advocate, and my job is to bring out what’s interesting and trending in the beer world.

When I get a free box of beer, I feel beholden to the brewer. At no time will the rep say, “So, maybe you’ll put us in your next newspaper column? Huh? Huuuuh?” I’m just a guy who’s prone to guilt, and I feel a little guilty taking something that’s free and not promoting it. Continue reading

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Beer Tasting Host: Notes to Self

denveroffthewagon. com

denveroffthewagon. com

That beer dinner went pretty well, didn’t it? I had a chance to play host to a discussion and sip-fest at a private party and serve as a friend’s Christmas gift to her husband. There was a barbecue spread and four beers plus a cider. I was able to avoid IPAs, as the husband doesn’t like them. Altogether a nice mix (see below).

In the tradition of any professional, it’s time to critique myself. Best to so that right after the event so that the details are fresh and I can sift what went right and wrong. So I’ve promptly waited four days and it’s time to start reflecting.

Note 1 to self: The venue was perfect. For seven people, a living room works. I was lucky to have a spot to display the bottles and cans, and a place for my assistant/wife to do the pouring.

Note 2 to self: Memorize the patter a bit better. I looked at my notes a few too many times. The material I had down on the history of Pilsner Urquell and gluten-free beers was helpful, but if I have to refer to the notes I probably have too much. I don’t think I need to get rid of notes altogether, but maybe just on notecards instead.

Note 3 to self: I handled the mix of the audience’s beer-knowledge pretty well. Two of the seven had some serious experience with craft beer, and were brewers. But they were really cool about me going over the basics, and didn’t lord it over me when they knew more about some elements of brewing better than I did. I think I let them talk while informing everyone on other topics without interrupting.

Note 4 to self: Let the guests talk. I was all pumped to add in a flavor profile note or show off my knowledge of the kinds of hops the brewers used. The best part of the night was when we were just in free conversation.

Note 5 to self: Never mind about people making notes. The handouts work (see below) but don’t keep mentioning that people write on them. They will or won’t so no need to push it.

Tasting Brett's birthday-1

Tasting Brett's birthday-2

Beer Tasting at Brett's 2.1.14