A local Planning and Zoning meeting about the future of a possible brewery sounds boring.
The one I attended recently was certainly not.
The nascent, currently named Food Cycle Farm in Kent, Conn. is hoping to erect and run the first farmhouse brewery in the state. So far, it’s been able to help create the designation of a farmhouse brewery, but on this cold Thursday night, its founders needed to gain the special permit necessary from the commission to keep the arduous process of building and operating the brewery.
Not everyone at the public hearing, however, was a fan of the idea.
“I would caution the commission that if you grant permission to this brewery, revoking it will be very difficult,” said one man who lives near the farm. “It’s easier to not allow it to begin with.”
A little background: David Birnbaum of Manhattan, wants to turn a former dairy farm into the site of a 5000-barrel brewery while continuing to use the land to grow hops, apples and other fruits. The farm would continue to raise chickens and guinea hens. The big picture is to one day also have a bed and breakfast on the 50-acre property at 33 Camps Road, and provide food for a restaurant in Brooklyn. Oh, and there might be a distillery for apple brandy as well.
For now, Dan Moss is running the show, along with Barry Labenz, Yoni Rabinowitz, and Noah Braunstein. The New Jersey native and former Brooklyn Brewery assistant brewer rents on the property. When I met up with Moss a few hours before the public hearing, he was checking over progress on equipment repairs, and keeping an eye on a man using a backhoe to level ground for a future greenhouse.
The 26-year-old has black, curly hair and sports a Van Dyke in the style of Frank Zappa, whom he resembles quite a bit.
“We talked about our similar visions,” he said upon meeting Birnbaum through a mutual acquaintance. “We both felt the same way about food and beer.”
That is, both should be flavorful and have the least amount of negative impact on the environment as possible.
So the graduate of a culinary school with experience in New York City restaurants and training that took him as far as Denmark is on a plot of land, about three hours north of his girlfriend in Brooklyn, waiting. Waiting for equipment, waiting for guidance and waiting for permission.
That permission rests in the hands of the local P&Z Commission. On the Thursday night, members read off Birnbaum’s answers to their questions about the impact the brewery will have on the land. Where will the water run off? What kinds of smells would a brewery produce? How many trucks would be passing through each day?
Most of the answers satisfied the commission. No one on it seemed to pretend they were intimate with the workings of a brewery. They just wanted to make sure that the farm would remain a farm, and that what these gentlemen from out of state would do to the land. They still want more information, and another hearing was scheduled for May 9.
Kent residents showed more than a little suspicion when it came to this outfit that wanted to be a brewery and a farm. They said it wasn’t an appropriate place for a brewery. They thought there would be chemicals that would run off into a local pond that would flood driveways. They said that breweries belong in cities.
“It’s not our place to judge whether a business is successful or not,” one commissioner explained, which only lead to more sighs from the audience of about 25 or so.
As an observer who loves beer and promotes breweries, it was a fascinating look into the other side of the argument. You can get so close to the picture that you forget that there are people who actually don’t want a brewery right next to them.
I’ll keep an eye on developments and write a fuller column as soon as possible.