Michael Boney of Top Shelf Brewing
Michael Boney of Top Shelf Brewing

Over the past few years, the number of Connecticut breweries has increased and several are poised to open up their doors and let their beer flow. From tiny breweries that could fit in a basement to a factory-sized behemoth, the market for local beer is getting more diverse every month.

One of the smaller breweries is Top Shelf Brewing, 640 Hilliard St., Suite 3104, in Manchester.

Driving south down I-91, in Manchester, I came to what looked like a replica of some bombed out London neighborhood circa 1945. It was, as it turned out, just a crumbling brick building behind Hilliard Mills, a complex of small businesses.Inside a more robust looking red brick structure was Michael Boney, founder and head brewer of Top Shelf. In his very small brewery (3 barrel system in a 2,000 square-foot space), Boney hopes to make three beers at first: an American, Irish and Belgian ale..

“There’s always lots of paperwork,” said Boney, 33. “We had to update everything in 1890s era building. Electricity, plumbing.” A lot of the word was already completed by the former leaser, Onyx – a microdistillery.

After leasing the property last February, Boney and his two partners hopes to be up and running by the end of this month.

“We’ve done tons of research,” said the University of Connecticut graduate who worked in sales and marketing for 10 years. “If you do things the right way, you get a great location and work within your means. We are using our own money, so we’re not taking in any debt. We have a daily plan all the way up to five-year plan.”

As a nanobrewery, Top Shelf will only be able to produce enough beer to satisfy the folks who come down to visit and sample and buy 22-ounce bottles.

Boney, like a lot of start-up professional brewers, started as a home brewer. “What home brewers neglect is business,” he said. “Everything is going to take twice as long as you think it will take and be twice as expensive. But the more problems you solve, the better off you’ll be in the long run.”

Should you be in Manchester, by the way, you can also stop by Tullycross Tavern.

(This column was originally published in another form in the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American.)

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9 thoughts on “Connecticut’s Brewery Boom: Top Shelf Brewing

  1. Beer blogs have all the fun! Seriously, this looks like a great brewery, and I’m hoping they succeed! CT needs more local businesses and breweries! Great share, thanks!

    1. Yes, it’s like a boutique microbrewery. A lot of small breweries will have 10-25 barrel systems, reflecting how much beer they can manufacture at one time. Nanobreweries are usually down around 4.

  2. Seems like they have a realistic idea of what it takes. If their beer is as good as their plan, they should do well. And, I do love a nice Belgian style brew.

    1. I’m glad you like to learn. The beer community in Connecticut is just so cool. Even if you’re a casual drinker, the kind of people you meet at these breweries are endlessly entertaining. Unless they’re drunk. Then stay away.

  3. I love to see new businesses that seem to have a solid plan. If they happen to be making interesting beer, well, that’s even better. 🙂

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