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.
Everybody’s thirsty for something. Today, I visited Shebeen Brewing (Wolcott, Conn.) and Firefly Brewing (Bristol, Conn.). I didn’t see a single downward glances at a phone, which is STRANGE. Instead, everyone was drinking up the beer and soaking up the conversation.
At Shebeen, which is basically one area the size of rich kid’s bedroom, about 30 people stood elbow-to-elbow. Most just hung out near the door or the taps, getting in the way of anyone trying to walk in from the brewery.
I met Bob and his nephew Eric. Nice guys. There wasn’t a moment’s pause between the, “Hey, how ya doin'” and the string of subjects we covered in about three minutes. Connecticut brewing in the ’70s, car detailing, wine, why there aren’t more residential bars, college. And then, just as they appeared in my life, they were equally as swiftly gone. (I did pass along a business card, so you never know.)
Fifteen minutes later, I sauntered into Firefly, which had enough room to accommodate twice as many as Shebeen. There’s an L-shaped bar right in front of you with the pattern of a bowling lane on it. More than 50 elaborately squat mugs hung in neat rows behind the young woman with black hair who was filling a growler with stout.
After ordering a flight of five, I walked past an arch that was framed by white bricks is an industrial, exposed-everything space with 11 tables and a few cushy chairs neatly arranged. The buzz in the space was at a chug for the 90 minutes I was there. Again, I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t drinking or talking. Couples, groups of four, two dudes waiting for their growler fills.
I talked briefly with Bob Perron of Bristol, who had milk crate of five full growlers. He said that having a brewery nearby was great; he’d be draining those beers in record time.
Thirst for companionship, thirst for wisdom, thirst for beer. It all comes together at small breweries. And we’re lucky to have them.