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.
Not professionally, at least. Neither does Bottom-Side-Up Brewing Co. in Vernon, but that’s not stopping these homebrewers from creating and marketing like pros.
CLOSE TO PRO
You’d be excused for thinking that Lasting Brass was a true brewery, what with the logos, the tap handles and the t-shirts. The social media presence is also persuasive; some of Silva’s 356 fans on Facebook post loving comments while several of his 120 Twitter followers brag about the latest Lasting Brass bottle they’d acquired.
We sat at a small table in his ranch house, sipping his Brass City Blonde Ale, which is smooth with an orange-like bite.
“I’ve had people ask if they can put my beer on tap, but I can’t do that,” said Silva, who is intricately tattooed, short, and looks like a cross between a young Pavarotti and Robert Downey Jr. “Now I keep my beer in my trunk.”
Silva, 34, makes his beer like most homebrewers: 10 gallons at a time from a space off of his living room. He uses three converted kegs arranged horizontally, powered by electricity. A bathroom a few feet from the kettles contains a bunch of glass fermenting vessels and small kegs. His wife’s cool with it.
The UConn graduate who works in Danbury started making beer on a stovetop 10 years ago and, after brewing for friends and entering competitions, he’s garnered praise that’s spreading.
Among his fans is Aron Daniels, who promotes Connecticut beer and is known among Twitter followers as “Craft Brew Guy.” After getting to know Silva while trading beers, Daniels invited him to share his creations at his “Craft Beer Revolution” brew fest last year.
“I felt strongly that his beer was of superior quality and needed to be shared with a larger audience,” Daniels wrote in an email.
As for amateur breweries getting the word out, “social media has changed everything, especially in the beer culture where the only true form of advertisement had always been word of mouth,” he said. “I see this as much more than a trend, but as a cultural shift.”
Whatever Lasting Brass is, it certainly highlights Waterbury. The name Lasting Brass comes from a quote inscribed across Waterbury’s City Hall entrance: “What Is More Lasting Than Brass?” Along with his Brass City Blonde Ale, he makes Clocktower Pale Ale and a roasty, mellow porter named for the downtown Apothecary Building.
“Waterbury made me who I am,” Silva said.
The beers come with incredible artwork, created by designer friend Ben Callaghan, who creates “branding” for companies with Fathom LLC, in West Hartford.
Callaghan volunteered for this side project because he loves his beers and identified with the brewer’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“We decided to go for it in terms of coming up with a name, identity, story and icons and labels so he could come up with a core set of beers,” Callaghan said. “He’s so experimental with all that he does.”
He explained how he came up with the Lasting Brass logo: a hop cone with a gear of a clock around it. “Part of the idea is that the gear is frozen and time has stopped.”
Across the Connecticut River, Heath Gelinas of Vernon heads up a trio calling itself Bottom-Side-Up Brewing Co.
“A home brewery that takes it one step further,” Gelinas described it, in an e-mail. “We have branded our beers with our logo and our labels. Our goal was to be noticeable in the market just by our labels like some of the larger players out there today if the time ever came where we decided to do this professionally.”
Among the bottles available to friends and family include a maple imperial stout, an imperial stout made with chai tea added, and an India pale ale aged on cabernet-soaked oak chips for two years.
Social media brought the “pico-brewery” (that’s smaller than a nano-brewery, which is a smaller version of a micro-brewery) a following. “It is almost like market research for us,” he said. “We see what is trending and what isn’t. We watch for upcoming events to go out and try some new beer and perform some research for possible recipes for us in the future.”
Galinas has found kinship with Silva. “We found out we’re very similar in that we took this real serious,” Galinas wrote. “We had that business mind-set and we both shared the passion of putting out the best product we could.”
Could this be the start of Connecticut’s underground boom of marketing-savvy homebrewers? With brewfests as showcases, I think it might be.
“Every homebrewer has visions of [brewing professionally],” said Silva, who is toying with trademarking the name, just in case. “I just want to share it with others for now. I brew so much. I can’t drink it all.”
Until next time, sip well.
This column was originally published in on Feb. 12, 2014, in the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American.