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.
Turkey fryer dreams
The men started homebrewing with their turkey fryer only five years ago. Experiments led to competition, including an entry in Sam Adams’ Longshot American Homebrew Contest, where they received praise, but no winning entry.
The dream of creating a brewery started early, and over the years they planned their ascent. New Britain natives who’ve known each other for more than 20 years, Lentini and Daigle – both 37 — were determined to brew their beer with flair but run their business conservatively.
After forming Stubborn Beauty as a limited liability company back in 2009 and bankrolling the operation for years, the men signed a lease last April for the space, in a building owned by the City of Middletown. They received state permits last November and town permits about a month ago.
While Lentini laughed through the panic of a start-up business, Daigle remained stoic. “You control what you can control,” he said. “You have your pride or your money. We’re perilously close to having neither.”
They said they’ll likely keep their day jobs for two or three years – Daigle is a medical equipment technician and Lentini works as an IT engineer – and are happy keeping it a two-man operation.
“I’d rather fail than only own 51 percent,” Shane said, explaining why they used their own money and shunned investors.
“Our business plan included a 25 to 30 percent cushion, and we’ve already gone through that,” Daigle said. “We’ve had to use every contingency.”
At the end of the day, running a brewery is ultimately about the beer. Brew day is still the partners’ favorite part of the venture. “It’s mostly cleaning,” Lentini said, modestly. “It’s therapeutic. It’s nice.”
Their creative outlet will be on a 3.5-barrel system with 7-barrel tanks (each barrel is about 31.5 U.S. gallons), which means they’ll be double-batch brewing. They’re waiting for a system last used at a Tennessee brewery, but it’s been delayed.
After amassing a repertoire of 60 original recipes, the brewers have decided on four flagships: their How Rye I Am saison, Kommandant Lassard dunkelweizen, Porter Justice porter, and Nummy Nummy double IPA.
My favorite was the saison: funky aroma, smooth mouthfeel, with a gentle bitterness.
Content with their choices, the brewers said they aren’t trying to outdo any other brewery, in the state or anywhere else. “We don’t want to make any other kind of beer another brewery makes,” Lentini said. “We don’t want to make a Heady Topper; Alchemist already does that very well.”
They want to methodically gain their own following, beginning with 125 members of a growler club; for $125, you get a steel growler and half-off fills for a year.
Trying to imitate another brewery is fruitless anyway, Lentini said, because you can’t perfectly recreate a water profile. Stubborn Beauty uses the city water supply before it reaches the treatment stage, so it’s like getting well water, they explained. It’s on the soft side, which makes it rather flexible for different styles. That’s not to say they wouldn’t tweak with the water composition for a future beer.
“What sets us apart is that we have a little ability to put something on paper and see how it will taste,” Lentini said. “We’ve tested the limits, like putting in over 10 percent crystal malt, just to see what happens.”
I think Daigle summed up the duo’s attitude when he quoted microbiologist Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors the prepared mind.’”
Grand opening growler fill
Saturday, March 1, noon to 5 p.m.
Stubborn Beauty Brewing: 180 Johnson St., Middletown, Conn.
Release of Stubborn Beauty 20th Anniversary Ale, brewed for Eli Cannon’s bar and restaurant
Tuesday, March 4, 6 p.m.
695 Main St., Middletown, Conn.
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