Trip to the near east

Tasters sip it up at Cottrell Brewing Company.
Tasters sip it up at Cottrell Brewing Company.

While the explosion of new breweries is making shockwaves in central and southern Connecticut, it’s easy to forget the eastern part of the state. It’s well worth the ride to get tastes of seasoned veteran Cottrell Brewing Co. and brash newcomer Beer’d Brewing Co., which is just what a group of us did last weekend.

When you drive through Stonington off of Interstate 95 to get to the village of Pawcatuck, you’re met with some beautiful properties. It’s a world away from the hulking brick factory along the Pawcatuck River that houses Cottrell Brewing. The factory used to be the home of a printing press business owned generations ago by the Cottrell family; it wasn’t until 1997 that Charles Cottrell Buffam opened a brewery in the same space as his ancestors and named it after his mother’s side of the family.

Despite the size of the brewery, the tasting area is rather small: there are just a few taps set up near the entrance. However, the hospitality is great: we were treated to pours and full descriptions of Cottrell’s offerings. For many years Cottrell Brewing made only one beer: Old Yankee Ale. It’s a smooth, caramel-tinged amber ale that goes well with a lot of food, especially when it’s grilled. A few years ago it branched out with its Mystic Bridge India Pale Ale, which is certainly “English” in its appeal, meaning it’s not super-bitter like a lot of American versions of IPAs. Cottrell’s latest is the Stonington Glory Pilsner that drinks clean and has a few floral notes to it.

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When the world discovers Connecticut beer

Ted Pert, left, and Ryan Crowley working the taps at Two Roads Brewing Company. (photo: Andrew Sullivan for the New York Times)
Ted Pert, left, and Ryan Crowley working the taps at Two Roads Brewing Company. (photo: Andrew Sullivan for the New York Times)

You know how when you go to see a band, and the opening act is just amazing? You’d never heard of them, and weren’t even expecting to see them play. They were so mesmerizing, in fact, that you don’t remember much of the headliners. All you know is that you’ve been listening to the openers nonstop for two weeks and are checking up on their live gig schedule.

And then you hear them on the radio. And their video goes viral. You think, I knew them first.

There’s a parallel with breweries there, I think. Once the world discoverers “your brewery,” there’s a dual twinge. One is, “Hey, they’re MINE! You’re going to just ruin them… somehow.” The other is, “Cool. Good for my brewery. I mean, OUR brewery.”

The buzz around the Feb. 27 New York Times piece by Christopher Brooks, “Slaking a Thirst for Beers at Craft Breweries,” reminds me of this duality. The piece covers the latest generation of Connecticut breweries that have cropped up in the past year. Firefly Hollow, Top Shelf, Broad Brook, Beer’d,  Shebeen, and Two Roads are highlighted, with brief quotes from the brewers. Continue reading “When the world discovers Connecticut beer”