Surprisingly decent beer selection at burger chain


Not to shill for a hamburger chain, but I have to give credit where it’s due. I had a quick bite to eat tonight before fruitless rug shopping, and my wife and I ended up at BurgerFi in Avon, Conn. This member of a national chain had “craft beer” listed as one of its attributes, along with burgers, hot dogs, and custard. I was pleasantly surprised to find Long Trail Sick Day IPA, Thomas Hooker Nor’easter, Magic Hat Snow Roller, and Lindeman’s Kriek Lambic.

I went with the Magic Hat because it advertised itself as a “hoppy brown.” I was less-than-impressed with this offering, but it was much better than getting an average, wimpy American big-brand beer. The malt backbone brought out the sweetness in the burger, which was savory and juicy.

The chain has restaurants in Manchester, Conn., as well, in case you’re in the state and want to try them out.

Drinking Vermont beers with T-Day leftovers

Otter Creek Copper, Otter Creek Kind Ryed, Long Trail Double Bag, Magic Hat G-Thing, and Magic Hat Heart of Darkness

We have plenty to be thankful for in Connecticut, including our breweries, but it would be selfish not to show some out-of-state gratitude to our neighbor to the north: Vermont.

The land of the maple tree is also the land of many breweries for a state so small. With nearly 3 million fewer people than our state, it has 29 up-and-running breweries compared to our 17, according to the Vermont Brewers Association and

Maybe it’s the fact that they’re landlocked or have thirstier skiers, but Vermonters support their beer with righteous vigor. They live the motto of “Freedom and Unity.” For example, locals show pride in North Greensboro’s Hill Farmstead Brewery, which and gave rare 100 ratings.

Like most states, post-Prohibition craft brewing is a recent thing: the oldest functioning brewery is Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington, and it’s only 25 years old. What Vermont does well is use artistry to set itself apart from the rest of New England in its dedication to beer diversity, usually on a small scale.

Unfortunately for us, most of Vermont’s beers are only available across state lines, including Hill Farmstead beers and the critically revered Heady Topper, a complex and vibrant India pale ale by The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury. Continue reading “Drinking Vermont beers with T-Day leftovers”

Pumped for Pumpkin

(The following column was originally published in the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American on Oct. 10, 2012.)

It’s easy to dismiss pumpkin ale.

First of all, there’s the ruined expectation: they don’t taste like pumpkin. That complaint I can’t really understand. Who wants to bite into plain pumpkin, anyway? Squirrels?

Then there are the drinkers for whom the style is too intense. “Yuck,” they say. “It tastes like I just sucked on a cinnamon stick.” That complaint I can get with. Who wants their mouth covered in spice? Squirrels?

Pumpkin in beer goes back to colonial times, when they used it for fermentation. A lot of today’s professional brewers – and even some homebrewers — have a masterful touch and test batch control, and they’re able to play with just how pumpkinny, verses spicy, they want their product to be.

Continue reading “Pumped for Pumpkin”