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This is the second in a series of interviews with local brewers.
Aaren Simoncini started small when he opened Beer'd Brewing in Stonington in late 2012. His plans to brew 150 barrels a year would make him not a micro-brewer but a nano-brewer. But while Simoncini might be a small brewer, he's a big thinker. Less than six months into his venture - encouraged by the feedback he's received and sales - Simoncini quit his day job as an accountant and became a full-time brewer.
The flagship is Whisker'd Wit, a Belgian wheat beer with 5.2 percent alcohol and an orange Curacao finish, but no coriander.
Beer'd sells 32- and 64-ounce growlers from the brewery in the Velvet Mill. The wit is always available, alongside two other revolving brews. Simoncini tends to push the envelope a bit; he's never done a traditional IPA, for instance, but has made a double IPA and a black IPA and in three weeks should be releasing a Rye IPA.
The brewery opens every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. for free tastings and growler fills. The wit also is available at Pizzetta in Mystic.
Simoncini, who is assisted by his girlfriend, Precious Putnam, and his mother, Jacinta, took the time to answer some of our questions.
Q. How does an accountant become a brewer?
A. The infatuation with beer began in college. I had finished all of my core credits and needed to fill a few electives to complete my degree. Our school offered a course called Beers of the World and I happened to be one of the lucky ones who was able to enroll in the highly coveted class. There was a home brewing demonstration and the rest is history.
Q. What are your plans for growth?
A. I am now pursuing the development of The Beer'd Brewing Co. full time. We currently have several tanks on order that will considerably expand our capacity. While we look to increase our production, it doesn't mean that we are looking to move away from our core business model. Primarily, our expansion will allow us to release more beers via our tasting room, providing fans with more options during their weekly visits, but we will also be looking to support a very select number of draft accounts throughout the area.
Q. What beers inspired you?
A. So many beers have inspired me since I began exploring. Some of my favorites include Allagash Curieux and their Black, also on a more local basis is New England Brewing Company's Ghandi Bot. Precious has always had a thirst for anything in the porter or stout realm, so beers like Atwater Vanilla Java Porter and Founders Breakfast Stout have piqued her interest and inspired our beers, and Jacinta doesn't normally drink, but when she does it's always Guinness as she is 100 percent Irish.
Q. Why did you decide to make a wit for your flagship?
A. The Whisker'd Wit was our flagship choice for a number of reasons. Mainly, it is a superb beer, complex yet sessionable, it was a homebrew recipe that made us say "wow!" We also decided it would be a great initial release due to the fact that every other brewery decides to release an American Pale Ale or IPA as their flagship. We advocate not just standing out in the crowd, but standing somewhere else entirely.
Q. What has been the reaction to your beers from craft beer drinkers and from non-craft beer drinkers?
A. First, we don't like to look at beer as "craft vs non-craft." Beer is either tasty or bland, and we prefer to not only produce but also to drink tasty beers. Most of our supporters tend to agree with this notion, that life is best spent drinking tasty beer, but every now and then we get someone bellied up to our tasting bar that asks what our lightest beer is, and we simply respond that "we don't have a light beer, but we have a beer called Whisker'd Wit, that is full in flavor but very 'approachable.'" They try it, and the immediate response is "wow this beer has a lot of flavor" and our simple response is "That's exactly what we were going for."
Everyone has their own palate, and while we come up with some pretty heady Double IPAs we also hand-craft some very approachable ales for those just realizing that beer is better produced by someone in your neighborhood versus a multinational company.
Q. Pair up one of your beers with a food for us and tell us why it works.
A.One of our favorite pairings right now is our Whisker'd Wit and raw oysters. The brine works very well with the citrus involved and as such creates one of our favorite sunny day pairings.