Brewery, taproom coming to Groton

Groton - A 4,500-square-foot brewery and taproom will open on Bridge Street as soon as April 1, a year after two partners began working with Groton City.

Tom Drejer, co-founder of Outer Light Brewing Company at 266 Bridge Street, said he and his partner, who does not want to be named yet, looked at properties from Old Saybrook to Groton. They chose Bridge Street because the building had enough space and high ceilings to accommodate fermenters and tanks, and offered easy access to Interstate 95 and potential customers from downtown New London, Submarine Base New London, Electric Boat and Mystic.

"You've got diverse, neat, really different places that we could be a part of," said Drejer, 34, of Ivoryton. He also hopes to draw customers on their way to Cape Cod or the casinos.

"This is quite a unique business for the city, for even the town, and it's a unique business for that location," City Planner Barbara Goodrich said. "It's not a place that you would expect to find a taproom, but it has an edgy, industrial feel which fits with the manufacturing, which is the primary use."

"It's a manufacturing facility. But it's just making beer instead of car parts," she added.

The brewery fills three bays in the complex where Meineke Car Care has its shop near Galaxy Roller Rink.

Mayor Marian Galbraith toured the brewery within the last few weeks, Drejer said.

City leaders have been working for at least a year to make Groton City - and particularly the downtown area - more attractive to businesses and customers.

City councilors passed three ordinances last summer to crack down on people who allow their properties to become unsightly or blighted. Groton created a "Summer in the City" program to publicize summer events like Art on Groton Bank, which might keep people in the city once they arrive. City leaders also established an economic development commission.

Galbraith said the brewery isn't the result of recent economic development efforts, but was affected by planning and zoning staff working closely to make sure "we could absolutely accommodate" whatever the business needed.

"It's really exciting to see," she said. "And it's great that there's going to be a tasting area."

Drejer and his partner took out small business loans, private loans and spent some of their own money to come up with the more than $500,000 needed to retrofit the space on Bridge Street. A final inspection is scheduled this week, he said.

The company plans to distribute craft brews to local bars, restaurants and liquor stores in kegs first, then sell bottled beer this summer. A taproom with seating for about 20 and a maximum capacity of 50 people would be open on several weekdays and on weekends.

The company will brew three year-round beers: a red ale, an IPA or India pale ale, and a coffee stout. The partners hired Tyler Cox, 31, who now lives in Groton but worked six years in commercial brewing in South Carolina, to direct brewing operations.

The brewery will reflect an outdoor theme, as Drejer surfs and his partner goes camping.

"We're very passionate about being outside," he said. "We kind of laid out everything we had on the line for this."

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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