Norwich's first brew pub readies for August opening

An elaborate new light fixture hangs overhead as contractors work on installing a new bar in the new business, These Guys Brew Pub, on Franklin St. in Norwich Friday, July 17, 2015.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
An elaborate new light fixture hangs overhead as contractors work on installing a new bar in the new business, These Guys Brew Pub, on Franklin St. in Norwich Friday, July 17, 2015. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — Legend has it, a bar has occupied the corner space at 78 Franklin St. for more than 100 years — even through Prohibition — but when These Guys Brewing Company LLC unlocks the doors in early August, longtime patrons will notice some changes.

The old well-worn bar in front is gone, replaced by a custom-made walnut bar designed by Boldwood Interiors of New Haven against the opposite wall. The main entrance will be in the front corner – what used to be a tiny seating area behind the bar.

In the historic rear brick building, which once housed stables for the fire department across Chestnut Street, will be the restaurant kitchen and a brewery. The tanks and specialty equipment are scheduled to arrive Monday for what will become the city's first craft brewery.

Rebecca and Raymond Alberts of Lebanon and business partners brothers Greg and Scott Demetri of North Reading, Mass., are bringing their love of craft beers along with years of experience in the restaurant business to open These Guys Brewing Company.

The Alberts, home brewers, have spent the past 18 months serving as brewing apprentices at the Willimantic Brewing Co. They approached the owners and asked to buy into the popular brew pub.

Instead, they decided to strike out on their own and brought along several experienced friends and co-workers. The Alberts have worked for two decades at David Burke Prime steakhouse at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Their last day was Saturday, as they prepare to open These Guys.

Bryant Darigan of Norwich will be the bar manager. The Alberts hired a professional photographer to take pictures of his custom signature cocktails for the new pub's Facebook and website pages. Darigan had worked at Main Street Grille in Niantic.

Restaurant manager Phil Smith of Lebanon had managed the Willimantic Brewing Co. restaurant for the past 15 years.

The site was a buzz of activity on Friday, as workers installed the new bar. New floors and new walls also have been completed, though the Alberts kept the historic dark brown tin ceilings and walls where possible.

In the old stable area, they had to make a large door through the brick wall to fit the brewing tanks, but with care and an old-looking wood support beam, the opening looks like horses could have used it to return home after answering a fire call. Arched windows have the same look of the bygone era.

“We wanted it to look like it's always been there,” Rebecca Alberts said of the brickwork.

These Guys will open in early August before the brewery is completed and before it obtains a federal brewing license. The bar will offer bottled beer and other drinks, along with what Raymond Alberts described as “high-end pub fare.”

“Pub food with a foodie flare,” Rebecca Alberts added.

When the brewery gets going, the Alberts plan to offer cream ales, reds and imperial pale ales (IPAs). Rebecca Alberts is a red ale fan, while Raymond said he is “a huge IPA guy.”

They have their own recipes, too. “I make a good blueberry beer,” Rebecca Alberts said.

They declined to discuss their financial investment in the business but praised city agencies for helping them through the complex process. The business qualifies for the city's downtown revitalization lease rebate program administered by the Norwich Community Development Corp.

NCDC Vice President Jason Vincent said the agency helped the couple get through some renovation issues, including shoring up structural beams in places and working with Norwich Public Utilities to install a higher capacity water line.

“We're excited about it,” Vincent said. “First brewery in Norwich.”

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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