New London's first brewery and taproom opens this weekend
New London — Dayne Laskey and Mike Zaccaro opened their Tox Brewing Company video on Kickstarter with 1940s footage of New London and the narration, "New London, at the mouth of the Thames River, has one of the deepest harbors on the Atlantic coast, while the broad, blue water of Long Island Sound offers unparalleled thrills to delight the most demanding of yachtsmen."
The video cuts to Laskey saying, "But you know what it doesn't have?" Zaccaro leans in: "A brewery."
Now it does.
The duo — who went to the same preschool, graduated from Ledyard High School together in 2005 and were bandmates — are opening Tox Brewing Company at 635 Broad St. this weekend. For now, it will be open from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays; they plan to soon be open Friday evenings.
The name comes from Laskey's profession: He's a professor of toxicology at the University of Saint Joseph and works in the emergency department at Hartford Hospital.
This theme is reflected in names of the nine beers now on tap, like "Belladonna," a chocolate coconut stout; "Deadly Nightshade," a coffee milk stout; and "Placebo Effect," a cream ale. Alcohol aside, there are no toxins in the beer.
The theme also is reflected in the molecular sketches of cyanide and ergine and grayanotoxin drawn in chalk on the bathroom wall. It's reflected in the poison dart frog logo designed by local artist Patrick Regan, and in the mushroom-shaped tap handles by sculptor Charlie Cunningham.
Zaccaro and Laskey have followed through on the visions they shared with The Day in February 2018, from the Edison bulbs to the construction of a fenced-in patio for outdoor seating to the conversion of the garage door — from the spot's former days as Jacques Fruit Store — into a window.
While they're opening later than initially anticipated, they said the City of New London has been great to work with.
The owners launched a Kickstarter campaign in November, and in a month, they raised more than $29,000 from 269 backers. The campaign was sprinkled with puns on the name, such as "For those about to Tox, we salute you" and "The tox of the town."
Prior to the official opening on Saturday, they held a soft opening for friends and family last weekend, and another one for backers Friday night.
Laskey and Zaccaro are adamant about offering a diverse selection, so along with the stouts and cream ale, their lineup includes two IPAs, a double IPA and one they call a Connecticut Table Beer, made with malt and hops from Thrall Family Malt in Windsor.
Inside the brewery are five round tables with four chairs at each, a corner with two red couches, and a few more chairs at the bar. The owners applied 10,000 volts of electricity to the bar, giving it lightning-bolt-like patterns. For their checkout system, they stuck an iPad into the frame of an early-1990s Macintosh Classic II computer.
Behind the bar is a room with their five-barrel brewing system; each barrel holds 150 gallons of the finished product. The owners dumped many beers down the drain, not wanting to serve anything that didn't meet their standards, and they have spent until the early morning hours unclogging coconut flakes from their drains.
Zaccaro said they're not doing any distribution yet, wanting to see "what kind of demand and patronage we have on-site."
They're interested in having a beer tent at Sailfest this year. They also hope to be charitable to causes that are important to them, such as the opioid crisis, food security and animal welfare.
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