Which brewery did The Day’s readers choose as their favorite?
Remember the old days, when beer drinkers used to toddle down to the store and buy some Schlitz or Schaefer?
Well, no more. Craft breweries have become an absolute trend, and their offerings are rich, tasty, diverse, and brewed on site.
When The Day held its bracket for beers, readers voted on the question of: which brewer makes the best beer or cider in southeastern Connecticut?
The top 32 places were then matched up for the bracket, which cycled through five rounds.
The final four are, in alphabetical order: Beer’d Brewing in Groton and Stonington; Fox Farm Brewery in Salem; Little House Brewing Company in Chester; and Myrcene Ale Co. in Old Saybrook.
And, after lots of votes, the winner is Fox Farm.
Fox Farm Brewery
62 Music Vale Road, Salem
I largely missed the microbrew boon for a variety of reasons. I’ve been to a couple of beer festivals but it was mostly an excuse to get out of the house and hang out with my friends. Up until last weekend, I had never been to a local microbrewery despite the seemingly ever-expanding choices.
So imagine my surprise on the first truly warm and sunny Sunday of the year when I pulled up to Fox Farm Brewery in Salem to find dozens of people outside enjoying the offerings of the local staple.
The first thing I noticed was the kids and dogs, to which I thought, “Awesome. I have both kids and dogs.” Suffice to say, Fox Farm is both kid- and dog-friendly, although the dogs aren’t allowed in the tasting room.
The tasting room is simple, with a few tables and shelves and a loft above with more of the same.
The tap handles are shovel handles, which I immediately noticed and loved, but perhaps the best part is you can see right into where the sausage (er, beer) is made in the back.
I must say, as someone who has worked in restaurants previously, I’ve always appreciated kitchens and related work stations in which you can see right into. The transparency keeps people honest and on their toes.
My friend, who has dabbled in beer brewing himself and is much more of a beer geek than I am, was a fan of the Gather, a German-style pilsner: “It had a nice crisp bitterness to it. It’s hard to make a light beer and be consistent with the flavors. It takes skill.”
My favorite was probably the Tussle, an American Pale Ale that wasn’t overly hoppy, but I have to give a shout-out to the Nettles, a Farmhouse Ale that is heavy on citrus and that I would like to drink while on a fishing boat in the summer.
Fox Farm Brewery doesn’t offer food, but it does encourage visitors to bring light snacks, and the idyllic, woodsy locale is a great place to spend a couple of hours.
— Owen Poole
Little House Brewing Company
16 Main St., Chester
(860) 322-4153, littlehousebrewing.com
Chester is such a quaint village, you’d expect any brewery within it to be quaint, too.
And Little House Brewing Company is.
Its home is a house that has been the site of everything from the post office to a barbershop over the years. It’s downright charming. And I swear that isn’t an insult when talking about a brewery.
Their website states, “Think of us as the ‘Cheers’ of Chester; a return to the origin of the tavern, a small taproom where locals and visitors alike can feel at home.”
I went on Sunday, when the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and sat outside at the tables in front of the brewery. Being able to sip the brews there and watch people walk by on the sidewalks of the village is a wonderful way to while away the time.
But there’s also the most relevant question: How’s the beer?
A friend and I got a flight of beer ($13) to share, which I’d recommend; it’s fun to taste-test rather than commit to a single choice.
My pal, who is a self-described beer snob, says, “The varieties of beers brewed at Little House Brewing offer a unique, full-flavored, and solidly tasty experience, including their Midnight Bee (dark) Kolsch, Longstocking Red (Irish) Ale, and a refreshing and hoppy Belly Mist NE Hazy IPA.”
Rounding out our choices for the flight was a sweet/tart cider, but my two faves were the IPA and red ale.
Little House Brewing doesn’t make food, but you can bring in your own (considering the great restaurants in Chester, that’s a win; we got pizza from Otto’s).
Hours: 4-8 p.m. Mon., 3-9 p.m. Wed. and Thurs., 2-9 p.m. Fri., noon-9 p.m. Sat., and noon-6 p.m. Sun. Last call is 30 minutes before close.
— Kristina Dorsey
Beer’d Brewing Co.
22 Bayview Ave., Unit 15, Stonington
225 Leonard Drive, 1B, Groton
It’s not unusual for homebrewers to try their hand at commercial brewing. But it’s not all that common for them to make the leap successfully. Meet Aaren Simoncini and Precious Putnam, partners in life and beer. After jamming craft beer fans into their corner of the Velvet Mill in Stonington, they expanded to a second facility in Groton.
Their regular lineup includes such classic styles as American Pale Ale, Imperial IPA, Pilsner and Wit. They pride themselves on making beer that the hop heads will crave and the newbies will be able to handle. As serious as they are about their craft at Beer’d, the crew likes to have some fun, too, which results in limited releases and an experimental series.
Hours in Stonington: 4-8 p.m. Thurs., 2-9 p.m. Fri., 11-9, Sat., 11-5 Sun.
Hours in Groton: 2-8 p.m. Thurs., 2-9 p.m. Fri., 12-9 Sat.
– Tim Cotter
Myrcene Ale Company
39 Ragged Rock Road, Old Saybrook
First of all, I didn’t know that “Myrcene” is, in terms of the chemistry of plants, one of the main components of hops. So there’s that! As explained in the brewery literature, myrcene “may be recognizable for its earthy scent & flavor profile. Some perceive a balsam fragrance, while others describe it as smelling of clove or musk.”
There are 10 beers on tap in a casually rotating and always-adventurous menu. Among them are a lager, a New England-style IPA, a bock, a stout, a pineapple hard seltzer, a dark lager, and a “Cinnabon flavored” porter.
Also, because activism counts — at least to me — there’s the Glass Ceiling Smasher. It’s brewed by the women of Myrcene Ale Co. using the Pink Boots Society's 2023 Hop Blend in connection with Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day, an international celebration of women and non-binary individuals in the fermented/alcoholic beverage industry.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this beer will go to the CT Chapter of Pink Boots Society to help fund scholarships and other educational initiatives.
In terms of just hanging out, Myrcene comfortably plays into the warehouse aesthetic: cement floor, high ceiling with exposed ducts and hanging light fixtures. A long bar takes up one section, and scattered throughout the large space are easy chairs, plenty of on-site toys to occupy the kids in this family-friendly place, and of course big-screen TVs.
There are also plenty of nonalcoholic beverages and on-site pub snacks, and folks are always welcome to bring in their own food.
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Wed.-Thurs., 2 p.m.-9 p.m. Fri., noon-9 p.m. Sat. and noon-6 p.m. Sun.
— Rick Koster