Beer with a side of toxicology, steampunk and music
New London — Despite having names like Nightshade, Copperhead and Devil's Trumpet, the beers that Mike Zaccaro and Dayne Laskey brew are not poisonous — well, unless you drink too much, but that goes for any beer.
Their name is Tox Brewing Company. Their logo is not a skull and crossbones, but a skull and barrels.
The names and imagery come from Laskey's passion for toxicology. He teaches toxicology at the University of Saint Joseph and works in the emergency department at Hartford Hospital.
Zaccaro and Laskey are in the early stages of getting Tox Brewing Company up and running at 635 Broad St., formerly Jacques Fruit Store. They aim to be open in the late summer or early fall.
Though southeastern Connecticut has multiple brewing companies, this would be the only taproom in New London.
Zaccaro said they plan to build a bar on the back wall and add seating, turn the garage door into a window and add a fence that wraps around a patio for outdoor seating.
He envisions an intimate spot with Edison bulbs and exposed copper pipes that reflect a steampunk theme. He envisions a small stage to support local music spots. He envisions food trucks coming to the spacious parking lot outside, and a bring-your-own-food policy.
Zaccaro and Laskey plan to start with a five-barrel system, with 150 gallons of finished product per barrel and 6-10 varieties on tap at a time.
They have a Small Business Association loan through Community Investment Corporation and will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign. They're also working on getting necessary permits from the city.
Rather than pigeonholing themselves into a certain variety, they plan to brew everything from flavored stout to IPA to pilsner.
Laskey said they're going to have something for everyone, "not necessarily the craft beer snob but also the person who likes to have a six-pack on the weekend." He said they will be "not only attracting 30-year-old white-collar guys with beards" (though that description fits both Laskey and Zaccaro).
The friends are 2005 Ledyard High School graduates who went to the same preschool and have been best friends since fifth grade. Both then attended the University of Connecticut.
Laskey went on to complete a pharmacy residency and toxicology fellowship in Georgia, and when he got his first real paycheck, he bought brewing equipment.
They played together in the band The First Responders, performing at Voodoo Grill, The Black Sheep, Sneekers Cafe, Sunset Ribs, Dalice Elizabeth Winery and Bulkeley House Saloon.
One of their bandmates, Jon Ahlcrona, has served as their "brewing mentor."
When Laskey got married, he served four or five varieties of beer he brewed — such as cream ale, coffee milk stout and grapefruit shandy — at his wedding.
When Zaccaro got married, Laskey and Ahlcrona gave him a bourbon barrel. Brewing in his garage, Zaccaro added vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon sticks to make an imperial stout he calls Man o' War.
Zaccaro lives nearby in East Lyme while Laskey resides in Granby, and so Zaccaro will take on more of the day-to-day responsibilities when the taproom opens. Their plan is to have retail hours on Friday evenings and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
According to the Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries in Connecticut has grown from 16 in 2011 to 49 in 2016. The website now lists 91 breweries in the state, including 23 in planning.
"You wonder if there will be a point where the bubble bursts and there's over-saturation," Zaccaro said. "It doesn't seem to be happening at the moment."
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