An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 23, 2013
04:39 PM
The Connecticut Table

Connecticut's Brewpub Gem in Willimantic May Score National Honor

Connecticut's Brewpub Gem in Willimantic May Score National Honor

There was a time during the ascension of craft beers on the East Coast when, in order to get top artisan beers and ales, served alongside hearty fare in an authentic brewpub environment, Connecticut devotees would make pilgrimages to meccas along the Maine Coast and in parts of Vermont—to places like the original Gritty McDuff’s in Portland’ s Old Port, Sea Dog in Camden and McNeill’s Brewery in Brattleboro, VT, where the guy who made the beer would sometimes sit at the bar assessing his efforts and running hops through his fingers like a jeweler might turn a gemstone over and over

Such road trips are still rewarding—but no longer necessary. The rise of craft beer within Connecticut is impressive and ongoing, and one of the best examples—and a perennial Connecticut Magazine Best of Connecticut winner—is the Willimantic Brewing Company in the Eastern Connecticut city that made its bones on the products of its linen and textile mills.

Now, the Connecticut brewery nicknamed Willibrew, housed in an historic granite and limestone 1909 U.S. Post Office building, has been named a finalist in’s Great American Beer Bar contest—in part on the strength of its beers and ales, which include not just one but a range of nicely bitter IPAs, along with a stout and easy-drinking summer beers, among others. recently asked readers to nominate their favorite craft beer bars in the country, and received more than 5,000 nominations,” the contest’s website page explains. “We’ve now narrowed down the choices to the top 10 most nominated bars in each of five regions of the country …

“Now we’re asking you to help choose the winners. You may vote for one bar from each of the designated regions. The top three craft beer establishments from each region will be recognized, as well as the top three national winners.”

Voting ends Aug. 30, Willibrew pointed out, urging its fans to go to “ and follow the links to the Great American Beer Bar contest. You can only vote once and every vote counts!”

“We're proud to be among so many great beer bars across the country and even if we don't win we're honored by the nomination!" Willibrew owner/brewer David Wollner said in an email Friday afternoon.

In pushing out the message on social media, Willimantic Brewing says, “We're so excited to be included in's search for the Great American Beer Bar. We're even more honored to be the only representation from CT! A vote for Willibrew is a vote for CT Craft Beer!”

A press release noted that  Willibrew is a part of the Connecticut Beer Trail and that Wollner is the Vice-President of the Connecticut Craft Brewers’ Guild. “The nomination is also significant for the State of Connecticut in its efforts to promote tourism,” the release said, adding, “In keeping with the Still Revolutionary theme, our restaurant and pub brewery is located in a 1909 Federal Post Office building.”

The setting is certainly important and the Connecticut team approach is heartening, but the heart of the matter is the great experience—and specifically great beers and ales and terrific food—that Willimantic Brewing offers. It’s harder than it may appear to get a craft brewing operation with a pub component off the ground, and to maintain it at such a high level that the accolades are deserved year after year.

The restaurant and pub-brewery features other producers’ craft brews on draught as well,” the release noted, while underscoring the core details: "Housed in an historic granite and limestone 1909 U.S. Post Office Building, the pub was the customer lobby and the private dining room housed the postmaster's office. The main dining room, from where you can view the 7 barrel brewery was the post office work room. The brewpub’s post office-themed menu is overflowing with mouth-watering selections, featuring over 100 items including award-winning wings to steaks, pasta, seafood, burgers and salads. 

If you pull up the dinner entrée menu on the website, you’ll find everything from babyback ribs to steaks and pasta dishes, along with classics like fish-and-chips. Mussels, crabcakes, chili and onion soup are among the appetizers—and Willibrew also has a child-friendly menu.

At any time of year, but especially as summer starts to fade a bit and autumn leaves and colder temperatures signal their arrival soon enough, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as enjoying a couple pints of fresh, local and impeccably made ales with simple, rich, hearty fare. Willimantic Brewing Company’s record of offering guests just that experience is what has it on the cusp of a huge national honor.

If you want to help and bring further distinction to Connecticut’s craft beer industry, just click here.



Connecticut's Brewpub Gem in Willimantic May Score National Honor

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