The original Cisco Brewers is a craft beverage oasis on a Nantucket vineyard. I visited the brewery, winery and distillery a few years back while conducting research for my book on New England craft beverage destinations. Cisco stood out among the many breweries and distilleries I visited both for the quality of its offerings and its fantastically laid-back vibes. During my visit, the brewery’s outdoor beer garden was hopping, a band was playing, and brewery-tour participants received free beer.
Since my visit to Nantucket, Cisco Brewers has opened satellite locations in New Hampshire (Portsmouth) and Massachusetts (Boston and New Bedford), and expanded to Connecticut this summer in Stamford. “Each one of the Ciscos has a very unique vibe to it,” says Cisco CEO Jay Harman. But, he adds, he and his partners have tried to recreate something of the feel of the original by always featuring a dog-friendly, laid-back outdoor space with regular live music. At each, the goal is to create a communal atmosphere where people from all walks of life can come together over a cold beverage.
Stamford’s location accomplishes this. The outdoor-only taproom consists of a large L-shaped deck that cuts around The Wheel restaurant and overlooks an inlet of Stamford Harbor. It’s all in the midst of The Village, a new office-space development in Stamford.
You can get to the brewery via boat, but we arrived by car early on a Saturday in the late summer. Even before noon, the place is hopping. There are lots of families and several four-legged friends. There’s also an excellent band playing early-2000s hits.
Opened in the mid-’90s, Cisco Brewers is a pioneering New England craft brewery well known for beers such as Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and Grey Lady Wheat Ale, as well as some more difficult-to-come-by, barrel-aged specialties. The offerings on tap in Stamford live up to that legacy. Wandering Haze is a hazy New England-style IPA that can hold its own with some of the best examples of this style you’ll find in the state, while classics like the Grey Lady and Whale’s Tale remain enjoyable. Stamford is currently a taproom only with no brewing capability, but Harman hopes to one day add a small pilot brewing system. In the meantime, he says, “We do have specialty beers that we’re making at the other facilities that will only be available at the Stamford location.”
Cisco Brewers also offers a variety of beverages made using Triple 8 Distillery spirits, a brand owned by Cisco Brewers. These offerings include a frozen margarita and rum punch as well as a lineup of canned cocktails featuring Cisco’s flavored vodkas. “The blueberry vodka is the most popular,” Harman says.
During my visit, food was available from several stands including Precious Oysters, a raw-bar catering service that specializes in what it calls “tide to table,” and featured Connecticut’s Copps Island Oysters. These famous oysters are the perfect food for the waterside setting.
While Cisco’s Stamford location is not the same as the Nantucket original, it has a personality and vibe all its own. Its opening has also marked a homecoming for Harman, who grew up in Redding and graduated from Fairfield University. His senior thesis was on starting a craft brewery, and after moving to Nantucket in the ’90s he partnered with other craft beer enthusiasts at Cisco Brewers. He regularly visits all the Cisco locations and is happy his brewery has a presence in his home state.
“Growing up in Redding, playing soccer and traveling to Stamford, it’s really a perfect spot for us,” he says.
Cisco Brewers, Stamford
The Village, 4 Star Point, Stamford
Hours: Fri. 4–9 p.m., Sat. & Sun. noon–9 p.m.