Five CT Beers to Try This Spring, Plus March Craft Drink EventsEditor’s note: Anyone who’s read this magazine knows we’re serious about food. But we also like to enjoy an adult beverage or two now and then — responsibly, of course. There’s a world of drink choices out there — beer, wine, liquor, cocktails, cordials and more — and many are produced right here in Connecticut. We want to bring it all to you. Over the past year or so, we’ve introduced you to the growing craft beer industry, led by writer Erik Ofgang, who CTbeer.com named one of the “10 Great Resources for Real-Time Connecticut Craft Beer News” for his coverage of the industry. Expect to see more of that, including a calendar of March beer and wine events that accompanies this article.
In the beer world, spring is something of a wild west of flavors. Winter is ruled by hearty ales and dark stouts; summer is home to light beer with citrus flavors; and autumn is the domain of pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers. Spring has no overarching beer-flavor identity. Instead, like a groundhog who only sees half of his shadow, it’s caught between two worlds and seasons. Some breweries release their summer brews early — offering refreshing blasts of sunshine flavor before the last frost has thawed. Other spring seasonals lean toward darker “winter” flavors. Still other breweries take advantage of the season’s undefined flavor characteristics to release a variety of creative seasonal brews not tied to specific flavors of the season.
This situation is just fine by me, because it means that each spring a variety of beers are released that are unlike one another and often unlike anything you can get the rest of the year. This trend is very apparent in the Connecticut beer world, and in the list below, I’ve selected some of my favorite beers being released this spring. As always, there are many great Connecticut beers that we didn’t have room to include on the list, and if I’ve missed your favorite spring seasonal, let me know on Twitter (@erikofgang) or at email@example.com .
Nutmeg State Saison
Brewed by: Outer Light Brewing Co., Groton
ABV: 4.8 percentThere is something inherently springlike about the floral flavors of a saison, a traditional Belgian-style farmhouse beer. And this aptly named Connecticut saison from the talented folks at Outer Light Brewing Co, which also opened last year, is a wonderful example of the style. Full of the vitality of spring, it blends freshly grated nutmeg with juicy peaches, and utilizes fruity Belgian farmhouse yeast and bready English malt for a smooth blend of spring flavors. Lightly hopped and moderate, this is a beer, and a brewery, to keep an eye on.
Where to find it: This draft-only beer will be available in the Outer Light Brewing Co. taproom and at select beer bars across Connecticut. Bars that often carry Outer Light beer include Engine Room (Mystic), Pizzetta (Mystic), Oasis Pub (New London), Moxie (Madison), Prime 16 (New Haven and Orange), Westbrook Lobster (Clinton and Wallingford), MiKro (Hamden), Cask Republic (multiple locations), Caseus (New Haven), GW Carsons Burger Bar (Branford), The Outer Space (Hamden) and Eli’s (multiple locations).
Brewed by: Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford
ABV: 8.50 percent
I became an instant fan of this beer when I tried it for the first time last year. Inspired by moonshine, it is made with corn grits and aged in real bourbon barrels from a Kentucky distillery. The result is an intense and powerful beer that retains some bourbon flavor and has notes of whiskey, oak and vanilla. For those who’ve never tried bourbon barrel-aged beer, this is a great introduction to the style.
Where to find it: This beer will be released in March in 750mL bottles and will be available on draft. Look for the bottles at specialty liquor stores and find it on tap at craft beer bars.
Field Beer Oat
Brewed by: Kent Falls Brewing Co., Kent
ABV: 5.2 percentLast year, Kent Falls burst on the Connecticut brewing scene with this refreshing saison made with Connecticut malts and featuring hops grown at a hop yard on the farm where the brewery is located. Light but complex, with a beautiful pale gold color and some mild sourness, this beer appeared at select bars and liquor stores before being quickly scooped up. Ever since, those of us lucky enough to taste it last year have eagerly awaited its return.
Where to find it: Kent Falls is available in bottles at several liquor stores in Kent and surrounding towns. It can also be found at serious beer bars across the state. Although the brewery does not yet have a public taproom, Kent Falls’ staff can often be found selling their liquid wares at the New Milford farmer’s market.
Grapefruit Pale Ale
Brewed by: Half Full Brewery, Stamford
ABV: 5.5 percentSince coming on the scene in 2012, this brewery has attracted many new converts to craft beer with its approachable-yet-complex brews that are different from what a non-craft drinker might be accustomed to, but not so bitter as to drive them immediately away. This pale ale has moderate bitterness and a crisp, clean finish with a citrusy grapefruit zest and pale malt flavorings. It’s good enough to make an optimist out of even the most ardent my-cup-is-half-empty pessimist.
Where to find it: For now, this beer is draft only. It is expected to be available at the Half Full taproom in March and will be distributed to select bars in the state.
Brewed by: Stony Creek Brewery, Branford
ABV: 5.3 percent
Since opening around this time last year, Stony Creek Brewery has made a splash on the brewing scene in Connecticut with an impressive facility on the water in Branford and a lineup of diverse beers running the gamut from accessible gateway craft beers to experimental specialty beer. This user-friendly Belgian summer ale is as sunny as its name implies, and will get you ready to embrace the warm weather in no time. It is made with a saison yeast that produces a silky white body, while orange and grapefruit peel, coriander and chamomile give it a spicy and fruity flavor.
Available: Will be released on March 21 and sold in cans, bottles and on draft through most of the summer. It will be well distributed throughout the state, including at many liquor stores.
Erik Ofgang is the author of Buzzed: Beers, Booze, and Coffee Brews, which will be released by Islandport Press this spring.
Continuing reading for our roundup of March craft beverage events
Five CT Beers to Try This Spring, Plus March Craft Drink Events
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On tap for March (and an April bonus)
City Steam March Madness Brew Fest, March 3 20-plus local breweries will share their beer and there will be a brew-inspired dinner buffet. 7-9 p.m. $35. City Steam Brewery, 942 Main St., Hartford. 860-525-1600, citysteam.biz
Guilford Art Center’s Art & Craft Beer Event, March 4 Sample beers from area breweries, including DuVig, Stony Creek, Thimble Islands and Two Roads, plus food and live music. 6-8:30 p.m. 411 Church St., Guilford. $50. 203-453-5947, guilfordartcenter.org
Butchers Meat Brewers, March 9 Chef Adam Truelove of Fleishers Craft Kitchen teams with Oxford’s Black Hog Brewing for a four-course dinner. Each course is paired with a different Black Hog brew. 6:30 p.m. 580 Riverside Ave., Westport. $90. 203-226-6328, fleishers.com
New England Tap Takeover at Prime 16, March 14 New Haven’s Prime 16 will host a tap takeover with one of Connecticut’s most celebrated breweries. No beer list has been announced, but whatever is on tap is sure to make beer lovers happy. Free admission. 172 Temple St., New Haven. 203-782-1616, prime16.com
Comedy Night at Two Roads, March 26 The Comix Comedy Club will host an evening of comedy and craft beer at Two Roads, featuring comedians Kevin Fitzgerald, Pat Oates and three other comics. Admission includes finger foods and one beer. 5 p.m. $35. 1700 Stratford Ave., Stratford. 203-335-2010, tworoadsbrewing.com
Hat City on Tap, April 2 This beer festival at the Danbury Ice Arena will feature more than 200 beers from a variety of breweries, plus live music and food available for purchase. 5-8 p.m. $35. 1 Independence Way, Danbury. americaontap.com/ct-on-tap
And, while Connecticut’s vineyards are largely dormant this time of year, there are a few events to keep wine lovers happy:
Wine and chocolate tasting at Miranda Vineyard, March 5, 12, 19, 26 Everyone knows wine and cheese pair well. But did you know about wine and chocolate? Cozy up to the wine bar, check out the tasting room next to a crackling fire or head out to the balcony, and learn how Fascia’s chocolates and traditional European wines complement each other. 42 Ives Road, Goshen. 860-491-9906, mirandavineyard.com
Prance into Spring at Bishop’s Orchards Winery, March 5, 6 Pear wines — Whitfield’s Pearadox, Pearadise and Happley Impeared — are the highlight of this two-day event, noon to 5 p.m. both days. Bishop’s also has wine tours at 2 p.m. on Saturdays in March. 1355 Boston Post Road, Guilford. 203-453-2338, bishopsorchards.com
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