Kent Falls Brewing Co. is far from pretty much everywhere. Downtown Kent is a 15-minute drive from the brewery, while the company’s namesake Kent Falls State Park takes about 17 minutes by car. To get to the farm where the brewery is, you drive through a web of winding back roads. You’ll drive past valleys, farms and woods, and cellphone reception goes in and out, but no matter how long it takes you to get there it is always worth the trip.
The brewery has been producing beer since 2015, but its taproom opened last summer, and is an oasis in the wilderness with the feel of an artists’ or Bohemian colony. The brewery is located on, and is part of, Camps Road Farm, a 50-acre farm with pasture-raised poultry and pork, along with a 1-acre hop farm, and a half-acre of apple trees producing fruit destined for Neversink Spirits in Port Chester, New York.
You can explore the brewery’s hopyard, and view various farm animals, many of which are fed spent grain from the brewing process. In the taproom itself there’s a cooler where you can buy frozen meat raised on the farm as well as fruits and vegetables. Solar panels are on the brewery roof as well as on the grounds. The place is laid back and kid friendly, and the outside drinking area even features a swingset.
Barry Labendz, one of the brewery’s owners, says this welcoming atmosphere is an important part of the brewery’s farm ethos. “This is many of ours home. I live right at the top of the driveway,” he says. “This is a home as much as it is also a brewery, which is very common with farms. With farms you live and work there. It’s very personal and we want to make sure we maintain that environment in what we do.”
Beyond this welcoming farmhouse feel, the brewery is worth visiting for another major reason: the beer. For the past three years, head brewer Derek Dellinger and the rest of the Kent Falls team have been producing some of the best beer in the state. And like the taproom, the beer itself is all about the farm.
“We try and take the idea of what do you want to drink on a farm and put it into all the beers that we do,” Labendz says. “I don’t want anybody to have an IPA — nobody brewing here does — where you have one and you have palate fatigue, and you’re tired of having it, it has a hop burn, or it’s too heavy. The idea is to be able to enjoy something, have your wits about you. [Our beers are] for the most part of moderate alcohol content, the body is soft, but it’s something you can come back to and have again. Balance is the big thing. To not have any one overly dominant trait. The beauty is in subtlety.”
The heart and soul of the brewery’s beer line is various farmhouse styles. These rotating options are often tart, refreshing and mildly sour beers. Many are barrel aged for months and even years, while some are produced through spontaneous fermentation, an ancient brewing practice which uses naturally occurring yeasts in the air.
Kent Falls also offers a variety of great, sought-after IPAs. With both the farmhouse beers and IPAs, that beautiful subtlety Labendz talked about comes into play.
For most of the brewery’s beers, Labendz and his team make an effort to use local ingredients. Kent Falls recently began working with Thrall Family Malt in Windsor, Connecticut’s first malting company, and has also used malted barley produced by Valley Malt in Massachusetts.
An IPA called Shoots was made entirely with Valley Malt barley. A light IPA, it is bright, crisp and perfect for summer. As is the brewery itself. As I drink the beer, it’s late afternoon on a Friday. Despite the brewery’s remote location, the place is crowded. Several couples mingle around tables, kids play on the swingset. Taking in the outdoor scene of drinkers, kids and farmland, Labendz gestures at our surroundings. “Look around, this is the perfect day on a farm.”