The Greater Danbury area has been something of a brewery desert, seemingly immune to the craft beer revolution taking over the rest of the state and country.
There were breweries on the fringes in places such as Monroe (Veracious Brewing), Kent (Kent Falls) and Oxford (OEC and Black Hog), but none in the immediate vicinity of the Hat City.
That changed in October when both Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield and the Redding Beer Co. in Redding opened. Overnight the two breweries have turned the area into a mini beercation destination.
By coincidence the breweries opened at almost the same time, both are owned by father-and-son teams, and they’re located just under 2½ miles apart.
That’s where the similarities end.
Nod Hill focuses on robust and balanced examples of popular craft beer styles including IPAs and double IPAs with fruit-forward flavors, as well as a variety of Belgian-style beers. Redding Beer Co. focuses on less-hoppy beers that are more malt-forward.
Nod Hill was opened by David Kaye and his father Robert. David is a bluegrass musician and long-time home brewer, and the family owns a fence and driveway gate-installation business called Riverside Fence. For the brewery they brought on professional brewer Kyle Acenowr.
137 Ethan Allen Hwy. (Route 7), Ridgefield; 203-617-1191
7 Main St., Redding; 203-587-9000
From the outside, Nod Hill looks like your run-of-the-mill industrial brewery. The inside tells a different story. “From the outset, we knew that we wanted our space to be unique, different from the standard concept of a brewery taproom, with something of an old New England feel that’s true to our roots,” David Kaye says. “We worked with Matt and Sarah Rink, two close friends of mine who own a design/build firm called New Antiquity. Their style incorporates lots of natural wood elements with vintage touches that are playful as well as historical.”
The most popular beer at Nod Hill has been Super Mantis, an excellent double IPA. The second-biggest seller has been Ace of Wands, a Trappist-inspired ale. “Going forward, we will be experimenting with a number of different styles including barrel-aged stouts and, eventually, sour beers, as well as regularly offering cask ale,” David Kaye says.
Down the road, Redding Beer Co. was opened by Jim Baulsir with the help of his son Dave. Over the last few years, the two bonded over homebrewing. Jim, an IT manager, began honing his craft studying at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont. He also started thinking about opening a brewery that would offer a different kind of beer. “I’m not a guy who likes super-hoppy beers and I never have been,” he says. “I was looking for a demographic that may not have fit into the standard craft-brewery demographic. I felt there was an unsupported market here of people a little bit older from 35 up to 55 who may have been left behind by craft beer.”
To that end the brewery offerings include an Irish red ale, an American wheat ale, as well as a laid-back IPA. “We call it an East Coast IPA,” Jim Baulsir says. “It has a very strong hop aroma, a very strong hop taste that’s balanced out by a strong malt base, but it doesn’t have that bitter, back-of-the-throat aftertaste.”
Redding Beer Co. is in the heart of downtown Georgetown in the space formerly occupied by the Italian restaurant Aranci 67 (now located in Wilton). The taproom was clearly designed as a hangout.
“We didn’t build a brewery and attach a taproom to it,” Jim Baulsir says. “What we did was we built a taproom and kind of attached a brewery to it.” He credits interior designer Leslie Finch with creating two distinct vibes. One room has an old English pub ambiance, while the other room has a relaxed, almost coffeehouse feel with couches and games.
These two breweries will soon be joined by several more in the area, which David Kaye says will help draw beer lovers from far and wide. “We couldn’t be happier that our area in northern Fairfield County is now on the beer map, so to speak. It’s great for people coming from a little farther away that they can hit up a couple different spots, and with breweries opening in a few months in Bethel and Danbury, it’s only going to get better.”