Say the words “Lower Naugatuck Valley” and the first thing that comes to most people’s minds won’t be “beer.”
But maybe it should be.
Over the past few years, Connecticut, like most of the country, has experienced a brewing renaissance, but nowhere in the state has the craft beer revolution taken hold with greater fervor than in the towns of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. The area boasts three production breweries and several beloved bars known for their craft beer selections. Oxford (population: about 12,700) has two breweries: the popular Black Hog Brewing Co. — try the brewery’s nitro stout — and OEC Brewing, a personal favorite of mine and maker of world-class sour beers.
The latest addition to the scene is Bad Sons Beer Co., which opened last summer and wears the Valley on its coat sleeves. Its name is an acronym formed by the first letters of the towns in the Lower Valley — Beacon Falls, Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, Oxford, Naugatuck and Shelton.
“We wanted to identify with the Valley, without calling ourselves Valley Brewing. We were trying to be more creative than that,” says Mike Student, who is one of the owners of Bad Sons and conceived of the name.
The brewery is repping the area in style, with a beautiful taproom housed in a converted factory on Route 34 in Derby that was designed with the visitor experience in mind. There is a large outdoor patio area, an eye-catching industrial design and plenty of space inside. Guests can order food directly from the bar from a rotating list of local restaurants that includes nearby favorites such as Roseland Apizza and Dew Drop Inn.
Beyond its name being a nod to the Valley, Bad Sons also supports local nonprofits with a charity tapline. One dollar per beer ordered at the line goes to a rotating Valley charitable organization.
And the Valley’s beer scene doesn’t begin or end with its breweries. The region is also home to some of the best beer bars in the state. The Hops Company in Derby has become a beer-drinker’s destination thanks to its 40 taplines and 4½-acre outdoor beer garden. The Dew Drop Inn, also in Derby and only a few hundred yards away from Bad Sons, is known for a strong beer selection in addition to its chicken wings. The Corner Tavern in Naugatuck is another popular Valley beer destination, and newcomer Sherman’s Taphouse in downtown Derby has recently emerged as a favorite spot for craft beer fans.
“The Valley has changed quite a bit since I grew up here,” Student says. “There’s a tremendous amount of new restaurants and businesses. It’s a great community, and a very loyal community. When you go out in the Valley, if you grew up in the Valley, you’re sure to bump into someone you know.”
As the brewery’s website states: “Bad Sons is a craft brewery built upon the independent spirit that lives in Connecticut’s historic lower Naugatuck River Valley.”
I’ll gladly drink to that.
More stories from our tribute to the Lower Naugatuck River Valley: