Area Two might be the most impressive brewing space in the state. The $15 million, 25,000-square-foot facility from Two Roads Brewing Co. is located across the parking lot from the original Two Roads brewery in Stratford. Going inside feels like entering a craft beer cathedral. To get to the taproom you traverse a catwalk that spans above the brewing space. You’ll see wooden barrels across from shining silver vats. Natural light streams in and there is a curved wooden ceiling meant to evoke the sense of entering a giant barrel.
Before even tasting the beer I am thoroughly wowed, and even more impressed once I start sampling.
With its Area 51-inspired name, Area Two is dedicated to exploring the outer limits of what beer can be through innovative barrel-aging techniques and wild-yeast fermentation, explains Phil Markowski, master brewer and co-founder of Two Roads.
Once a beer is made from wild yeast or a wild-style yeast, it will be placed inside one of the barrels where it will age for months, and in some cases years. The facility is home to former wine, rum, brandy, tequila, absinthe and even hot sauce barrels, each with an evolving flavor profile it will impart to the aging beer. High-end sours will continue to be produced by blending beer from different barrels to create desired beer profiles.
The sometimes unpredictable nature of this type of aging and fermentation process is why Two Roads needed to build a second facility for these brewing experiments. Markowski says that while the original Two Roads is a controlled environment, “here anything goes in terms of microbes.” Though a series of pipes between the two buildings allows for beer to go back and forth, any liquid moving between the two buildings is highly controlled.
Initial Area Two offerings include several beers designed to serve as an “intro to barrel aging,” Markowski says. During my visit, Area Two offered the Persian Lime Gose on tap alongside a version of the beer that had been aged inside a tequila barrel, giving visitors a quick taste of the types of flavors barrel aging can add to a beer. There are also beer-geek favorites like the Blood Peach, a lambic-style wild ale that has been aged for two years and was brewed with native blood peaches, and has a funky, deeply sour but balanced flavor I love. Another favorite is the Table Terroir, a low-ABV beer featuring all Connecticut-grown malt and hops made with a strain of yeast captured on the Two Roads property.
The complex around Area Two is not yet complete. A rooftop beer garden was in the works during my visit, and there are plans for a nature path to be built in the wetlands behind the facility.
The beer offered will also continue to evolve. Area Two has one of the largest coolships in North America. (For the uninitiated, coolships are fermentation vessels with access to outdoor air, allowing a young beer to be inoculated with wild yeast from the hyperlocal environment.) The coolship hasn’t been used yet, but Markowski is looking forward to the possibilities. He says beer produced by the coolship will “be a true expression of this little ecosystem here.” He adds that the process can be unpredictable, but that’s part of its appeal. “There’s a mystical side to it.”
1526 Stratford Ave., Stratford
Hours: Sun. & Mon. noon-7 p.m., Tue.-Sat. noon-9 p.m.