June 24, 2018
Just about all of the beer excursions I make outside of my local area are pre-planned, but when I got word on Saturday, June 23rd that I had to make a trip to Middletown, CT, I took it as an opportunity to make an impromptu visit to 2 or 3 breweries in the area.
Doing some quick research on Saturday night, I discovered that both breweries in Middletown would be closed on Sunday. Crap! So I looked up Relic Brewing in Plainville, which I had previously pegged as one I’d like to visit. Also closed on Sundays. WTF?? This I simply didn’t understand. Every brewery in Orange County, NY has tap room hours on Sundays. But then I remembered that Connecticut, especially this part of the state, isn’t like metropolitan New York, so perhaps my expectations were a little high.
Anyway, I reached out to my Instagram friend @jessbeerme for help, as I knew she lived in the Connecticut River region, and would be able to guide me regarding where to go. But before hearing back from her, I put my schedule together. After taking care of my errand, I would plan to visit New Park Brewing, and then Hog River Brewing Company, both in West Hartford and close to Interstate 84, which would be my escape route home after the beer drinking was done.
But as I was traveling along the interstate in the morning, a message came in from Jess. She affirmed my choices of New Park and Hog River, and also suggested that if I was hungry while in Middletown, Eli Cannons would be a great choice – good food and a great tap list, she said.
And then, following Jess’s recommendation, I headed for Eli Cannons, which was a mere 2 miles away. The decor inside the restaurant was all about beer, and it made me feel right at home.
I ordered myself a Stone Idoltrous IPA and a buffalo chicken wrap to eat. As I enjoyed both offerings, I got chatty with a young couple sitting next to me, and as you might surmise, the talk was all about Connecticut beer. One of the items on Eli Cannons’s tap list was from a local establishment called Five Churches Brewing, and it came up in the conversation. Before I knew it, my next stop had changed from New Park to Five Churches, which was in nearby New Britain. So after saying my goodbyes to my new friends at Eli Cannons, I made the 20 minute drive to New Britain and Five Churches.
A bit industrial in feel, with high ceilings and lots of brick, the inside space was very inviting. My trusty mascot Samson and I found a great spot at the bar, and I proceeded to order a flight, with a bit of variety. The four beers I chose were their Kinetic-Cut Kolsch, Pew Pew American IPA, Steeple People Imperial IPA (in a tribute to churches, I suppose), and Das Froot, a blackberry-flavored Berliner Weisse.
Just as had happened at Eli Cannons, I found myself situated next to a nice young couple, and engaged in plenty of solid beer talk. And as a consequence of that chat, there was yet another change in plans. In lieu of going to Hog River from here, I was instead on my way to Alvarium Brewing Company, which was just a couple of miles away on the other side of New Britain.
The Alvarium space was very different than Five Churches. Located in an industrial park building, you need to walk all the way around the building from the parking lot to get to the front door, and you wonder “Am I going to a brewery or a ball bearing factory?” But the moment you walk in the the door, you’re hit in the nose with the smell of malt, and there’s no doubt you’ve found the home of a bona fide brewing operation.
My new friends Frank and Shelby, who I met at Five Churches, would be following a few minutes behind me to Alvarium, but in the meantime I set myself up with a nice flight, including White Denim Wit, Don’t Sue Me, Bro! Saison, Party Boy IIPA, Clusternutter Peanut Butter Porter, and The Death of Novelty Sour.
As I cased the room at Alvarium, it was clear that virtually everything in the place carried a bee theme. Curious as to why, I Googled the name, and to no surprise, I learned that ‘alvarium’ is a Latin-based word that means beehive. So there you have it.
Before departing Alvarium, I picked up some takeout – a crowler of Phresh, their NEIPA offering, and a bottle of Overlord, a bourbon barrel aged English style barley wine.
Rainstorms and summer Sunday traffic plagued the drive back to New York, adding at least 30 minutes to the expected effort. But these external circumstances could do nothing to detract from the splendid experiences of the day.
And Jess, next time I’m in Connecticut I will give you more notice so you can plan to join. Until then, keep the faith everyone!