Satan's favorite sin may be vanity, but I like to think I've earned a curt nod of his horned head with my recent achievements in the fields of gluttony and sloth. A detailed recap of my travels during American Craft Beer Week would run about 20,000 words, and even I don't think I'm that interesting, so I've put reviews of some of the sweet, sweet beer I lucked into below, interspersed with a few tidbits of news. The gems which did not make this week's column will be coming your way soon, though - I took a LOT of notes.
Biggest news [by size]: Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, already the largest brewery in the state, has announced plans for an expansion which will more than double their output, from ~80,000 barrels per year to over 175,000 barrels, at an estimated cost of $2.4million. Two Roads has expanded its reach from Connecticut to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, so demand has obviously increased, but only 25% of current capacity goes to brewing their own portfolio. The remaining 75% is split between an even dozen other brands who contract the actual brewing of their beers through Two roads. This massive expansion should be complete by early spring next year.
Related: I finally got to try a beer I've been lusting over ever since I heard the name, Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin'. This is a potent (8.5%) beer, which pours a dark, translucent amber from the tap, with very little head. There was a sweet, malty bourbon aroma accrued during this ale's time spent barrel aging, and it was smokey upon the first sip, with a rich, caramel body, and a cleaner aftertaste than one might expect. There is a bit of a lingering grain sweetness, slightly nutty, followed by a distinctly tannic finish. I didn't detect any of the syrupy coating left behind by the quads and barelywines which swagger around at higher ABVs, and there's even a wisp of hops. It's a rare sight, but keep your eye out for this gently decadent American strong ale.
Yes I Can! Lighter, less breakable, and more protective of the beer inside, the craft industry is increasingly packaging its beers in aluminum cans. This is perfect for the summer, as most parks, beaches, etc. which allow alcohol still draw the line at glass bottles, and cans travel better, due to their light weight and stackability. Two Roads and Half Full Brewery beers just got in on the action in the past two weeks, while Sixpoint will start selling 12oz. six packs of their flagship beers, which had only been available in 16oz. four packs before this weekend.
So, it begins. Monday of American Craft Beer Week ("ACBW," from now on) found me at The Ginger Man in South Norwalk for a dinner event with beer from Stone Brewing Co. The chefs threw off the shackles of their usual menu in favor of items like achiote-seared shrimp paired with Go To IPA, roasted quail paired with Ruination, and hay-brined, smoked pork loin with Matt's Burning Rosids. The menu's hidden track turned out to be an Arctic char crudo paired with the evening's only new beer, Rick and Robbie's Spröcketbier.
Stone calls this one a "black rye kölsch," and it's probably the only one in the world. Kolsch beers are meant to be light, modestly alcoholic, refreshing beers for the hot summer months and, despite its visage, this black ale checks all those boxes. This one doesn't taste like it's been held under a burner, despite the dark roast of the malts, and there is a subtle balance the grains hold with the hops which lends this beer a very smooth and, yes, light, character. Spröcketbier wouldn't be out of place in at a picnic lunch or the cup holder of a John Deere in July, which is something of an achievement. Like others of Stone's Spotlight Series, this will be a limited edition beer, so buy a bottle or two if you see it and sock it away for a sunny day.
On Tuesday of ACBW I stopped by Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford for beer academy, hosted by
Ben Neidhart of Beverage United International, where the subject was the world of sour beers. One of the beers we had was Vapeur Cochonne, a saison brewed with 18th-century equipment by Brasserie à Vapeur in Pipaix-Leuze, Belgium.
Cochonne (the above label is considerably less demure outside the puritanical U.S.) is a cloudy, amber saison brewed with roasted chicory along with the usual suspects of coriander and orange peels. That chicory makes all the difference, and immediately sets Cochonne apart from other, more standard, saisons. There is an herbal aroma above the thickly bubbled head, but it has been electrified with a strongly acidity. There are big sour notes at first sip, but they are quickly rolled over by a delicious, almost chocolatey, smoothness which is blended with sweet citrus from the orange. It's almost like something you'd find inside a Knipschidlt box. This sweet/sour interplay is apparent in every sip, and it's eye-rollingly good. Check in with B.United, and ask them where you can find it.
Pay no attention to the man on the table. On Wednesday night I sang David Bowie's "Golden Years" into a microphone in front of bar packed with increasingly horrified patrons, so I will avoid recounting the third night of ACBW to lessen any future psychic scarring. Instead, let's welcome Belgian-obsessed, East Haven-bred, Overshores Brewing to the Connecticut beer scene, and definitely not remember anything or anyone I may have knocked over during a particularly vigorous rendition of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta." Definitely not that.