"Man, that sounds good. Where can I get some?" I hear this, in some variation, frequently. The answers vary: if you want OEC beer, you have to go to the brewery in Oxford on a Saturday; if you want Avery Maharaja, you have to go to 2008, before some dastardly deal blocked its distribution in the state.This week we're going to step away from specific beer reviews and focus instead on restaurants and bars where you (yes, you, specifically) can find good craft beers - bottles, cans and draft.
So that's the bait, and here's the hook: I'm inviting all of you to contribute to the list. I can't know everywhere a firkin is being tapped, and I'm especially light on taprooms outside of Fairfield County, so let's make the comments section a living document, a resource for craft beer exploration. The list below will encompass places where I've actually bent an elbow, not just places I heard of, so fill in any omissions I've made in the comments.
We're going to start by working our way northeast from:
The Ginger Man (Greenwich and Norwalk)
There is a split personality between the two locations of this restaurant and bar. (64 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich & 99 Washington St., Norwalk) The Greenwich location is more restaurant-focused, with a smaller beer menu and quieter, more home-like atmosphere. South Norwalk is more of a pub, and attracts much larger, louder crowds, but has a commensurately huge tap and bottle list.
The Cask Republic (Stamford and New Haven)
Stamford used to be a tough place to find a decent beer, but tidal forces have enacted a heck of a change. Cask is run by the same restaurant group as the G'Man, so you'll still see 50+ beers on tap, but it's slightly more upscale, especially in terms of food. New Haven has a plethora of options where one can find excellent brews (Bar, Prime 16, Rudy's (Delaney's unfortunately recently burnt down)) but Cask is one of very few options in downtown Stamford. Both locations feature a visible craft beer "cellar" where appropriate beers are given the vintage treatment and aged for periodic release.
Coalhouse Pizza (Stamford)
This is not a bar, pub, or huge social scene, but it is a quality pizza joint with a remarkably fantastic tap list. The beer menu here is carefully curated, frequently stocked with exotics and unusuals, and they dabble in beer cocktails. Interested in drinking local? Coalhouse will sell you a pitcher of any beer made in Connecticut for just $12 - about the price of a Gandhi-Bot four pack.
Plan B (Stamford, Milford, West Hartford...)
This local chain is probably best known for burgers, but "B" is also for bourbon and beer. Plan B doesn't tend to reach for obscurity in their draft lists, but you will find solid contributions from macro-micros like Allagash, Smuttynose, Goose Island, and Oskar Blues, as well as guest taps from fledgling Connecticut breweries.
World Of Beer (Stamford)
WOB - across from Paloma on Harbor Point - believes bigger is better. It features a tap and bottle list so daunting they offer the use of iPads loaded with their own app to help navigate its fathomless depths. The ability to search for beers by name, color, hop and malt profiles, etc. make choosing easy for both beer geeks and novices. (I'm also interested to try Sign Of The Whale rooftop bar in the same neighborhood, which just opened.)
Le Farm/The Whelk (Westport)
If you're reading this site, you know these places, but don't sleep on the beer they offer. The chefs and bar managers have paid attention to beers which will pair well with their food, and there are some gems available for the asking.
The Little Pub (Wilton, Ridgefield, Cos Cob)
This is another name familiar to regular CTBites readers but, seriously, look at that beer menu. They also have a rotating "mystery tap" selection every week, and play host to beer pairing dinners with regularity.
Craft 260 (Fairfield)
I feel like I owe you a full review of this restaurant at 260 Post Rd., but we'll stick to the script for now. Craft 260 is more of a restaurant, but their small bar makes for a good little hangout, too. I do absolutely love the fact they frequently post shots of their tap list on Twitter. Their list isn't forearm-length like some others, but they manage to pack it with intriguing variety.
Walrus+Carpenter (Bridgeport, with bonus BRYAC)
The modest tap and bottle list at this new BBQ staple of Black Rock has a deceptively wideband spectrum. Kegs kick frequently here, and the list is updated on a large chalkboard on a wall by the bar, so if you can't find something you like, wait 15 minutes and check again. Try a bottle of funky Green Flash Le Freak or Rayon Vert with your Q. Speaking of funk, it's usually playing live at BRYAC Restaurant & Raw Bar a very short walk from W+C. The tap list is limited to two offerings, but they're usually good ones, and a selection of honest craft beers is available in bottles and cans at reasonable prices.
Dew Drop Inn (Derby)
This hideaway in the All American Valley was recommended to me so often I almost went there just to make people stop. Here's what I learned: they were all right. Find a parking spot, lose your skepticism, and order from a galaxy of outstanding wing flavors and combinations, backed up by a terrific selection of craft beers. Many of the ultra-limited edition, high end foreign beers I mention which are imported by B.United in Oxford can be found at the Dew Drop.
So that's my initial list. Now it's your turn. Let us know where you like to go for a cold one.