Friday Froth: Connecticut On Craft Beer Week

James Gribbon

American Craft Beer Week was last week, and my pants hate me. You'd think massive doses of beer paired with little to no sleep for long periods of time would do a body good, but no. Anyone would tell you that if you'd just listen, but then you'd also have to hear about "healthy decisions" and "getting out of that bulldozer this instant," and anyway I can always buy new pants.

So, I'm fat now and here are some of the beers which left me with a) no regrets in that regard, and b) this red line under my navel. 

Stony Creek Dock Time. For the past several years, the tasting room at Two Roads has reigned supreme in Connecticut. It is a massive, brightly lit space which fairly bubbles with history, it has an enormous central bar, and the stools have these bearings in them that let you spin around. Truly a top notch operation. Now, though, dare mention the Two Roads tasting room in any context and people will burst from out of nowhere shouting a chorus of "BUT HAVE YOU BEEN TO STONY CREEK" like it's the "fiiiiive gooold-en riiiiings" part in The Twelve Days of Christmas. 

You know what? That's fair.

Stony Creek's brewery is located right on the banks of the Branford River, and the interior of their tasting room alone holds over 160 people, with outdoor decks which can hold anyone else who cares to take in the view. Confession time: I haven't been yet, but it is at the top of my list of places to do some outdoor drinking this summer. 

You may want to start with their Dock Time amber/Vienna lager, which is dark as the wood paneling on the walls of a British men's club. It has a thin head as it was poured from the tap when I had it, with a sweet, malty aroma. Those sweet, slightly crisp malts are the defining flavor. They, along with Dock Time's smooth mouthfeel and clean, lager finish put me in need of a much larger receptacle, possibly a liter stein or freshly washed five gallon bucket. That is how I would like to drink this beer: in big, gurgling gulps, because it is outstanding. Dock Time is finely tuned for a heavy lager from such a young brewery, and has malts subtly layered as the bumps on a slate pool table. Nice work.

Stubborn Beauty DERP Imperial IPA has undergone at least three iterations, and I'm not exactly sure which one I had, but it was a cloudy pumpkin color with a massive, frothy head. I smelled a good bit of lemon aroma coming from this beer before some swine ordered the Eleventeen Hot Peppers Pizza and basically maced the room. 

I persevered through watery eyes and stinging pores and was rewarded. There was a lot going on with this beer from the very first sip: it is peachy, but bitter, and rich hops oils coat the tongue before the yeast settles and dries everything off. The New Zealand hops boiled into the mixture bring baskets of fruit with them. DERP is a beer which holds one's attention, sip by sip, even for a beer jaded ADD kid like me. I'm calling this one a capital-G Good Beer. Go out and try it. 

Of all the Connecticut beers I've tried recently, this is not one: OEC Nepenthes Hydromelita. It is only sort of a beer, and more accurately called a braggot: a mix of beer and mead. OEC starts with their own Nepenthes, a rye saison made in house with estate sage and lavender, and then blends it with South African mead which has been aged in wine barrels. 

Nepenthes Hydromelita is a deep, translucent gold with a sweet/sour aroma which manages to jump into your skull and almost completely rewire your senses. It is ambrosia, nectar, and easily one of the finest concoctions OEC has produced. The sourness brings spikes of citrus and rhubarb to the more rounded honey notes, but there's a tinge of earthiness underlying everything. This Hydromelita was astonishingly satisfying to my palette, and perfect for the hot day on which I had it, with sun beams curving through the honeyed liquid. "Drinks like bubbly, boozy, rhubarb lemonade," was one of the lines in my notes. Like I said: not a beer, but with flavor like that doing a pagan dance on your tongue, who needs it be?

I'll be back with more reviews soon. Until then, see you out there.