First of all: Beacon Falls, Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, Oxford, Naugatuck, Shelton - in acronym, BAD SONS, collectively "The Valley." Once the manufacturing heart of an industrial state, the factories shut down to reopen out west, overseas, or not at all, but their brick shells remained. Once known for hats, watches, and artillery shells, there is new life to be found in old factories in the valley, which have become perfect incubators for the Connecticut brewing industry's baby boom.
The BAD SONS brewery inhabits a space in Derby just down the Housatonic river from the Yale crew team's boathouse, about 300 yds from the Dew Drop Inn. This coal-era brick monolith may be where "BAD SONS" comes to mean "Valley Beer."
A short drive up Rt. 34 from Rt.8, the building originally filled and distributed the glass milk bottles which were made next door for the Kellogg's cereal company. The brewery's previous residents were Books By The Falls, which remains, and Manger Die Casting. An enormous ten-ton press from the Manger era now serves as the centerpiece of BAD SONS' tap room.
Pull up to the brewery to sample some beer or take it home Wednesday through Sunday and you're met with a modern entrance with the brewery's skull-and-hop-cone logo on the venerable building, and an outdoor patio and yard with various tailgate games and a huge natural gas fire pit to your right. BAD SONS is anything but the average garage door beer startup, and they've designed the space for people to hang out. The tasting room is immediately inside the front doors, and is largely taken up by the large rectangular bar, but still manages to feel airy and open with plenty of space and abundant natural light coming in through multipaned, factory-style windows. A shuffleboard table is overhung with a riveted steel industrial chic chandelier, and the floor is strewn with painted rugs done by the same artist as Local in Fairfield.
The spacious theme continues as part of the drinking experience, since there is nothing but a low, open divider between guests and the brewing floor.
"Everything is really in your face," says owner Bill daSilva. "We wanted the experience so when people come in they feel like they're really in a brewery. We put a notch in the wall so people will eventually be able to buy a six pack right off the canning line."
Appropriately for the location, BAD SONS is starting on an industrial scale. The current brewhouse will produce 6,000 barrels per year to start, with the ability to scale up to 15- or 20,000bbls. Mark daSilva, Bill's brother, founded the Southport Brewing Company and became its master brewer before expanding that operation to Milford and closing their original location to open BAD SONS. The brothers had good experiences with their original equipment at SBC, so the new brewhouse hardware was made by the same company in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The canning line was made in Lincoln, Nebraska.
I had the opportunity to try the first batch of BAD SONS' beers, the first afternoon they opened. On tap were: Skip Daze American weissbier, Conn Ale east coast pale ale, Doobage NEIPA, and Lupefied DIPA. I ordered a flight that arrived in 5oz. servings of all four, served in a little muffin tin for easier transport to any of the tables which ring the tasting room.
Skip Daze poured a bright, cloudy straw color with a good bit of head and an aroma like walking into a California dispensary. That would be the "American" part of this weissbier, then. There was a big hit of German wheat to the flavor, with a biscuity crust to the finish. The brewery's cheat sheet said 15 IBUs to this one, which seemed understated, and the beer had a definite bitterness to its aftertaste. This paired well with the flavorful hops and round, mellow malts, and lead to Skip Daze being unusually crisp for a wheat beer. I came back to this one when I went for a full pour.
Drinking upwards from the weiss, I went for the Conn Ale next. BAD SONScalls this an "east coast pale ale" partially because it features Connecticut-grown Cascade hops. It was slightly hazy with a medium, lasting head, and the smell of berries and earth rose up from the glass. The brewer's notes name this an "all-day... easy drinker" with subtle berry notes and candy-like malts. My first sip, and every one after, was hugely full of strawberry, banana, and an almost rye breadiness on the tongue. I don't believe there's any rye in the malt bill, and I don't want to call it buttery, because there was no diacetyl flavor, but this first batch of Conn Ale had a sweet, unsubtle, oily hop flavor. I imagine this juicy character is the other part of why they call it an east coast pale ale, and it's best to keep that in mind before you get a glass thinking it will be a classic bitter PA.
New England IPAs [and I still type that name with grinding teeth and cramped fingers] have come to paint an archetypal picture in the drinker's mind: cloudy to opaque with yeast and trub, big, juicy hop flavor and aroma, and low to nonexistent IBUs. BAD SONS calls Doobage NEIPA - which features particularly attractive, evocative label art on the can - "completely danked out... truly a haze of sticky resinous glory." Which is why I was surprised when it arrived. Not the standard minty green cumulus yeast bomb, this NEIPA was caramel colored and had been [GASP!] filtered to flawless transparency. A thin ring of head added further mystery. I took a sip...
Doobage washed across my tongue with a bitter, earthy, vegetal hop flavor with a halo of citrus. I stopped, because I was legitimately confused. In a blind taste test, I'd think this was the pale ale, and the Conn Ale was the fruity NEIPA. Now I was nervous I had screwed up. The Conn Ale is significantly lighter than the Doobage (4.6 vs. 10 SRM, where a higher number is darker), so I called the beertender over, pointed to a pint of Conn Ale the guy next to me had ordered, held up my tasting glass, and double checked with him. Yep, I had it right. Is Doobage a good beer? Yes, but I don't know if the completely unexpected profile was the result of its being the first batch, or if the daSilvas are challenging notions of what an NEIPA can be.
Onward and upward to the 8.8% alcohol, 110 IBU, Lupefied double India pale ale. In my glass was a clear, darkly caramelized beer with a sticky, lacy ring of head. The double dose of malt stretched up to meet my nose in a sweet concoction with hints of its beginnings as raw wort. I drank it down while it transmitted a classic, almost English IPA malt body atop a ladder of IBUs. The malt and bittering hops were the flavors to the exclusion of all else, from when the beer was cold, through the time it warmed up. There was no heat from the high ABV, just a few hints of numbness on the tongue to give it away.
The brewery's materials make a big deal in print aboutlupulin powder and "fruity smoothness" in Lupefied, but again, I didn't get any of that. It is neither as sweet or tropical as twentysomethings who have only had juice bombs might have come to expect from a double IPA. Lupefied is a good, slightly dangerous, DIPA of the old school. More malt means deeper flavors, more fermentable sugars, and more alcohol. More hops are needed to strike a balance with the overloaded grain bill. In the first batch, that's just what we got. The recipe for this one - like all the other beers - can still be dialed in one way or the other, but I appreciate the occasional DIPA which doesn't taste like a breakfast pastry.
Beers are available in the tasting room in flights, full pours, in 32oz. canned crowlers, or 64oz. glass growlers. There is even a secondary bar off to one side just for growler fills and beers to go. The brewery is closed to the public Mon&Tues, but open afternoons and evenings from Wednesday-Sunday.