Friday Froth: Top Beers Picks From BeerConn 2016...Savor The Unexpected

James Gribbon

Beer is traditionally kept on ice, so it only makes sense for BeerConn to take place in a hockey arena. Thus it was again as 50 breweries from Connecticut and beyond came together at the arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, where a single ticket included unlimited tastings, and raised money for Kids Need More, a motivational camp for children with life threatening illnesses. 

Two Roads, quickly becoming the most widely known Connecticut beer in the nation after only fours years in existence, was in attendance, along with home state brewers such as Black Hog, Hooker, Relic, Thimble Island, and New England Brewing Company, who showed up with two nationally sought after beers, Coriolis and Locust Reign.

There's magic, though, in the unexpected, and I was excited to see some Connecticut brewers still in their infancy in attendance, including Brass Works (Waterbury), Fairfield Craft Ales (Stratford), Brewport (Bridgeport) and Hanging Hills (Hartford).

A quick rundown:

- Some of the best beers I had were made in a driveway in Cromwell, home of Coles Road Brewing. The first, Dipped In Moonlight, is an American pale ale with only a tiny bit of bitterness derived from a copious dose of El Dorado and Citra hops. Super smooth and citrusy, the name should start etching its way into beer geek brainpans as the new hit juicebomb... as soon as it starts being available for purchase literally anywhere but beer fests. Coles Road Two Times A Lady DIPA was significantly more bitter, dripping with aromatic essential oils, and likewise excellent.

- Brewport took over what is usually the arena's pub, and the highlight in this area was a cask of Stalwart IPA. Conceived as "a bigger Sierra Nevada pale ale" by a guest brewer, it had a sweeter depth to its malt character than the original, and stood up nicely to the additional bitterness. It's possible this one will make its way onto the menu at Brewport in the future.

- Hooker Nectar Of The Goats was created specifically to be served at a ballpark which may ever only exist on the state's debt ledger. I had to try the beer, which looked great in a pilsner type glass, with a thick, lasting head over a golden body. The beer had a light body, a vanishing bitterness, and was very slightly sweet - not a surprise with a name like Nectar. If drinking a beer can be considered akin to reading literature, this wasn't exactly Tolstoy, and wasn't designed to be, but it was delicious. I sank it like a 12-to-6 curveball.

- Another great surprise was Bespoke Ciderworks. Housed in the same building as Stubborn Beauty in Middletown, Bespoke is the work of Ronald Sansone, who mixed a blend of his [as yet unnamed] semi-sweet and semi-dry ciders in my cup. "I went to college for this," he said, explaining he is a graduate of the Cider & Perry Academy at Cornell. Light, perfectly clear, and riotously bubbly, I returned for refills of this cider three times. New England Cider Company of Wallingford was also at BeerConn, and it seems I'll need to check in with them if Bespoke is indicative of the quality we can expect from Connecticut cidery. Like I said: it's all about the unexpected at beer fests. 

See you out there.