Friday Froth: Two Roads Hosts Gathering At The Bines

James Gribbon

It's unusual for a brewery to have a competitor's beer on tap, so inviting 25 brewers over to pour almost 100 of their beers in your yard is as common as a white buffalo. The part of the noble bison was played this May by Two Roads Brewing, who opened up their hop yard to breweries, food trucks, and almost 900 ticketed guests from around the region. We ate Swiss has browns, we drank the new Two Roads OJIPA, and we did it all among the greenery of rapidly climbing hop bines in Stratford.

Two Roads called the event a "hopcentric beer fest," and festival goers walked across a thick, pungent carpet of piled dry hops on their way into the yard. I showed up early and headed straight for the food trucks, eager to lay down and base and elevate my cratering blood sugar. Options ranged from Chief Brody's bahn mi, to Caseus, Green Grunion, Vazzy's, Firehouse Grill, and Tipsy Cones trucks, but I ambled over to a school bus with wood paneling and surf boards bolted to the roof. Baked and Loaded offers rösti, a Swiss version of shredded hash browns. I got mine with brisket, maple bacon, and caramelized onion. The whole thing was topped with a mild horseradish sauce which went well with the meat and potatoes at the base of the dish, plus an excellent side of fresh apple sauce, and an equally good red cabbage slaw, dosed with cumin. I piled it in and dove into the crowds.

First stop was to try the host brewery's brand new OJIPA, which is made with orange peel, juicy Mandaria Bavaria hops, and smells like a glass of the crop that made Florida famous. The beer itself is bright yellow, slightly cloudy, and less fruity than the name and aroma would suggest. It has fairly mild bitterness by 21st century standards, and those IBUs combine with the rounded mouthfeel to produce an easy, approachable IPA.

Beer'd Brewing of Stonington had their own citrus IPA on hand, with a blood orange variant of their 8 Days A Week IPA. The underlying malt and earthy hop flavor and bittering were individually distinguishable, with the fruit becoming more of a component part than the homogeneous whole of the Two Roads beer. I liked both, and what made Beer'd's brew different was the orange in this case sat on the beer almost like a float on a cocktail.

Larger breweries like Sam Adams, Ballast Point, and even Smuttynose were all on site, and you better believe I had a FinestKind, but I was especially excited to try some beers from smaller Connecticut brewers. Black Pond Brews, located under a bicycle shop in Danielson, Conn. was on hand with their Machu Picchu Jalapeno Saison, and the small brewer creativity continued with a white stout named Shelby from Cold Creek Brewery of Ellington. 

Cold Creek had run out of the stout, which has a smoked malt base, and is brewed with whole bean coffee and chocolate, but I tried their Daniela pils... then came back for seconds and thirds. This hoppy pils had a big, rich head I could have stood a toothpick in - even with the diminutive festival pour. Daniela is a very smooth beer, initially, with lots of clean, distinctive pilsner malt. The beer's body is crisp, but the extra hopping leaves a lingering bitterness unusual to this type of lager. I'm seeing a lot more hopped-up pilners recently, and it's a very American take on an eastern European classic. 

No Worries has just recently begun selling beer out of its Hamden, CT HQ, and they take a different tack with their Satisfaction Double IPA. This is a classic double: darker malts are apparent by the shovel full, and bring a barley tinged sweetness, as well as some alcohol heat, as a result of all that fermentable sugar in the wort. Satisfaction is a stone's throw away from a hoppy barley wine, so it may not be the ideal beach beer, but it's a solid pick to try if you're looking for a heavier beer with some oomph. 

Business is, as a rule, competitive. It is bitey, it is stabby, and it can bedisappointingly ruthless. It's gratifying then, to see the camaraderie which was on display as brewers wandered each others' tents and shared a beer, all on the grounds of our state's largest beer producer. A good drink can be quite refreshing.