Beer, as I've said so many times on this site, is food. Beer is a farm you can drink. It's an agricultural product that comes to us from fields of grain and leafy green hop yards, even down to the yeast brewers culture and grow from the skins of fruit in orchards. The massive proliferation of breweries in Connecticut - many of them less than five years old - means a huge uptick in the need for all these natural products. I wanted to take a look at how the rise of craft beer is affecting the state of agriculture in the Constitution State, and how breweries and farms are working hand in hand to create and restore the growth of Connecticut beer. This will be an ongoing series as summer days get shorter and we approach harvest time, but I thought the best way to start would be with a place that brings agriculture and beer together, and I started with at Fox Farm Brewery.
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With the glorious warmth that summer brings to Connecticut comes a plethora of delicious fruits, vegetables, and other produce that are sure to highlight any and every meal of the season. If you’re looking to get a taste of the incredible produce CT offers when the temperature is at its hottest, you’ll surely want to make a trip to some local farm stands. As late July is upon us, however, the number of summer days left are ticking away at a startling speed. But fear not; your life just got a little bit easier. Some of the best summer farm stands in the state are listed below, ranging from the eastern most points of Connecticut to down in Fairfield County. All you have to do is find one that catches your eye and take the drive.
The hot sauce market is stacked with thousands of brands trying to win over your taste buds and into your pantry, but few have roots right here in Fairfield County. Cue Hot Lady Hot Sauce, created by Adam Colberg, a Connecticut resident who grew up in Westport.
For Colberg, hot sauce wasn’t always in his overall plan.
“Before I graduated from Staples High School, I always embarked on different projects, I always did things differently,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for college, but I wanted to do something adventurous, so I joined the Marines.” His time in the corps, where he was a jet mechanic, granted him the opportunity to travel the world, including a tour in Spain.
Bartenders, especially those involved in the “cocktail” world, understand the significant impact that Prohibition has had on the industries surrounding alcoholic beverages. Many consumers, however, are unaware of that impact. National Prohibition was rooted in political and religious belief systems, that sought to temper a vice, and legislate morality to a nation. Any time a product, that is in high consumer demand, is made illegal, a black market is created. Crime increases, violence increases, and eventually, the public demands action. It didn’t take long for the ridiculous idea to be repealed, and when Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, the nation joined together in a collective sigh of relief, and a toast to better times ahead.
Treatises have been written, documentaries have been filmed, and many a scholar has spoken about the nearly decade and a half that The United States of America suffered under the tyranny of Prohibition. What is sorely missing, however, is a definitive study of the decades following its repeal. And, maybe, that is because not much is ever said, outside of our small circle of bartenders, about what life in this industry was like before Prohibition was passed.
It was a vote of 14 to 20.
One hundred years ago in 1919 Connecticut State Senate couldn’t ratify the 18th Amendment which made Connecticut one of two states at the time to defeat prohibition.
It was a real moment in history, and now a real moment for SONO 1420, the revolutionary new distillery making waves in the world of spirits. As far as everyone knows, they are THE only distillery around using hemp seed in its remarkable mash for whiskey as well as other parts of the plant for its flavorful and aromatic essence in gins, bourbons, and ryes.
It’s herbal, it’s floral, it’s natural, Oh MY. It’s botanical liqueur.
Walking into Hartford Flavor Company is like walking into a place where all’s right with the world: it’s owned and operated by a smart woman, everything is natural, and it is as beautiful as a field of flowers should be.
Or, it’s like a laboratory-meets day spa-meets fully-stocked bar. Take your pick.
Anyway, I think you are getting my point. It is downright lovely and essential and all you think while touring around and talking to owner Lelaneia Dubay is, where have you been all my life?
Bulk shopping isn’t exactly a new concept – we’ve been filling the trunks of our cars and SUVs with oversized products from those mammoth box stores for years. But bulk shopping that’s zero waste is something we don’t often see. BD Provisions, in Newtown, takes this familiar concept and gives it a breath of fresh air with a new, environmentally friendly spin.
Less is more, especially here. Less waste means more product which means greater savings and more fun, but you really need to head over to experience it yourself.
At BD Provisions you’ll find 270 carefully curated products sold by the pound in massive sustainable containers. Products range from dehydrated and powdered superfoods. You won’t want to pass by the creative, flavored rice, quinoa and soup blends that will enhance any weeknight dinner. Of course there are plenty of healthy snack options from the most beautifully colored wasabi coated soybeans, beautiful and delicious dried, crunchy beets, spicy chick peas, a wide selection of nuts both raw and flavored. Gorgeous beans and pastas. Beautiful aromatic spices, a generous selection of the most beautiful tea blends.
We love celebrating local CT entrepreneurs. Connecticut Magazine gives a shout out to this trailblazing woman who’s shaking up the primarily male dominated craft brewing industry. We also hear that Rhythm beer will be available at Chef Chris Scott’s highly anticipated Birdman Juke Joint in Bridgeport.
Craft beer needs more diversity. The realization hit New Haven’s Alisa Bowens-Mercado five years ago while she was at a beer festival. She didn’t mean diversity in terms of more women and minority ownership of breweries; not yet anyhow. Back then she was thinking about diversity of flavor.
At that festival, every beer she tried was either too hoppy or too sour for her taste. She felt the craft industry needed more approachable options for drinkers like her.
“I want to make a beer that, when I go to a beer festival, that I can drink,” she told her husband.
Four years later Rhythm Brewing Co. was born and Bowens-Mercado, owner of Alisa’s House of Salsa, a dance studio in New Haven, became Connecticut’s first female African-American brewer. This month, as she celebrates Rhythm Brewing’s one-year anniversary, the company’s flagship product, Rhythm Unfiltered Lager, is available at more than 200 locations across the state. Bowens-Mercado is also getting ready to start distributing it in the Bahamas.
In an unusual but convenient industrial park in Groton, just near the Groton Airport, Mystic Cheese Co. is opening a new location this month to serve homemade and artisanal cheeses to the after-work crowd and cheese connoisseurs alike. Upon stepping into the front doors at the new site of Mystic Cheese, visitors are welcomed into a cozy tasting room in which they can perch on barstool seating that offers glimpses into the impressively sized cheese maturation room.
The feeling that the owners, Brian Civitello and Jason Sobocinksi (former owner of the beloved Caseus Cheese), have tried to create with their events and cut to order cheese is relaxed, fun, and unpretentious. Mystic Cheese has definitely accomplished this with their communal tables, friendliness, and awesome narwhal logo. By doing this, their overall aim is to attract people to the world of artisanal cheeses by offering cheeses at multiple price points, cheese-centric food, and educational classes.
Connecticut Magazine features a great local vendor who skillfully combines maple syrup and local distilleries.
When people try Maple Craft Foods’ bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup for the first time and taste the all-natural sweetness of the Vermont syrup layered with subtle smoke and caramel flavors imparted by aging in bourbon barrels, their reactions are often visceral, Dave Ackert says.
Watching new fans “ooh” and “ah” their way through this tasting is the best part of the job for Ackert, who owns the Newtown-based company along with his wife Eve, father Paul, and friend Bill Begany, of Begany Design.
Bourbon barrel maple is the company’s flagship product, and though it does not contain alcohol, it is the offspring of the burgeoning craft beer and distilling industries in Connecticut.
Years of drinking bland and commonplace cups of coffee began to take a toll on Connecticut natives and founders of RISE Brewing Co., Hudson Gaines-Ross, Grant Gyesky, Jarrett McGovern, and Justin Weinstein. In 2014, they decided to take matters in their own hands by hitting the drawing board in their New York City apartments. Bean after bean, one roast and cold-brewing method after another, they finally created a cold brew coffee, making them the founders of RISE Brewing Company. Traversing the concrete jungle with their product, they asked experienced mixologists if it was the real deal. One day, in a Brooklyn café, the espresso machine broke; RISE cold brew came to the rescue, and was a hit amongst the customers. The product became available for purchase in July of 2017.
On December 11th, premium jerky & snack brand Field Trip opened its first store at 153 Post Road East in Westport CT. The 500-square-foot space will be the company’s first ever brick and mortar establishment. You can find Field Trip jerky in 50,000 retails outlets nationwide, but this is, and will be their ONLY dedicated store.
The first 1,000 customers over the weekend of December 15th/16th will receive a free meat stick if they mention having read about us on Westport Moms, Dan Woog, CTBites, or via WestportNow!
There is a lot of buzz going around regarding CBD, and also quite a few misconceptions. CBD, is one of the chemicals in cannabis, but unlike THC (also found in Marajuana), CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that is emerging as a very popular wellness ingredient. The plant extract, often consumed as an oil under the tongue, is now the featured ingredient in high-end products including body lotion, olive oil, cold-brew coffee, infused water, and even dog treats. Local start up, “Oops I Ate My CBD” is leveraging this emerging trend to create gourmet hemp infused chocolate bars, which come complete with 50mg of CBD per serving. The bars are made with 99.6% pure hemp derived CBD Isolate, and contains zero THC. Hence it is legal in all 50 states…and the chocolate is delicious. (Plus, I was VERY relaxed after my tasting)
Cross Culture Kombucha just opened its doors in Danbury. It’s the first Kombucha taproom and brewery in the state, and they’ve been welcomed with open arms and growlers ready to fill. The light, effervescent drink has been around for ages but has most recently seen the limelight as a non-alcoholic alternative; one that is both really delicious and packed with healthy goodness.
This week in Friday Froth we're going to toss back a beer in the middle of a trend, a new creation in an old style, and some brewery news which leads us to an aged beer.
And now, as another James May say, the nyeewws:
I recently was among the first few dozen civilians to ever see the inside of Two Roads' new mixed fermentation secondary brewery, Area 2. First announced in 2016, this new on-site facility in Stratford will focus on sour, barrel aged, and wild ales - all the little organisms bursting with possibility, and voted most likely to make your wine or Bud Light drinking friends say "This is beer?!?"
The Westport Farmers' Market Opens May 17th w/ Great Vendor Lineup, Food Trucks + "Chopped At The Market"Features Ingredients Farmers Market Westport
As a proud sponsor for The Westport Farmers' Market, CTbites is pleased to announce, the 2018 summer season.
While it’s fair to say this long, cool spring has taken a toll on many of us, Westport Farmers’ Market shoppers and vendors have especially felt its bite. We’re happy to report the wait is over; the vision of supporting the best market in the area is in sight. In just a over a week, on Thursday, May 17th, the Westport Farmers’ Market will return for its 12th year 50 Imperial Avenue.
There will be new faces among other vendors, too, including Grateful Food Company offering plant-based fare, and Norm Bloom & Sons with local oysters. In addition to new faces – even those whose identity is still a secret – familiar favorites will return, including last winter’s newest guest vendor, Cross Culture Kombucha, who will be pouring booch on site, and farm favorites Sport Hill; Fort Hill; Riverbank, Two Guys from Woodbridge; Sankow Beaver Brook; Ox Hollow; Beltane; Woodland; Rose’s Berry; Aradia; and Muddy Feet Flower Farm.
Being a beer writer, as you'd expect, has its perks. For a few years one of these was being chosen to serve on a panel of expert judges at the Connecticut Blind Beer Awards, a competition between a dozen local beers which takes the popularity contest aspect out of the equation by serving each from unlabeled, color-coded taps. The event is held each year at the Blind Rhino in South Norwalk, and while brewery representatives are on hand in case their brewery wins one of the awards, they are sequestered away from public view in the bar's basement to bottle share, play beer pong, and perform impromptu interior decorating with some cans of spray paint they found, until the Experts Choice and People's Choice are handed out. I had no formal connection with the awards this year, attending instead as a civilian, and drank all twelve of the CT beers on tap. Here is how that went.
I submit that raw milk might just be the most real of all foods.
Start with the fact that milk is the only food created specifically to feed something. (Honey doesn’t count, as the pollen honey is made from has its own agenda.) Synonymous with nourishment, raw milk is the first food most human beings—all mammals—ingest. And raw milk, for it to be free of any off flavors and to be safe to drink, requires painstaking care to produce. Every little step in the process matters.
The subtle and intricate flavors in raw milk, the very opposite of the one-note flavor of pasteurized milk or, worse, the waxy cardboard taste vacuum of skim, come from the undenatured biocomplexity in unpasteurized milk. When I read chemists-for-hire claiming, on behalf of big commercial dairy, that there isn't that much nutritional difference between pasteurized and raw, I choose to trust my palate. Well, my palate and the biochemists who say that the difference is real and considerable.
Move over, all you factory-produced, sugar blasted, oat-heavy granolas - there’s a new-chew in town. It’s just about that time of year when your pantry could use a purge so make some room for Sarah Tamm’s small-batch delights; time to stock up on IVY’S GOURMET granola. With a predominance of fruits, seeds and nuts as the base for all her granola blends, Tamm uses dynamic spice combinations to brighten the palette and creates interesting flavor profiles - both sweet and savory. Sure, you can purchase Chocolate Almond or Cinnamon Raisin if the “norm” is what rolls your oats. But why not be daring and try something out of the ordinary? Curry Cashew, by chance? Strawberry Rosewater? Sarah Tamm has created bold and satisfying artisanal granola, sold in several sizes from snack to bulk.
Yup...It's back for Easter. A half-gallon glass jug of Stew’s Chocolate Bunny Milk will be available for $5.99 starting on March 20, 2018 at all six Stew Leonard’s locations. Stew Leonard’s signature farm fresh milk is mixed with creamy milk chocolate to create a sweet, irresistible chocolate milk that tastes just like a classic chocolate Easter bunny. Stew Leonard’s milk is delivered fresh to our stores from award-winning dairy farms in upstate NY and is free from artificial growth hormones (rBST) and antibiotics. The milk will only be available for a limited time.