Winter Beer Festival For Connecticut Brews At City Steam
BY LEEANNE GRIFFIN
February 24, 2012
As a who's who of Connecticut beer gathers at City Steam this week, you may see brewmaster Ron Page gazing suspiciously at the ceiling.
"If the roof collapses, it's the end of the Connecticut brewing industry for the next 10 years," he joked.
On Thursday night, March 1, the first City Steam/CT Beer Trail Winter Beer Festival welcomes representatives from virtually every brewery, brew pub and home-brewing business in the state. It's a lot of brain trust in one space, but it speaks to the growing fan base for Connecticut craft beer, said CT Beer Trail's Bryon Turner, founder of the interactive online community that supports the local beer industry.
Turner and City Steam partnered up to host the event, which features beer samplings; a German-themed dinner buffet menu with schnitzel, sauerbraten, kielbasa and a whole suckling pig; and merchandise sales. Priced at just $25, tickets went quickly, and the event is sold out. (Turner is hosting a ticket giveaway on his site, ctbeertrail.net; a winner will be drawn and announced Wednesday.)
"It's a great venue," Turner said of the Hartford brewpub. "It's apropos that we're in the state capital. We're proud of the state's beer. You name it: if they make beer, they're coming out for the event."
Turner turned his enthusiasm for local brews into a lively resource for Connecticut craft beer professionals and fans. He started the website as a way to collect information for himself and his friends, but it evolved into a much larger project as more users joined in.
"In one year, we've gone from five to almost 1,800 registered users," he said.
In addition to sharing the latest news from Connecticut's varied beer producers, Turner's site promotes events, beer dinners and ticket giveaways. Through his relationship with the beer community, he was able to gather all the relevant players for this week's event, the first of its kind in the state.
"The whole goal is to get respect for the Connecticut craft beer community," he said. "There's a lot of great beer in Connecticut; it's a well-kept secret."
The Winter Beer Fest, exclusively featuring Nutmeg State beer, gives equal billing to the state heavyweights (Thomas Hooker, Olde Burnside, New England Brewing Company) and some up-and-coming beermakers, like Calvary of Oxford and Cottrell of Pawcatuck.) It's also a showcase for brand-new and developing businesses eager to introduce their brand to a new audience.
Relic Brewing of Plainville, which received its licensing and permits just two weeks ago, is the state's newest brewery. Owner Mark Sigman said he's excited for the opportunity to debut his brews.
With its 1.5 barrel production, Relic is classified as a "nanobrewery," and for now, Sigman still holds a full-time job. But his first beer, Antiquity, is currently on the shelves in 22-ounce bombers at West Hartford's Harvest Wine and Spirits. For the festival, he plans to pour a black lager and an IPA.
"A lot of breweries use the festivals as market research," he said. "You get to see what people like and don't like."
That's what two developing breweries hope for: Broad Brook Brewing of East Windsor plans to pour an as-yet-unnamed IPA, asking festival attendees to vote on a moniker. And Back East Brewing will be introducing its Back East Amber Ale, which co-owner Tony Karlowicz thinks will become the Bloomfield brewery's signature beer.
The festival will be a way for Back East to "get name recognition out there, get to meet new people, our future customers," Karlowicz said. The brewery on Blue Hills Avenue is slated to open for tastings and tours this summer.
Last June, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill to establish an official "Connecticut Beer Trail," similar to the state's wine trail, to promote the manufacturing and sale of Connecticut-made beer.
The City Steam/ CT Beer Trail Winter Beer Fest will be held March 1 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at City Steam Brewery & Café (942 Main Street, Hartford.) The event is sold out, but a giveaway for a pair of tickets runs until Feb. 29 on ctbeertrail.net. For more information, call 860-525-1600.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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