#107 – Thimble Island Brewing Company in Branford, CT

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(1)THE BREWERY & OUR EXPERIENCE

Thimble Island Brewing Company was founded in 2010 by two longtime friends and CT shore natives, Mike Fawcett and Justin Gargano. The two had spent some time brewing out of a converted garage but soon realized that they would need to upgrade to larger equipment and purchase a facility in order to make their dream a success. Knowing that they are very busy on days when they are not open for public tastings, we were sincerely grateful that the guys opened up their doors to chat with us and share their story. They began distribution in July of 2012 with solely their American Ale, a tasty amber of which they are quite proud. Mike shared that the Coffee Stout was introduced after about six months and, due to its popularity and his desire to drink it at anytime in the year, was added to the year round offerings. Finally, their IPA featuring Cascade, Northern Brewer, and Falconer’s Flight hops was added around the one year anniversary.

Now approaching the end of their second full year of operation, Thimble Island has quite a lot going on. In addition to a large expansion into a new space nearby with a new 30 bbl brewery and upgraded bottling line, the brewing schedule is packed. The plans are to release four different seasonal beers as well as four additional beers staggered within each season under their Uncharted series. More information on that schedule can be found below but we were able to sample some of the Sandbar Brown as well as the huge, Citra inspired Ghost Island Double IPA. Make sure to pay these friendly guys a visit during open house hours for free samples of their year round and available seasonal beers and, if elsewhere in Connecticut, keep an eye out for new beers on shelves in six packs.

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(2) VITAL INFORMATION

Date of our visit: Monday, 04/14/2014
Open since: July 2012
Projected bbl Output 2014: 1,000+ (much more depending on timetable of expansion)
Brewhouse size: 7 bbl
Founder(s): Justin Gargano and Mike Fawcett
Head Brewer: Mike Fawcett
Packaging: Kegs & limited bottles
Distribution: Self Distributing throughout CT

Other things we learned:

*The brewery is named for the archipelago in the Long Island Sound near Branford. A pirate, Captain William Kidd, used to frequent the waters and some believe his treasure is buried in the area.
*Sold their first beer, American Ale, to KC’s Pub in Guilford, CT.
* Started with 7 bbl fermenters but upgraded to 15 bbl this last summer and added a 30 bbl bright tank.
* Opening up room after room to expand. They were originally in one bay and have quadrupled space since opening.
* 4 head Meheen bottling line does 30-35 cases/hour. It has been in use since this past November. Currently available is the American Ale, however, Coffee Stout & IPA are to be bottled soon.
* Attending beer festivals throughout CT but not out of state at this time.
* They are not selling bottles on site but growler fills are available at the taproom.
* Free tastings during weekday taproom hours (Wed-Sun). Guided tours on Saturdays at 12, 2, & 4 PM

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(3) BEERS WE TASTED DURING OUR VISIT

* American Ale (Amber)
* Coffee Stout
* IPA
$ Sandbar Brown Ale
$ Ghost Island Double IPA
*=Year Round $=Uncharted Series
* Complete listing of beers
*On Tap Now

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What we learned about their beer during our visit:

*Started off with the American Ale – Amber; 6 months later added Coffee Stout (available year round) made with local roaster, Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea ; IPA was added for the one year anniversary.
* Plans to add a fourth beer to year round line-up by this summer.
*Uncharted Series: seasonal beers and then specialty beers are released mid-way through each season (new beer about every month and a half). Ghost Island Double IPA in Spring, Windjammer Wheat Ale in Summer, Dark Pumpkin Porter in Fall, Black Lager in Winter. Q1 SandBar Brown Ale, Q2 Pale Ale, Q3 Strong Belgian Golden, Q4 Russian Imperial Stout

(4) EXPANSION PLANS

* Expanding into new building next door. Getting 30 bbl brewhouse, 90 bbl fermenters and new bottling line. The goal to open up by summer 2014.

(5) BACKGROUND OF PEOPLE WE SPOKE TO

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[L-R: Me, Dave, Mike, Justin, Michael]

Name: Dave Morgan
Been with company since: 2012
Previous Occupation(s): Restaurant industry
Favorite Superhero: Spiderman

Name: Mike Fawcett
Title: Founder and Head Brewer
Previous Brewing Experience: Homebrewing
Previous Occupation(s): IT
Favorite Superhero: Jubilee

Name: Justin Gargano
Title: Founder
Previous Brewing Experience: Homebrewing
Previous Occupation(s): IT
Favorite Superhero: Doc Brown from Back to the Future

(6) MORE LINKS ABOUT BREWERY

List of helpful links like taproom hours, main website, upcoming events, etc…
* Brewery Website
* Tasting & Tour

(7) You can find the rest of our photos here

Author: Brandon Wurtz

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