Upon our arrival in the Back East tasting room, we were pleasantly greeted by tasting room manager, Jamie Farrell, and offered some samples of the beers available that day. Shortly thereafter we met with co-founder, Tony Karlowicz, and head brewer, Mike Smith, to discuss the brewery as it neared two full years of business. Founders Tony and Edward are cousins who both developed a love and appreciation for good beer – Tony while in college in Vermont and Edward while in San Diego. Edward began homebrewing while in CA in the 90’s and, after moving ‘Back East’ to CT, he and Tony took up homebrewing together in 2006. As the brewery opened, they hired their first employee, Mike Smith, as head brewer. Mike has an extensive list of professional brewing experience, including time in Boston at Harpoon and Mayflower and is currently assisted in brewing duties by Matt Paonessa.
Back East offers four year round beers – Golden Ale, Back East Ale (amber), Misty Mountain IPA, and Porter – in six pack cans as well as on draught in accounts throughout CT. On top of those, there is a selection of four beers released seasonally – Oktoberfest, Winterfest with cinnamon and local honey, Spring Ale Biere de Mars, and Summer Ale hoppy blonde. The Summer Ale is the first seasonal to be canned, utilizing shrink wrap labels, and will be released into the market this Friday, June 13th. In addition, the Back East releases high gravity beers under their Hammer of the Gods series. The initial release was an Imperial Stout, followed by Palate Mallet Double IPA which is scheduled to hit shelves in 4-packs of cans in July. It is clear that Back East Brewing Co. is doing their part to draw consumers towards craft in this young CT movement. The brewery is located a short 15 minute drive north of Hartford so pay them a visit for some free samples and to make some new friends in the tasting room.
After getting in touch with Mark, the owner/ head brewer/ sole-operator of Relic Brewing, we visited with him on a rainy Tuesday morning. The brewery was not open to the public that day, so we talked with him while he kept himself busy brewing away. Mark is very well traveled and has been to over 50 countries across the world, so we first spent some time talking about our travel experiences. He ended up ordering a pizza later on, so we all indulged while tasting some of his unique, delicious, small-batch beers and talked about which breweries we need to visit later in our trip. If we weren’t on such a tight budget, I would have definitely walked out of there with some of the artwork hung in the taproom for sale, but alas, we are, so we said our goodbyes and ran out to the van in the rain.
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.