Connecticut Craft Beer in Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County

The Litchfield History Museum is hosting a lecture on the history of Connecticut beer making on November 19 at 7 p.m. at the Litchfield History Museum located on the corner of Rte. 63 south and West Street in Litchfield.

The history of the frothy beverage in Connecticut dates back to early colonists, who used it to quench their thirst in the absence of clean drinking water. Over the next two centuries,the number of breweries rose and then declined, especially after Prohibition.

It was not until the 1980s that home brewers brought this vital Nutmeg State tradition back to life. Join Will Siss, author and Connecticut Beer Snob, as he discusses his new book about the history of brewing in the Nutmeg State.

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The craft beer craze sweeping the country has taken firm hold in Western Connecticut, where half a dozen micro breweries offer unique tastes on tap as well as the chance to sample and tour their one-of-a-kind facilities. Beer aficionados will discover many creative new combinations as young brewers experiment with intriguing ingredients.

Some of these beer makers have lost no time being recognized. Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford was included in Boston Magazine’s “21 Top Breweries in New England and” O.E.C. Brewing in Oxford was Connecticut Magazine’s 2015 pick as best in the state.

Meeting the brewers is part of the fun of a visit as their backgrounds and goals are as unique as their products. Contact each property for current tasting and tour times.

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Oxford Scholars
OEC stands for the Latin phrase, Orinen Ecentrici Coctores, loosely translated as The Eccentric Brewers Influenced by the lost brewing traditions of Northern Germany and Belgium, this Oxford brewery does not filter or pasteurize any of their ales. The award-winning results include a number of sour beers and unusual brews such as Albus, a historic interpretation of a white ale and Arcanum, modeled after an extinct German style ale. 203-502-9768, www.oecbrewing.com

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Black Hog Brewery, another Oxford operation, just opened for business in July, 2014 but their popular brews can already be found in neighboring Rhode Island and New York… Veteran Brewmaster Tyler Jones honed his skills at Smuttynose and the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire and Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Beer choices include. Ginga’ Ninja, a Red India Pale Ale brewed with ginger; Granola Brown Ale, brewed with oatmeal; S.W.A.G., a Summer Wheat Ale made with grapefruit peel; and Nitro Coffee Milk Stout. 203-262-6075, blackhogbrewing.com/

Young proprietors who have realized a dream with their breweries hope to inspire others to their own fulfillment. Conor Horrigan, founder of Stamford’s Half Full Brewery is a former Wall Street executive who put in four years of study and fund raising before the brewery’s first beers were poured on August 7, 2012. The name tells everyone his philosophy that a positive outlook can make for a more rewarding life.

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Half Full produces a variety of ales including seasonal flavors such as pumpkin ale for fall and Winter White., 203-658-3631, halffullbrewery.com

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“Get Lit” the slogan at Firefly Hollow Brewing in Bristol refers to ideas not imbibing. The owners say. “We are a conglomerate of creative minds who believe we can make the world a better place by providing an atmosphere and a product conducive to creative expression.” Firefly is in the midst of an expansion that will double its production. Among its popular brews on tap are Toadstool Oat Stout-, Moonrise Amber and Penumbra Cream Ale., 860-845-8977, www.fireflybrewing.com

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Luck of the Irish
Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott takes its playful name from an Irish Gaelic word meaning “illegal brewhouse. “ Rich Visco the co-founder hails from Derry, Northern Ireland. The mural in the Tasting Room depicts his drinking adventures in Galway. Along with its signature Irish Pale Ale, the brewery creates unusual combinations like their Cannoli Beer and CucumberWasabi along with seasonals such as Pumpkin Scotch and Concord Grape Saison., 203-514-2336. shebeenbrewing.com

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From Pabst to Pints

Brad Hittle, a former Pabst marketing executive, and brew master Phil Markowski head the team of Stratford’s award-winning Two Roads Brewery. Founded in 2012, Two Roads is known for its wide range and creative names such as Road 2 Ruin, “a temptingly hoppy ale,” and Unorthodox, a Russian Imperial stout aged in Aquavit barrels. The experimental Road Less Traveled Series includes Philsamic, a sour beer made with aged balsamic vinegar. 203-335-2010. http://tworoadsbrewing.com.

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Down on the Farm
Kent Falls Brewing Company, one of the newer operations, is one of the few farm-based breweries. The owners are producing farmhouse ale in Kent by growing their own hops, drawing water from their own well and sourcing local grains and ingredients. They plan to open their tasting room in the spring of 2016. 860-398-9645, kentfallsbrewing.com

For information about lodging, dining and other activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine throughout Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com

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