Father’s Day is Sunday, June 20, and it’s probably a good day for Dad to hit the trail; the Connecticut Beer Trail that is.
What better way to celebrate the dad in your life then to take him out exploring Connecticut’s ever-growing craft breweries?
After a year of being buttressed, like many businesses, by the ongoing coronavirus, the state’s craft brew industry is uniquely poised to enjoy a roaring comeback this year.
Many of Connecticut’s brewers have long relied on large outdoor spaces as part of their business model. That, combined with what experts see as a massive pent-up demand by consumers to gather with friends and family, means craft breweries are likely to be one of the most popular gathering places this summer and fall.
And luckily, Connecticut is home to more than a hundred craft breweries, all within about an hour’s drive.
Connecticut has an official beer trail program, at connecticut.beer.com, to support its craft beer industry. You can visit the site to see the complete list of all the state’s breweries and sign up for the beer passport program. Similar to the Connecticut wine trail initiative, you get a ‘beer passport,’ collect stamps at the breweries you visit and amass points that you can cash in for prizes, such as branded hats, t-shirts and coolers.
So, if you’re ready to hop on the trail, let’s take a look at some of our local breweries, starting with one right in our own backyard, Hops on the Hill Farm Brewery at 275 Dug Road.
Billed as a “farm to glass” brewery, Hops on the Hill opened about two years ago and is owned and operated by Al and Nancy Gondek. The brewery is in a 75-year-old tobacco barn located on Al’s farm that was used to dry cigar tobacco.
As you drive up the driveway, you will see the hops that Al grows on the farm leading to the brewery. Most of HOTH beer is made from the hops grown on their farm and from Connecticut grown grains.
"Like all the great beer cultures of the world, we think of beer as food. Our hope is that when you drink our beers you have the same “mmmm” reaction as when you take a bite of fresh baked bread still warm from the oven," Al says.
In addition, “Hops on the Hill Brewery welcomes Joey Lushing as the new head brewer as of January, 2021. Joey has over 20 years’ experience brewing craft beer and is a local resident of South Glastonbury.” Al says.
HOTH is introducing a new line up of beers consisting of ales, IPAs, DIPAs Hefeweizens, and they are excited to now have seasonal fruit beers and sours. For non-beer drinkers, there is also wine, red and white available by the glass, locally made hard cider, non-alcohol beer, as well as a variety of soft drinks.
The brewery is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 1-4 p.m; Saturdays and Sundays 1-6 p.m. There are numerous special events planned at HOTH throughout the year, Al says.
“We have food trucks scheduled every day that we are open and we have private events where people can rent our tent for bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, parties and corporate fundraisers.”
Some of the food trucks at Hops on the Hill include Skyscraper Sandwich, Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, Square Peg Pizzeria and Tap House Street Kitchen.
There’s acoustic music planned throughout the summer, a “Cigar Day” on June 13 and Sept. 26, Cruise Nights every Thursdays from 4-8 p.m., and special pilates and yoga classes on various days of the season. Events are posted on their website, hopsonthehillbrewery.com. Al says, a special“Vendors Day” is scheduled for Nov. 3.
HOTH also sponsors “Pick Your Own Sunflowers.” They provide the clippers to cut the flowers, all you need is a camera for a perfect photo with the sunflowers as a back drop and a vase to take them home in after purchase. Bring your own lawn chairs and sit in the fields and enjoy the view with a brew!
Here are some other local craft breweries we recommend you check out.
Paddle Creek Beer Company, 1277 Main St., East Hartford. Paddle Creek opened as an official brewery in August of 2020 as a craft brewer. Paddle Creek features a seven-barrel brew system, an indoor tap room and outdoor patio which features local food trucks to compliment a wide selection of beers. Patrons will find familiar styles like New England IPA, as well as unique brews like German Kolsch, Maple Irish Red, Stouts, Porters, and popular seasonals. The brewery is open Fridays through Sundays and hosts food trucks on each day. paddlecreekbeer.com, 860-289-2337.
Phantom Brewing Company, 290 Murphy Road, Hartford. Phantom Brewing is a taproom and home brew supply company in Hartford. Phantom offers a variety of styles for all beer lovers. There are lagers, dark beers, sours and IPAs, to name a few. Phantom opened in April of 2020 and is one of the newer craft brew houses on Connecticut’s beer scene. The brewery offers indoor and outdoor seating options and features weekly events and food trucks. There is also space for private events.Phantom Brewing Company began as a daydream between two friends about two years ago. Jon Patrie and Bo Kolcio would throw ideas back and forth as they stood in their craft brew supply store sipping and evaluating their latest creations. What could a brewery look like right here in the store? phantom-brewing.com, 860-247-2969.
Stranger Tides Brewing, 199 Old Hartford Road, Colchester. Stranger Tides opened its doors on January 19th, 2019. The brewery is a family run and family friendly business. "We always wanted a space that everyone can enjoy including parents that unfortunately didn't have a babysitter, just like my wife and I when we went to breweries. The next chapter for us is transitioning to a gastro pub, where all foods are cooked over fire. Everything from salads and appetizers to entree and deserts. Our 2,200 square foot space is available for any type of party rental you can think of. facebook.com/strangertidesbrewing, (516) 330-4773
Other breweries in the greater Hartford region:
City Steam Brewing, 942 Main St., Hartford. citysteambrewery.com, 860-525-1600.
Hog River Brewing Company, 1429 Park St, Hartford. Hogriverbrewing.com, 860-206-2119.
Thomas Hooker Brewing Co., 16 Tobey Road, Bloomfield. Hookerbeer.com, 860-461-0425.
Elicit Brewing Company, 165 Adams St., Manchester. Elicitbrewing.com 860-791-8440.
Labyrinth Brewing Company, 148 Forest St., Manchester. Labyrinthbrewingcompany.com, 860-791-2295.
Urban Lodge Brewing Co. 47 Purnell Place, Manchester. Urbanlodgebrewing.com, 860.791.8100.
2nd Bridge Brewing Company, 642 Hilliard St., Manchester. 2ndbridgebrewing.com, 860-783-8580.
Still Hill Brewery, 1275 Cromwell Ave., Rocky Hill. stillhillbrewery.com, 860-436-6368.
Concentric Brewing Company, 91 Main St., Portland. Concentricbrewing.com, 860-997-6221.
Forest City Brewing, 180 Johnson St., Middletown. facebook.com/ForestCityBrewing, 860-788-2138.
Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company, 180 Johnson St., Middletown. stubbornbeauty.com.
Powder Hollow Brewery, 504 Hazard Ave., Enfield & 62 Washington St., Middletown. powderhollowbrewery.com, 860-996-0092.
Connecticut Valley Brewing Company, 765 Sullivan Ave., South Windsor. Ctvalleybrewing.com, 860-644-2707.
Hop Culture Farms & Brew Co., 144 Cato Corner Road, Colchester.Hopculturefarms.com, 860-305-9556.
Back East Beer, 1296A Blue Hills Ave., Bloomfield. Backeastbrewing.com, 860-242-1793.