Last week I heard from an old friend. She asked if I was still writing. I told her yes, but didn’t ask if she was practicing the art of scrive. She’s nationally known and I see her bylines everywhere.
She had an opportunity for a “Spirits” columnist in a bi-monthly magazine focused on New Haven. It was very interesting. But first I did my due diligence (okay, I Googled them). Very promising. Picturesque and visually pleasing. Nice content, interesting subjects and well written. But because I possess a tangential mind I began to focus on the the location of the group publisher, Simsbury, CT. Because even though I lived in neighboring Avon, our bus stop was in Simsbury, on Hopmeadow Road. HOPmeadow. I took it as a sign to look into the breweries and distilleries of Simsbury, because of our current obsession with hoppy, slightly bitter IPA’s and the historical aspect of the street name.
Did Metacomet look down on rippling fields of hops before he burned olde Simsbury in King Phillip’s War? Was Weatogue the Munich of Connecticut? Was the wine made from the grapes depicted on our state flag drinkable? I don’t know, but the legacy of those ancient quaffs is all around us today.
While there are no active breweries in Simsbury, meaning one that boils their own wort; a mix of germinated grain that’s been slightly roasted called malt, water and hop buds, which look like pine cones- there is McLadden’s on Wilcox Street. They serve 46 different varieties of beer on tap, from local to international, and have a full menu of pub and bistro fare to accompany your pint or flight, which is a small tasting of 4 brews. Try a flight and then a pint of your favorite.
Red Stone Pub on Jim Gallagher Way has fewer choices on draft, but makes up for it by offering 55 different bottled and canned beers. Try the Back East Brewing Porter on tap, a dark, malty pint reminiscent of British Porters that’s brewed in neighboring Bloomfield. Just 8 miles away in New Hartford the Brewery Legitimus is turning out deliciously crafted IPA’s, saisons, stouts, ales and even a German-style Kolsch. They host tours of their facility and if you haven’t seen where beer comes from it’s fascinating. You can also taste and tour Back East Brewery on Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield. When asked I say my personal favorite is Olde Burnside Brewing in East Hartford. Their tasting room is a tin roofed hut. They charge by the head (usually $10-$15 per person) for unlimited beers served in polystyrene cups and offer five beers for tasting on weekends. It’s like an old fishing camp but I love their clear, crisp Steel Penny Ale and the child friendly atmosphere where my daughter can let the grandkids run amok while she puts on a buzz. And one ray of hope. During my research for this article I learned someone is opening the (ta da!) Hopmeadow Brewing Company! this year, but I think it’s located in Avon. Maybe next year, Simsbury, maybe next year.
Or perhaps Simsbury is well, dare I say it? A wine town? Must be because there’s a glorious vineyard in the Weatogue section. Rosedale Farms and Vineyards hosts tastings July through October, but has a store open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays where local farm products and Rosedale wines can be purchased. I’m a wine person and was pleased with the versatility of Rosedale’s local grapes. Marechal Foch, Cayuga, Seyval, Marquette and St Croix varietals excelled on their own or blended with Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon in an eminently drinkable, elegant little quaff. Within 10 miles two other very good wineries offer tours, cases, tastings, events and bottles. Lost Acres Vineyard on Lost Acres Road in North Granby and Brignole Vineyards on Hartford Avenue in East Granby. From Brignole’s I loved the Red Dragon, which reminded me of a rich, well aged Spainish wine from Penedes and from Lost Acres I loved the Salmon Brook Rose. Mostly Seyval Blanc with a touch of merlot grapes (skins on) for the rosy color.
Finally, what would a spirits column be with out spirits. Nearby Bloomfield again offers a solution with Waypoint Spirits on Woodland Avenue offers tastings and tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Primarily a distributor you can also find their gin, vodka, spiced vodka, rum and spiced rum in over 70 Connecticut Package Stores and 90 bars and restaurants including Cracker Barrel Pub in Tarriffville, and (Oh, be still my heart…pun intended) The Hop Meadow Country Club!
For a more rural spirits experience visit Full Moonshine at Hickory Ledges Farm Bahre Corner Road, Canton. They make real moonshine, an apple jack, a cranberry, and a maple moonshine. Their tasting room is open on weekends. And the farm dates back to 1797 and has always made whisky.