The Connecticut Beer Trail is one of the best perks of living in CT. In addition to the larger breweries that call our fair state home, Connecticut has got a seemingly never ending variety of microbreweries to choose from.
Microbreweries are great, because they pride themselves on creating high-quality, unique beers that can’t be found on the general market. They experiment with things like flavor, scent, and alcohol content, crafting things you likely won’t find anywhere else. (That’s why they’re also called “craft breweries”—because they elevate beer brewing into an art form.)
I’ve been to a lot of breweries since turning 21, but definitely not to all of them. Here are 5 of the best microbreweries in CT that you should check out.
Located in Wolcott, Shebeen Brewing is one of my favorite microbreweries in CT. It’s a really small place, meaning that it can get a bit crowded, but that only adds to the Irish-pub-like atmosphere that the place is loved for. For $5 you can go through a tour of the facilities and beer-making process, and sample the beers that they’ve got on tap. Make sure you try their famous “Cannoli Beer”—it’s definitely different.
They are open for tours, tastings, and growler fills Thursday and Friday from 5pm to 9pm, Saturday from noon to 7pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm.
Veracious Brewing Company
This Monroe brewery was named one of the top 33 new breweries in the United States in 2016 by Beer Advocate Magazine. They’ve got 14 beers on tap and a number of wines, making this the perfect place for a large group with diverse tastes. In addition to alcohol, they serve a cold-brewed nitrogen infused coffee, which I tasted and wasn’t a fan of, but a lot of people love it.
If you go, you can bring your own food or order from a local restaurant, which will deliver. And there are board games to keep you entertained if you’re used to having a bit of fun while you drink. They now offer tours of the facilities that last 30 minutes and cost $10 (which includes the cost of two samples of beer). The brewery is located next to Maltose Express, a store for beer and wine home brewers, so if you’re interested in trying your hand at something new be sure to stop in—they also often have free samples for you to try!
Veracious is open Thursdays from 3pm to 9pm, Fridays from noon to 9pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 9pm.
Firefly Hollow Brewing Co.
Firefly Hollow is located in Bristol and just celebrated their 3rd anniversary. It’s a small brewery, and they don’t offer any tours, but they pride themselves on knowing everything there is to know about beer—and on teaching that information to their customers. Their slogan is “Get lit” and specifically refers to the process of passing information along to their guests.
I haven’t personally been to this one, but I’ve heard great things from friends and family, and it’s definitely on my list—it should be on yours, too! The brewery is open Thursdays and Fridays from 2pm to 9pm, Saturdays from noon to 9pm, and Sundays from noon to 5pm.
Willimantic Brewing Company
I know I said Shebeen was one of my favorite microbreweries, but the Willimantic Brewing Company is my all time favorite. Located in the old Post Office building in Willimantic, it’s an impressive operation, with a bar and full restaurant. The high ceilings make you feel like you’re in a really upscale place, even though it’s a down to earth environment, and the food, though a bit pricey, is as amazing as the beer.
This is a popular place for college students from the UConn Storrs campus, so that can make things a bit annoying if you want a quieter atmosphere. But even with all of the college kids, it’s not crowded, so you should be able to enjoy your time without feeling like you’re at a frat party.
Also, a bonus: They’re open every day of the week, meaning you aren’t limited to just the weekends like you are with a lot of other small breweries. Their hours are Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11:30am to 1am, Mondays from 4pm to 1am, and Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30am to 2am.
OEC stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores (or, The Order of the Eccentric Boilers) and it just gets weirder from there. The Oxford brewery has styled itself as a sort of modern-day apothecary, relying on ancient brewing traditions and even a bit of mysticism. They even go so far as to grow their own flavoring agents (berries, fruit, spices, etc.) right there on the grounds, so that they can control the process every step of the way.
Their tours are full-blown events compared to other breweries in CT, lasting for 3 hours each. And they sell out quickly—as of right now, 2 of the 3 2017 tours are sold out, leaving only the Oct. 21 tour open for new guests. On the tour, which costs $50, you’ll learn everything about their process, from growing their ingredients to brewing their concoctions. I haven’t been on a tour here yet, but it’s one of my must-dos; it’s too weird not to check out.
Their tasting room hours are sporadic, so you’d do best to either call ahead or check their schedule online before heading over.