I discovered the Willimantic Brewing Company (also called “Willibrew” by fans) as a junior at UConn’s Storrs campus, and ever since then I’ve been hooked. Between the food, the beer, and the atmosphere, there’s just no place quite like it. It’s definitely worth the trip if you find yourself in the northeast corner of the state.
Food of Willibrew
When it comes to food, the Willimantic Brewing Company has a mix between your typical pub fare and higher-end items you might find in a steakhouse. The menu is rather expansive, ensuring that you’ll find something for everyone (even vegetarians!).
I’ve been to the restaurant a number of times, and I’ve always gotten the New York strip, served with beer-glazed onions and garlic mashed potatoes. It’s one of my favorite meals, period, and I highly recommend it.
Friends of mine have tried the fish and chips, the loaded nachos, and various sandwiches and have never had any complaints. (One dish, the New England Clam Chowder, was described by a friend as smelling “putrid” but tasting delicious; take that as you may.)
Tastes aside, the price points for food varies from lows of around $12 a plate to highs of around $25. My steak meal was one of these pricier items. No matter your price preference, you should be able to find something within your budget.
If you’re someone who keeps beer selection in mind when choosing a new place to eat, then don’t write the Willimantic Brewing Company off. After all, it’s got “Brewing” right in its name!
Right now, the restaurant has nine original brews on tap, ranging from IPAs to ales, stouts, and everything in between. The beer list is constantly rotating as beer runs out and is replaced with new concoctions, so you’re sure to find something new every time you go. I’m a fan of the Edge of Darkness American Brown Ale. (I’ve also tried the Beyond Dark Stout, which missed the mark for me.) If you’d like to sample a number of the beers before you commit to ordering just one, I’d recommend getting yourself a flight (or sampler) for that exact purpose.
Beyond the beers brewed on premise, the restaurant also offers around 30 other varieties from craft breweries from around New England.
The company is housed in the old granite and limestone U.S. Postal Building, which was built in 1909. The high ceilings of the building make me think of a German beerhall, while the lighting and décor makes me think of a cozy pub. It’s a unique place to sit and have a drink or meal.
Speaking of décor, you’ll find the walls of the restaurant covered in two things: Paraphernalia from various breweries (including old and new advertising, signage, and more) and frogs.
If you aren’t familiar with the history of Windham, you might be wondering why frogs are incorporated into the décor. The short story is that frogs are sort of the unofficial town mascot. The long story, for those interested in history, is below.
Being so close to the UConn campus, you’ll regularly find many college students in the restaurant and seated at the bar, but this is far from a college hangout. Beer and food enthusiasts of all ages and walks of life frequent the restaurant as well, so no one should feel out of place.
The Battle of the Frogs
In June of 1754, the residents of Windham went to bed only to be awoken in the wee hours by an odd, frightening sound that echoed through the hills surrounding the area. During this time, Native American tribes regularly warred in the area, and many believed the sounds to be screams from a battle (though some admittedly believed the sound to be the trumpets of Judgment Day).
When morning came, the truth became known. A drought in the area had dried up much of the water surrounding Windham, except for a small pond near the town. In an effort to search for water, hundreds of frogs from all around descended upon the tiny pond, as it was the only water available to them. This of course led to confrontation among the animals: Hundreds of bullfrog corpses littered the ground around the pond.
In essence, the theory that the sound came from warring tribes wasn’t too far off: Only, instead of fighting Native Americans, the sound was coming from frogs.
Ever since, frogs have become a source of local pride, and they adorn public landmarks as well as businesses. The more you know, right?
If You Want to Go
The brewing company is located at 967 Main Street, Willimantic (or Windham, depending on what your GPS says). There is a small parking lot next to the building, but if you can’t find a spot there you should be okay parking on the street or in a small lot just around the corner.
The restaurant is open Mondays from 4pm to 1am, Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30am to 1am, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30am to 2am, and Sundays from 11:30am to 1am.