Black Hog, a nickname for the Berkshire pig…arguably one of the best tasting meats around. The name conjures up pig roasts, people coming together as a community, and celebrating over some brews. “The slower and the lower, the better it is for cooking Berkshire pig. I’ve had pig roasts for both of my kids birthdays. They are respectful because we use the whole animal and it’s communal. That theme, that idea of community and celebration…that’s what we want to propagate,” proudly shared Jason Sobocinski, one of the owners of the brand new Black Hog Brewing Co. that is opening up this summer in Oxford. Also, with an equal part in the brewery is Jason’s brother Tom who owns Caseus with Jason and Headbrewer Tyler Jones.
We had the chance to talk with Jason about Black Hog, Tyler, the brewery itself, their beer, the beer community in CT, and their plans for the future. So, sit back, sip on a cold one, and check out why we are so damn excited for this brewery.
Beginnings, Background, and Getting Down to Business
Jason and Tom run Caseus together, a wildly successful cheese shop, restaurant, and food truck in New Haven. You might also know Jason from Ordinary or even his Cooking Channel Show, “The Big Cheese.” So, given its popularity, it would be no surprise at all to learn that people become regulars at Caseus for their spectacular food.
One such person was Tyler Jones who often came to CT to visit his wife’s in-laws. After having a baby, Tyler and his wife wanted to move to CT to be closer to where she grew up. Try as he might, he couldn’t find any Headbrewer job to take the place of his brewmaster job at Portsmouth Brewpub. And…this is where the awesomeness began.
For the longest time, Tom and Jason dreamt of starting their own brewery together. But, where would they open it, how could they afford a building, and how would they get the funding to make it happen? They have dabbled in homebrewing before, but things changed quite considerably when Cavalry Brewing in Oxford came up for sale. At first, Tom and Jason weren’t sure about owning a brewery in Oxford because their base of operations is New Haven. But, after visiting the spot and thinking about it (no doubt over some brews), they were ready to take things to the next level.
The brothers formed a plan, talked with Tyler, and that was the start of Black Hog. But, to make the dream a reality, they reached out to friends and other brew-minded folks to help invest in Black Hog. Basically, both Tom and Jason built the idea of the brewery around Tyler Jones, helping an “amazing artisan” (as Jason refers to him) start his own business.
The Brewer, The Brews
Tyler Jones garnered an impressive reputation at Portsmouth Brewpub (sister brewery of Smuttynose) and was sorely missed when he left. Not only does he hold a degree in engineering, he also earned his Master Brewers Certificate at UC Davis. Before Portsmouth, he spent some time at Mercury Brewing Co. in Ipswich, MA, but Portsmouth knew what was going on and snatched him up quickly.
And now, he’s here in CT, ready to brew up some beer that will get people talking…and drinking. Yeah, drinking a lot. And, he’s brought some nice souvenirs back from NH, namely Chinook, Cascade, and Magnum rhizomes that they have begun to plant in small batches at the brewery. While Tyler might only be able to do a couple of batches with the hops that they are growing now, they ultimate plan is to find a nice plot of farm land (5-6 acres would be ideal) and grow even more. In addition, Jason’s helping out by bringing some of his bees (he has a hive worth at home) to the brewery so that they can use some of the honey in select beers.
As for the beers themselves, Jason, Tom, and Tyler plan to have a few solid brews that will anchor the brewery, but they also plan to do seasonal brews and lots of experimental and “wacky” stuff. “It’s the kind of stuff,” Jason shared, “that we’ll brew once, but you’ll never see again.” At the heart of these experimental and experiential beers is the passion behind Caseus: keeping things local. They will feature ingredients from local farms as much as possible, just like they do at Caseus. Also, they will donate a portion of their sales to local farms and organizations and also give their spent grain to local farms, too.
Starting off, they’ll be featuring three summery ales. The first that they shared with us is a beer with an incredibly special origin: Red Ginga’ Ninja. This beer is a red ale that is brewed with 10 lbs. of fresh ginger per batch. Jason sees this as becoming their flagship beer because it’s refreshing, it’s perfect for BBQ, and goes so nicely with pork…and who doesn’t love those? Oh, and the story behind this ale? This was Tyler’s gift to his wife (a redhead) for their wedding, brewed to impress and woo her. Jason quipped, “Tyler said it’s because she’s sharp and cunning.”
The Brewery + Tasting Room
Jason likened the trip to the brewery in Oxford like an adventure. To get there, he drives past a waterfall, goes up a hill, drives through an industrial park, and there behind the buildings is a wooded area…Black Hog Brewery. The building itself is “chock full of equipment,” and holds a 15 barrel system, so Tyler will be able to go crazy and crank out some great brews. But, Jason wanted to make something clear: “We’re not opening up a brewpub. We just want to make great beer.”
Yes, there will be a tasting room, so you’ll be able to try everything or sit back and just let the day float away with some great beer. Tours will be available, too, so you can see how and where the magic happens. Tentative opening days are Thursday through Sunday, so make sure to keep those days free during the summer.
While you’re at the brewery, you’ll also need to get your hand on their Squealers. Squealer, yes, squealer. When Jason and Tom discovered that was the name for a 32 oz. bottle, they knew these were perfect for Black Hog. Their reasoning (and we agree) is that if you want to take some fresh beer back from a brewery in growlers, you often can’t finish it fast enough. Having these Squealers, though, will help you to be able to drink it all and not feel like the worst person in the world for not finishing all the beer in time. Oh, and a little inside info…you’ll want to be a part of the Black Hog Squealer Club! The money they raise from this will help them to purchase a growler (er, Squealer?) filler at the brewery.
Even if you can’t make it to the brewery, you’ll be able to get long neck bottles of Black Hog at stores. They won’t be producing cans at the moment, though that’s a direction they’d love to go in. Caseus, Ordinary, and Mikro Beer Bar will get first dibs on having Black Hog Brewing on tap, so you now you know where to get your first drinks.
Beer + Cheese Philosophy
When asked if there were similarities between beer and cheese, Jason shared that there’s so much in common that “it’s ridiculous.” He continued: “First and foremost, when I first got into cheese, people seemed intimidated by it. It smells funny, it looks funny, and the names are unpronounceable. ” He discovered that people were also intimidated by wine, so he felt that it would be too much up front and that’s when he realized how amazing it would be to pair all his cheeses at the shop with beer. When it comes to Black Hog brews, each beer will have a specific and official cheese pairing to go with it.
Continuing on, Jason shared more of why beer and cheese go so perfectly together. Beer has effervescence, cheese has fats…so the beer ends up breaking down the fats, while most wine just slides over fats. He put it another way, referring back to what his friend Brian at Mystic Cheese says: “Look at what cows eat…they eat grains. Do they eat grapes?” In fact, what Brian and Jason are pointing out is that cows, cheese, and beer complete an entire ecosystem, quite a perfect circle.
The CT Beer Community
Having always been big fans of beer, Jason, Tom, and Tyler have great respect for breweries. And, Jason felt incredibly happy to discover a network of great people in the CT beer community. He recently visited Two Roads and talked with Brad Hittle about what Black Hog will be all about. “Two Roads was supportive, saying they’d help us out and do anything they could to help foster our success. They and the beer community sees us not as competitors, just companions.”
Jason then ended our conversation by touting the virtues of other local breweries: “New England Brewing Company is on the way to Black Hog, so if you take 63 to 67, we’re right off of there. You could stop at NEBCO, have some beers, then shoot up the road, hit us up, and even check out B. United’s new brewery, OEC (Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores), in Oxford too.”
Summer’s never seemed so sweet.