Numbers don’t lie (more on that below), but that’s not what Stony Creek Brewery of Branford, CT now believes. They started by producing their 203, 860, and 401 brews right at Thomas Hooker, so they never did have a place of their own. But, that’s soon to change as they get ready for a February/March opening of their brand new brewery in Branford. What will it be like, what changes have they made, and what kind of brews do they have planned? We found out all of those things when we had a nice talk with Sales Director Jamal Robinson who used to work at Blue Point . . . and we’re ready to share everything that we learned: What will it be like?
The new Stony Creek Brewery which is going up fast is a total of 30,000 square feet with 20,000 square feet devoted to just the brewing process. We’re talking about a 30 barrel brewhouse, using 90, 60, and 30 barrel fermenters. In addition, there’s a 2,500 ft² tasting room that will be the center and focus of brewery visits. While you’re drinking, you can watch the bottling and canning process and see how all the liquid deliciousness gets to stores. Above the tasting room is a 2,500 ft² Celebration Room that’s perfect for parties, events, and weddings (who wouldn’t want to get married at a brewery? SICK!). And, when you want to get some fresh air, you can head outside to their 1,500 ft² deck right off of the water. They’ll have bocce, KanJam, fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and more for chilling with some brewskis, too!
Keeping the spirit of collaboration alive, Stony Creek will feature not only their own brews on tap and will have a nitro line, but will also feature other select local beer from around CT. In addition, they’ll even have a local wine on tap if you need to take a break from hops and malts. And, getting back to the idea of collaboration, there are lots of plans simmering! Brewmaster Andy Schwartz is already working with Tyler Jones from Black Hog in Oxford on a brew (believe it or not, they know each other very well and have actually brewed together before). In addition, there are plans to produce a collabo beer with Phil Markowski of Two Roads, so we’re excited to learn more about that, too.
What changes have been made?
First of all, both Jamal and Andy Schwartz were very adamant about a few things when they signed up to work at Stony Creek. The first condition was that they needed to reformulate the brews that they have. Their thinking was that they didn’t think those beers were the best indication of what the new brewery would be like, so they got to work and created better versions of all of them. In addition, they got rid of the area code names and went with simpler names. In addition to the new names is a new focus, new designs, new packaging, and new branding, all put together by a designer in New Haven.
Oh, and Brewmaster Andy Schwartz is new too, but certainly not new to the beer scene. He has worked with Widmer Brothers and Redhook on developing new beers to help push their breweries further. Andy was, literally, brewing up new beers each week on a tiny 3 barrel pilot system. But, when the Crowleys (owners of Stony Creek) approached him with the proposition of taking over Stony Creek, he gave it serious thought. Cementing it all together was the day when Jamal traveled to meet with Andy and try his brews. After Jamal tried his brews like Upheaval and Pumpkin Porter, he knew that Andy had to be a part of the evolution of Stony Creek.
What’s brewing at Stony Creek?
Ah, that’s the golden question: what kind of beer can you expect at the new Branford brewery? Well, in short you can expect a helluva lot.
1) Reworked flagship beers. We already discussed this, but it’s definitely important to note that their first brew will be the Dock Time Amber Lager soon to be followed by their new IPA that comes in now at 6.8% with up front and balanced hops.
2) They’ll also be introducing in a sessionable IPA and everybody’s favorite: a Double IPA!
3) They’ll be creating lots of brews for their nitro tap like a Pale Ale, Black IPA, Coffee Stout, and Imperial Porter.
4) There will be plenty of seasonal brews, but Jamal made it clear that they didn’t want to do the same ol’ seasonals that you can find anywhere else. For example, take their Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Amber Ale. It’s creamy, rich, comes in at 6% and has accents of apple cider and Ceylon cinnamon. It’s a rich beer that screams out fall. For winter, you can drink down a “big, double red” called Snow Hole. According to Jamal, it’s big, rich, and malty (there are 5 or 6 different malts used in the brewing process). Even with all of this flavor, it remains crisp, clean, super-drinkable, complex, and weighs in at a whopping 8.5%. And, for summer, they’re going to be putting out a Belgian Wit that they are calling Sun Juice. It’s made with orange peel, coriander, grapefruit skin, and it’s brewed with a saison yeast strand. The results are, “bright, juicy taste, yet still silky.” Right now it’s coming in at 5.5%.
5) Limited Release beers. Stony Creek calls this series Flip the Bird for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a play on their new tap handles that feature a series of herons. Secondly, it’s also a play on words because they’ll be flipping the brews in the series every four months to make way for new ones. It’s also a middle finger to generic, boring, bland, and expected beer. And, yes, it’s also a fuck you to the big-name beer companies that never thought they could grow and become successful. Yeah, we can identify with that and so can Jamal who said, “My heart was broken with AB bought Blue Point. The sale was great for Blue Point, but not for everybody else . . . and not for me.” Yes, and shortly after Jamal left to help start up Stony Creek.
Here are some of the brews that are on the horizon in the Flip the Bird series (read on to see how you can get first tastes of these soon):
1) Chocolate is modeled after Jamal’s grandma’s chocolate tea (he’s from Jamaica). It has flavors of fresh cocoa, almond, rosewater, vanilla, brown sugar, coconut milk, and some rum. It will be an Imperial Baltic Porter that’s brewed with cocoa nibs and will be aged in rum barrels.
2) The Reposado Negro is a beer that we’re very excited about. Instead of creating the ever-popular barley wine, Andy has created a wheat wine that’s aged in tequila barrels. There are tastes of roasted malts, chocolate, it’s very complex, and creamy. It comes in at 9% and is still pretty easy drinking.
3) Their Crimson Cranky is a DIPA that’s made with blood orange juice that they will dry out and sour with a saison yeast strand. This will be another complex beer with tart notes from the blood orange and happiness.
4) And, the last beer we have to share doesn’t have an official name yet, but we can tell you that it’s a Smoked Berliner Weisse. In this brew they use beechwood smoked barley and oat smoked wheat malt. That brings in oaky and smoky flavors, but they aren’t overpowering. Those flavors get balanced nicely with light, bright, and citrusy notes.
What is the Brew Magic Project?
Jamal shared that Andy is working on a small Brew Magic system right now and making all the brews now while their equipment gets set up. Because they want to give everybody a taste of what they’ve been up to, they decided to start their Brew Magic Project. Basically, Andy will brew up some great batches of beer and bring them to different restaurants, bars, and pubs throughout Connecticut to reintroduce (or introduce) people to what Stony Creek is all about. “We want people to know that we fixed things up, that the beers are better. We also want them to know that this is the kind of brewery we’re going to be. We’ve got lots of beer for entry-level beer drinkers who are just starting off, and will have plenty for people who love and appreciate beer,” shared Jamal. Not like you needed any more incentive to try out and sample beer, but they’ll also be giving away one Mug Club membership at each event. The limit will be 300 per year, but that gets you all kind of goodies like more to drink and special deals.
The next stop on the Brew Magic tour is Cask Republic in Stamford on 11/19 at 6 pm. Come meet Andy and Jamal, too!
While we’ve had the 203 beer from Stony Creek last year and thought it was decent, we’re very excited to taste how things have changed. As planned out, this new brewery will have a huge impact on CT beer and New England beer in general. Plus, it’s just gonna be freaking awesome to hang out there.
So, before they open in February and March, make sure to check out one of the Brew Magic events and get ready because they start brewing their opening batches around January! Happy Freaking New Year CT!