The Growth, Future, and Success of Kent Falls Brewing: An Interview w/ Barry Labendz

8 Feb

We’ve written about a ton of restaurants, events, breweries, and we’ve tasted hundreds and hundreds of brews, but we seem to get a rare feeling from time to time. It’s the kind of feeling like we’re in the midst of something great. That we’re going to watch something amazing happen. Well, that’s exactly how we felt when we first talked with Barry Labendz of Kent Falls Brewery last February. Just a few weeks later, Dan met up with Barry and Headbrewer Derek Dellinger at Coalhouse Pizza to taste some first sips of their brews. But, it all came together for us and we knew what a big deal this brewery would be when we went by to tour the farm and their brewhouse.

That was back in June . . . way back in June . . . and since then Kent Falls has cemented themselves quickly as one of the most popular and well-liked breweries in Connecticut. They’ve done this with their stick-to-itiveness, their creativity, their raw talent, and by being true to who they are. Most recently the craft beer community went bonkers with the release of their Juicemaker which is their Waymaker Brett IPA made with fresh mangoes. 

So, what follows is us catching up with Barry and Kent Falls Brewing about what they think of their success, how their time at the farmers’ markets is going, their plan for year-round beer releases, and when they plan to open up the brewery to the public. Plus, some great details on exclusive brews that will be out in the next couple of weeks. Here we go!


1) Some beer geeks are known to be very critical of the beer scene and breweries, but the love for Kent Falls only seems to grow. What do you think accounts for people in the state embracing your beer and what you do?

I hope it’s because they enjoy the beer! To be honest, it feels like we are pretty insulated from that. Being out here on the farm, working as much as we do to get our beer out there and not having been able to share our space with the public yet generates less direct feedback. You’ll have to ask the beer geeks and let me know.
2) You recently were part of an event where breweries collaborated with and had special brews along with Evil Twin Brewing. How was that and how did that come about?
It was amazing! It was actually the second event of a collaboration/blending series put together by the guys at Bacchus Brewery in New Paltz. Mike and Jason (the Bacchus guys) reached out to friends of theirs at breweries in the area – Plan Bee Farm Brewery, Suarez Family Brewery, Threes Brewing and Sloop that they’d made collaborations with for a big tap takeover – one in Albany and one at Torst. In Albany it was all blended beer, at Torst it was pretty much all collaboration batches between the two. Seeing as we are all fairly small and/or new breweries having Evil Twin involved was really cool.  
3) In addition to lots of attention here in CT, you’ve also received some major props from across the nation, including being called a craft brewery to watch in 2016 by Thrillist. What was that like for all of you to find out? 
I try not to put too much stock into lists because it’s one opinion and taste is fairly personal/subjective, but we obviously appreciate the recognition and feel honored to be included in something seen by so many people alongside such talented brewers. To be honest, I had no idea about the Thrillist one coming out (whereas Will Siss emailed me some questions for the piece he contributed to Beer Advocate’s Class of 2015). The morning it came out I got a text from Rocco at Eli Cannon’s with the link and nothing else. I had to pause for a second and wonder why he was sending it to me.  Pretty nuts.
4) When the liquor laws changed in CT, you were the one of the first in the state to begin to sell your own beer at farmers’ markets. How has the response been towards you selling your beer . . . and what about your other products like eggs and hops?
I’m going to give some props to Dave Wollner at Willibrew who I think actually beat us to the punch of getting his farmers market permit. The response at the market has been great! It’s one of the developments that I am happiest with this year. People at the market have really taken to it.  We sell our hops, chicken, eggs and now beer! It’s a great way to get a chance to introduce people in the area who are unfamiliar with our beer (or even knew there was a brewery) to what we are doing. Couldn’t be happier with how it has played out so far, making us even more excited to open up to the public! 
It’s helped us get some of our smaller batch beers out there as well. Without being able to have a retail space, it’s extremely hard to release the barrel-aged beers and the like. We can’t produce enough to distribute to all of our accounts so people are going to be left upset, though. Having an outlet to avoid it sitting on a shelf waiting for someone, and get it directly into the hands of those that want it was great. And it made us more confident that we should open the brewery to the public!  
5) Derek started off brewing saisons and other farmhouse style ales, but he’s moved into other styles over the past year. That Anachronism? Killer! And we’ve heard some of the most amazing things about Zep on the Jukebox. Can we expect this variety to continue and what inspired Derek to branch off into new territory with the brewery?

Two things really. From a logistical perspective, we have added quite a bit of fermentation capacity so we can handle more yeast strains/make more styles of beer. Then there is our willingness to experiment and try making beers that we are interested in and have something to say with. And Derek thankfully has no shortage of ideas and willingness to see what comes of them/turn them into something we’re extremely proud of. At some point the beers we like most (and have the hop contracts for) will begin being produced more regularly, but we will never stop trying to come up with new ideas and improve upon what we have made.
6) Finally, the dreaded question: how are the plans for the brewhouse coming along? Do you have an estimated date when Kent Falls Brewing will be open to the public? Are there any details to share such as estimated hours, seating, experiences and tours when you visit?

We’re working on a date! Things are coming along really nicely, though. All of the approvals are in, we are waiting until the weather cooperates (weird to say on a 50 degree winter day) to install our septic system and then plumb the bathroom, etc.  Because of the amount of work we have to do in order to open, we’re starting fairly simple – just retail . . . no on site consumption. Our IPAs and barrel aged beers/small batch releases will be sold on site as we have been doing for the farmers market.  Since we will only be open while it’s nice out, we’re putting in place a self-guided farm tour and some interactive spaces eventually that will make any potential wait for beer more enjoyable.  Our farm store will be open selling goods from our farm (chicken, maybe pork, some veggies, hops, and hopefully goods from other farms as well).  
7) And, is there anything else going on or any brews in the horizon that you’d love for people to know about?
We’re always trying to keep something interesting in the works.  Our next and final two farmers markets only releases of the season will be bottles of Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffeemaker and Second Nature Cherry, a barrel aged saison with sour cherries.  This week we’ll be releasing a honey oat gose made with 90 lbs of local honey sourced from two farms, one from Southbury and the other in Falls Village.

One Response to “The Growth, Future, and Success of Kent Falls Brewing: An Interview w/ Barry Labendz”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kent Falls Brewing Opening June 11 w/ Special Bottle Release! | OmNomCT - June 3, 2016

    […] funky beers that they’ve put out and distribution grew as well as their popularity. Then, back in February we caught up with Barry who shared they were looking to open soon . . . and now we can share that […]

    Liked by 1 person

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