Oktoberfest starts in September and with good reason, for there are just too many good beers and too many good brewpubs to fit into a single month or season. Here are five of the best for those on a quest for a great autumn beer in Connecticut.
967 Main St.
Willimantic, CT 06226
When the beer is so good that a pub has to warn patrons that “reservations are highly recommended,” real beer drinkers take notice. The famed Willimantic Brewing Company has been honored for having the “best pub grub” in the county, but as much as its customers enjoy what is on their plates, it is what is in their mugs that count. Proprietor and brewmaster David Wollner crafts a baker’s dozen plus one to fill those mugs. His Certified Gold Ale is the flagship of that beer fleet but there are many other great brews to choose from, notably the Dyvil Hopyard Double IPA which is “brewed with pilsner and biscuit malts and then hopped with spices fermented with French Saison yeast.” At 8.4 proof, it packs a wallop – but only while supplies last, and they don’t last long.
357 Salmon Brook St.
Granby, CT 06035
“Real beer, real food, real people;” that’s the motto of the Cambridge House Brew Pub in Granby. Its award-winning beers are hand-crafted on the site and what a lovely site it is. There are nice tables with umbrellas outside where drinkers can sit in ease and marvel at the lovely trees as they sample the Moonbeam Stout, Pigskin Brown or Copper Hill Kolsch, to name some of the pub’s more popular and medaled beers. Taps change frequently at the whimsy of the brewmaster but the chalk “beer board” keeps fans informed as to what’s available. For regulars, there is the Mug Club complete with personalized 20-ounce glass mugs that are filled for the cost of a pint. These mugs are also filled once for free with the beer of the day on Wednesdays.
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1487 Pleasant Valley Road
Manchester, CT 06040
Some brewpubs are for eating and drinking, but Tullycross is much more for the latter. Its food offerings get mixed reviews but its beer scores every time. The straw-colored, light-bodied Tavern Light is always a big hit, mainly because of its slightly sweet maltiness. Tully’s Irish Red and Silk City Irish Stout are also popular, the latter especially for its unique aroma. It truly does smell like a good, strong cup of java. For those who cannot decide, there is always the Beer Flight – a sample of any five beers and a must-have tasting bargain at only $7.
942 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
Big, busy and always crowded, especially on comedy nights, City Steam Brewery Café has been the place for Hartford beer lovers since 1997. Try the Colonel Klick or Colt’s Light Lager. The former is “inspired” by the great Kolsch beers of Cologne, Germany. Then there is Naughty Nurse Amber Ale, Careless Love (a “seductively strong ale” as the barkeep claims) and Uncle Dunkel, a malty 13-proof served in a mug as heavy as the beer. The beers have silly names but they are hand-crafted with serious care.
105 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
The Shipyard Brewing Company has its Shipyard Tavern inside the Latitude 41 restaurant in Mystic. The grand opening was only in April 2011, but already it is a favorite spot on the Connecticut beer trail. Shipyard IPA, Shipyard Export and Mystic Seaport Pale Ale can be found in bottles in many fine package stores in the state, but at the tavern, serious beer lovers can often find Old Thumper, Double Old Thumper and Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat, to name a few of the lesser-known brews. As autumn dawns, the days of Shipyard summer beer will pass, but there are as many fine brews on tap as there are colors in the fall foliage to try at The Shipyard (Brewing Company) Tavern in Mystic.
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