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Small-scale brewing makes its return to Connecticut.

Small-scale brewing makes its return to Connecticut

Before Prohibition hit, there were 18 breweries in the state of Connecticut. After Repeal, several breweries reopened, though only the Hull Brewing Co. of New Haven displayed any longevity. Unfortunately, Hull succumbed to market pressures in 1977, leaving the state without a brewery.

Over the last year, however, America's brewing renaissance has swept into Connecticut, and the Nutmeg state's dry years are over. Connecticut starts the 90s with two microbreweries eager to carry on the brewing traditions of southern New England.

The New Haven Brewing Co. opened first, in 1989, and produced 600 barrels by the end of the year. In 1990, the New England Brewing Co. opened just down the coast in Norwalk.

The New England Brewing Co. is a collaboration between Phil Markowski, an award-winning homebrewer, and Richard King, a Norwalk industrialist. King was intrigued by the idea of opening a brewery, and managed to recruit Markowski through the homebrewing old boy network.

Since King's manufacturing company possessed skilled machinists and welders, the fledgling brewing company was able to manufacture their brewing vessels inhouse. The resultingly utilitarian brewhouse is housed in the former Libner Grain Building, a warehouse on the banks of the Norwalk River.

The company's original plan envisaged a brewpub in Danbury, with the Norwalk brewhouse serving as a temporary expedient. "As Connecticut law stands," Markowski says, "we can't sell retail, so our brewpub is on hold for the moment. For the time being we're brewing on a large enough scale in Norwalk to operate profitably. We're currently set up with a seven-barrel system, but we are planning to shift to a 10-barrel system. Once we have that online," he adds, "we can really take off." According to Markowski, the Norwalk brewhouse will continue as the main production facility in the forseeable future, with a projected 1990 production of 500 bbls.

The first product released by the brewer is Atlantic Amber, a beer that uses lager ingredients but is fermented like an ale, at temperatures up to 67 degrees F. According to Markowski, the recipe approximates the "steam" beer style of 19th-century America. However, since Anchor Brewing Company has trademarked the "steam" name, New England must be content with oblique references to the style on their label.

According to Markowski, the next product in the works is a Gold Stock Ale. "My research shows that a type of cold-conditioned ale originated in New England," he said, "and lot's of New England breweries brewed that style post-Prohibition."

New England Brewing has yet to install a bottling line, although Markowski has reserved space for one at the brewery.

Markowski says that the brewery is the realization of one of his dreams, and the long hours have yet to disillusion him." The romance is still there," he says, "although sometimes it's pretty tiring, sloppy work."

PHOTO : KEEPING THE FAITH - Brewer Phil Markowski of the New England Brewing Company is working to revive traditional Connecticut beer styles at his Norwalk, CT, brewery.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Mar 26, 1990
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