Driving up to Stony Creek Brewery in Branford, CT, I was first struck with just how jammed packed the parking lot was on this rainy Friday afternoon. Shuffling inside through the cool mist, I was met with a lively, colorful tasting room that was filled wall to wall with cheerful beer drinkers, a crackling fire, and decor that smacked to me of a hip new gastro-pub (rather than a brewery’s tasting room). Moving through the crowd I met with Andy Schwartz and Ed Crowley (the headbrewer and the owner, respectively). Chatting for a minute before Andy took me off on a tour of the sparkling new brewery, Ed told me that Stony Creek has been officially open since March 14th. It took a year to build and, though it was only promoted heavily through bar events and Facebook posts, it’s been standing room only since.
|The packed tasting room.|
Ed and Andy also showed off several of the nifty accouterments tucked into this rather professionally crafted tasting room. There were two draft pouring areas with six different in-house beers on, with plans of four more taps to go in that will feature other CT beer on a rotational basis (we’re all about the CT community here, Ed told me). Tucked at one end of the bar is a wet bar/growler filling station, then front and center sat the “Crowler.” This device (slightly reminiscent of a waffle maker) takes a 32 oz can that gets filled with the beer of your choice, seals it with a poptab, then gets the appropriate sticker slapped on the side of the can: giving you a to-go 32 oz can. Cool. Ed had to take off at this point (probably to, you know, actually run a brewery) so Andy whisked me away on an indepth look of Stony Creek’s brand new brewing facilities.
|Gloomy day, great sign front.|
Before we began, Andy pointed out that the entire company is build on professionalism. The whole team has come from serious brewing backgrounds, such as Andy himself who has been brewing professional since 1995 and Del Morel (Packaging Manager) who planned the layout of Redhook Brewing and now has created the brewing area at Stony Creek. This is a similar story to most of the other members of the team as well. Stony Creek, as Andy said, offered beer-insiders a chance to get in on the ground floor of a big brewery that gives them carte blanche in terms of creative expression and development of beer. This pull is powerful as they’ve attracted big time players, assembling a virtual dream team of brewing expertise (which you can check out on their site here).
|The upstairs celebration room.|
The facility itself houses a large upstairs celebration room that can host many different events, a large bar/tasting room downstairs, and a wrap-around deck overlooking the bay outside. The brewing area itself is impressive and as professionally designed as the rest of the building. Featuring ample room for more brewing equipment, Stony Creek already has fully operational brewing capabilities (with a 12k capacity right now), a bottling line, canning line, the ability to move the barrels around the brewing floor, and room for 21 more tanks and fermenters as well. This was a place, as Andy said, that’s been designed to expand. Andy proudly pointed out that this is their home; it’s been built to expand as the brewery ramps up production.
|Aerial view of the bottling line.|
You’ll notice I keep repeating the word “professional,” and that’s because, honestly, it’s the one word that kept reverberating in my head as I toured the facility. There are tons of little touches that just scream “professional,” such as safety stations set up throughout, a growler station that is out of the way of the main bar crowd, and a bottling area that opens up directly into the loading dock. The brewing area even has a fully stocked laboratory on site with full time lab techs on the payroll to ensure that the beer is perfectly uniform on a base chemical level. Stony Creek has done their homework and has established a brewery that loudly proclaims that they know what they’re doing.
|They have a LOT of room.|
As for beer, Andy expressed that (unsurprisingly) Stony Creek has done a LOT of homework when it comes to their styles. They are aiming to hit the largest flavor profiles and tastes with very satisfying, drinkable beers, as well as having the flexibility of brewing whatever crazy style that Andy can come up with. The IPAs (Cranky) will always come in cans. Different versions of IPA will come eventually, and all other beers will come in standard sized bottles, with larger format bottles coming soon. Stony Creek’s overall style is in their motto, “aggressively laid back.” Andy has had a ton of brewing experience from Colorado, to the west coast, to New England, and he brings it all home to create beer that’s drinkable, with a bite, but (most important of all) supremely well balanced. As Andy said, he wants a beer that finishes balanced everytime, no matter which of their styles you try, at any time; in other words Stony Creek beer is modeled to always be consistent and clean. This is the “pure vision” as Andy put it, and the one viewpoint he holds most dear.
Stony Creek is all about community involvement, and already has plans to work with NoRA Cupcake on a special beer. Something that Andy kept reiterating is the fact that Stony Creek wants to work with other CT businesses whenever possible. They worked closely with Two Roads while Stony Creek was still developing their own brewery. Andy specified that Two Roads was very helpful, and they are close friends of the brewery to this day. The Stony Creek logo (a psychedelic blue heron) was concepted and created by a local artist. Even the location Stony Creek chose ended up helping the community: as the lot was essentially blighted before it was reclaimed and built up by the brewery.
|The cool logo.|
Andy wanted to be absolutely clear that Stony Creek has the opposite of an identity crisis: they are laser-focused on a strong flagship lineup, brand, and flavor profile moving forward. Andy told me that the most important thing for a beer company is that people trust their beer. In other words, people need to be able to enjoy the beer once, then be able to recapture that taste again anytime, anywhere. Stony Creek Brewery is poised to deliver this promise, as they have one of the most impressive facilities, all-star lineup, and well-balanced beers that I’ve ever seen. But don’t just take my word for it, check ’em out for yourself (see their Facebook page for updated hours).Then follow me on Twitter and
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