Despite the striking name, Tox Brewing Company has a fairly wholesome backstory. Mike Zaccaro and Dayne Laskey have been friends since pre-school (and have the framed photo in the bar to prove it!). Sharing a passion for homebrewing, the two wanted to open a brewery in their local stomping grounds. Helped by their self-described “beer mentor” (and bandmate) Jon Ahlcrona, they set the groundwork for Tox back in 2016. They first bought an old neighborhood produce store. After some renovations, they launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Finally, this April, Tox Brewing Company officially opened to the public. Since then they have been making a name for themselves with their intriguing name, branding, and fresh approach to beer production.
The Tox Brand
I chatted with Mike last week, and he said the name “Tox” comes from Dayne’s work as a toxicologist. Working professionally with poisons and toxins, the group became fascinated with the many forms and applications that toxins come in. Leveraging this to beer production, they play on the fact that beer is a “toxin” that also can come in many varieties and use poisonous terms for everything they produce. Though (obviously) there are no real toxins in the beer, Mike laughed and admitted that sometimes the name does get a mixed reception. He went on to say that this is part of the groups’ artistic vision. They didn’t want a generic brewery title, but rather a more unique name that people would remember (even if it does give some pause).
Being true to themselves is one cornerstone of their artistic philosophy. The other is quality. While that may seem like a cliche, evidence of their pursuit of perfection can be easily seen all around the taproom. They could have opened (as they said in the Kickstarter) with plastic chairs and a half renovated space. Instead, they chose instead to take the time, ask the community for help, and develop a meticulously crafted location that everyone in the neighborhood could be proud of. Everything from the handcrafted tap handles, the “toxic beer garden” complete with beautiful (but VERY non-edible) flora, striking logo, and warmly appointed tasting room all show a singular vision and a polish that is rarely found in a brewery so young.
In terms of brewing, Mike told me that their thoughts on brewing more or less matched their artistic aesthetic. They want to brew a variety of beer (not just personal favorites or the current trend) and they want the quality to be perfect. For example, if the guys aren’t happy with a batch, then they toss it. Simple as that. They would rather lose the liquid than serve beer that has the slightest imperfection. An “imperfection” to the guys could be anything from the color being slightly off, the smell being not quite right, or (obviously) the taste not quite dialed in enough. This fanatic attention to detail was very obvious with the beer I tried. Every style was carefully crafted and boasted a well-balanced taste profile and beautiful appearance.
On beer, Tox has everything from a very refreshing pilsner, to a citrusy IPA, to two fruited Berliner Wiesses, to a few stouts. They love exploring more abstract styles too, like when they recently did a Cinnamon Toast Crunch Stout and an Oreo Stout. In the future, Mike told me that they want to continue to brew a variety of interesting, high-quality beer. He makes his own maple syrup and Jon roasts his own coffee, so those are two flavor profiles that Tox is eager to explore. They already use this fresh coffee in their stout, but they are waiting to perfect the recipe before unveiling their beer that will star local maple syrup.
Final Thoughts on Tox
Mike told me that he wants everyone’s experience to be great with the brewery. Tox views their brewery as municipal space. It’s an area where everyone can come with their friends, family, kids, and dogs and just enjoy each other’s community. For these hometown friends, this seems like the perfect philosophy to build a brand on and one that will undoubtedly continue to bring them success.
I had a great time at Tox, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a cozy place to drink and has a beer for everyone! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with my brewery snapshots, thoughts on the CT beverage world, and tasting notes. This week I’ll be giving you my impressions of Tox’s stouts. If you have a brewery that you think I should check out, drop me a line, and until then I’ll see you where the pints live, cheers!