Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

Written by Ken Carman

Topic: My Summer Brew Ventures

Since the late 90s I have been interviewing brewers, reviewing brew-based businesses and generally making a nuisance of myself all over the east coast at pubs and such. I’m especially good at the “nuisance” part; being winner of the 2002 Most Annoying Beer Geek Who Haunts My Brewery Award.

I’m kidding, of course.

Sort of.


Many of these reviews are lost. I could blame my various editors: I’ve had a litany of poor ones, really bad ones and a few good ones. But, to be honest, I could have gone out of my way to save the damn things myself, so in that regard I blame, well let’s see… me! And, as a caveat to that admission, I also didn’t have the ability to post pictures like I do now. So every year I will endeavor to take pictures of brew related businesses, at least those who are still in business, featured in past reviews in at least one edition of Brew Biz.

I will start out with one of the main attractions in this edition, David Wollner’s Willimantic Brewing.

My poor pictures don’t do it justice from my rather erratic camera. Hey, these are masterpieces compared with the impressionistic, “what the hell is that?” pictures I deleted. And how about…

…the ones that make impossible angles out of straight surfaces for some reason unbeknownst to yours truly. That’s table in the small biergarten-like area out front; table tops sitting on beer kegs. Neat idea. The bars are bent from my attempt to get in. No it’s the camera. Sometimes it manages to make whole buildings look like the letter “C.” The next picture: same thing… perfect. I rarely see anyone out there; and it is a small courtyard, But I’ll bet it’s busy on weekends.

Willimantic is in the old main post office in downtown, um, where? Oh, yeah Willimantic, Connecticut. Out front on the main drag through town is, of course, the sign.

Bring grandpa here: he’ll recognize the high ceilings and the revolving door like entrance…

…the polished wood…

…shocked by the high ceilings…

Naw, she just was surprised I took a picture at that point.

…and stupefied by stone edifice…

…just like I’m “stupefied” when I have one too many of David’s incredible beers.

But, more likely, Grandpa will want to saddle up to the bar…

…and make a selection.

“Now which one do I want next?”

Careful. Don’t get as “stupefied” as moi’.

Hey, kiddies and those who think “geeting pinned” means a hole through your tongues, this place is exactly what existed all across America back when dinosaurs yip yapped on TV sets made out of stone. Back when Fred: the anti-hero of our Honeymooner rip off, yelled, “Wilmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

We used to go to these estabishments with our parents and get them “P.O.-d” due to our constant whining, just like “you all” still do at WalMart. Or, to the pin in nose and tongue ones, after the doc tells you what he’ll have to do to cure the infection you got because you had to get another piercing… where? There? EWE.

Careful as you observe the relics. No. Not “us.” Those stone postal envelopes that give brutal cuts. And the stamps really can stamp down on you.

While there I had their India Pilsner… very fruity, Hop Battle and Partee (and Mango) Phunk. My favorite was the Hop Battle. Galena and Warrior mix, if I read the board right, but I got a growler to go for my beer tastings in August of the Partee: the second runnings of a barleywine with a sour/lambic twist. That was the most unique of the nine beers on tap, though too light for my taste. I’d be interested to find out the OG (original gravity) on this one, being second runnings on a barleywine, it was so light.

Is “second runnings” what you do after two of these?

Naw, I’m kidding. Second runnings are from, usually, a big beer mash. A monster mash. Feel free to break into song any time.

I can’t hear you!!!

My guess is David’s efficiency is so high the second runnings were quite low, OG-wise.

Back to the Hop Battle for a second: the hops seemed a British/Noble mix, but David was busy in the brewery and, to be honest, I didn’t trust the beer geek adverse tender’ when it came to specifics.

Next up we have a few exterior pics of Hyland Brewing outside of Sturbridge. I just couldn’t make it this year and missed playing with their brew dog and bragging to the brewer. Tim told me he’d never take “that test.”Hey Tim!!! I upped my BJCP judge cred last September with a retake!” Last year, when I told him I was taking the test again, he said, “You’re a braver man than me.”

Next year, hopefully, many mores pictures from inside and their farm where you can pick fruit, ride horses, meet the farm beasties and listen to them play revival concerts, while you sit back and remember their hay days, listening to The Animals.

Yeah, I went a ways for that dated 60s joke. But they do have concerts during their outdoor events.

Now we move on to a brewpub in Granby, Connecticut. I mentioned it briefly about two years ago but I kept trying to catch the brewer. This is out on the main north/south drag: route 202. Look easy to find? Sure, it’s also easy to drive  by. I do it damn near every time.

I was really, really, really hoping she was the new brewer. I had been trying to catch the brewer here for a long time, back to the previous brewer, and had never been able too. If this was the brewer I  planned for an extra long interview here, but… sigh… the bartender. I type this not because of the obvious beauty, but because she was quite helpful, knowledgeable. Perky. Spunk.

To quote Lou Grant…

Lou: You know what? You’ve got spunk. Mary: Well, yes… Lou: I hate spunk

Well, I don’t hate “spunk,” so step away Lou Grant. You’re really missed something. She was fun to chat with.

So much better than a bartender-ess at pub on the other end of CT who pretty much admitted she found me annoying because she was not fond of beer geeks. And she works at a… brewpub???

Not that anything about my verbose, inquisitive, talkative, pun seeking, play on word nature would ever possibly…


… someone.

The brewery sits up front and down low in the building.

On a cool afternoon I opened the door just to snap this picture…

…and the heat slapped me in the face. Oh, why, oh, why, couldn’t it have been the bartender???

No wonder I never get to meet the brewer: he probably brews naked at 3 in the morning just to stay cool. Probably quite the show if you’re passing by… or not. I was told it was something about the building codes and state requirements that created this Hell-like hot house.

Now on to Pennsylvania…

   That’s the little wooden man who guards the bar at North Country Brewpub in Slippery Rock, PA.  Don’t ask me why it’s called “Slippery Rock.” Well, a nearby creek called “Slippery Rock” is as good a reason as any. Why is the rock is slippery? Maybe I’d rather not know the punchline to what could be a dirty joke, I suppose.

Interesting Wild West/gold rush exterior. The day I was there a lot of young folks quaffed, so maybe a post Neil Young crowd: after “The Gold Rush?”

Did I ever tell you my wife Millie says I will do anything to make a joke? Hard to believe, huh?

That’s my green Nissan work truck out front. Closing in on 300,000 miles and this is the second time it has been here.

The walkway up to the pub combines handicap access and style quite well.

Here’s the bar. Looks like they took a tree and cut it in half.

The beer was better this time: I may come back and do a story on them. When we visited a few years ago we found the woodsy motif wonderful, but the beer unremarkable. Maybe it’s just because we had just been up north at the incredible Sprague BrewWorks? (OK, Brian, I didn’t get to stop this summer, but is that enough of a plug for a free beer next year… hint, hint, hint???)

I’d continue but I had to delete the rest of my interior shots. You’ll be delighted to note amongst the deleted pictures were the ones from my visit to the clinic after my doc told me, in my 50s, I needed another “periscope up!” Maybe I could relabel it as “my new brew system,” as a joke? Sure does smell like a certain defect in beer from time to time.

If you are under 50 and don’t know what I mean, or understand, don’t worry. Just wait a few years. You will find out.


Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

©Copyright 2010
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

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