Like so many other places, Connecticut has caught the craft beer bug, and I couldn’t be happier. Connecticut has dozens of craft breweries and each year the number continues to grow. With so many options, I wanted to break down some of my favorite breweries in Connecticut – your personal brewery tour-guide, if you will.
We've got three cities on our tour, so grab your designated driver and get ready to drink your way through the Nutmeg State.
Stony Creek Brewery
Stony Creek Brewery is the second largest brewery in Connecticut. The brewery recently upgraded their taproom and facilities, and it’s clear that a large amount of time – and money – went into the design. While not actually in the “Stony Creek” section of Branford, Stony Creek Brewery is still located directly on the water, setting up a beautiful location to have a beer. With a large taproom that opens to an outdoor patio and docking area, Stony Creek can host an incredible number of guests.
The brewery offers a wide selection of beer, though the “Cranky” line of beers is my personal favorite. This line includes the Cranky IPA, Little Cranky (Session IPA) and Big Cranky (Double IPA). One of the weirder beers they produce is the Stony Joe, which is a golden mocha stout. When I first ordered the beer, I expected to receive a dark beer, as it's a stout. However, this beer is golden. The taste of the beer doesn't match what it looks like, which is a bit mind bending. I’d definitely recommend trying this complex and unique brew!
Thimble Island Brewing Company
While in Branford you should also make it to Thimble Island Brewing Company. Instead of an ocean view, this brewery is located in the more typical industrial park setting we’ve come to associate with craft breweries. However, Thimble Island offers some great beer selections, given its smaller size and industrial park exterior.
The brewery took its name after the Thimble Islands off the coast of Branford, which the tasting room pays tribute to with an older, rustic, nautical feel. Thimble Island Brewing Company's small tap room offers a handful of beers including one of my favorite Connecticut beers, the Ghost Island Double IPA.
Two Roads Brewing Company
Stratford is home to the biggest brewery in Connecticut, Two Roads Brewing Company. Two Roads has taken an old manufacturing building and turned it into a state-of-the-art brewery. With over a dozen beers on tap ranging from saisons to stouts, Two Roads offers a wide selection of beers with year-round mainstays and seasonal experiments.
Their massive tasting room allows everyone to find a beer they enjoy while also observing the brewing process through large glass walls. Food trucks are always outside, so you’ll never go hungry.
My current favorite Two Roads beers are the Road 2 Ruin Double IPA and the Geyser Gose. The Geyser Gose is a collaboration beer with Evil Twin Brewing, and offers a sour, but refreshing taste. Given the large selection of beers, Two Roads is a great option to satisfy a wide range of people.
Fairfield Craft Ales
While nowhere near as big as Two Roads, Fairfield Craft Ales is also located in Stratford, and is less than a five-minute drive away, making for an excellent second stop on your trip. What’s pretty cool about Fairfield Craft Ales is that it got some of its funding from a Kickstarter campaign, which shows how much enthusiasm is behind breweries in Connecticut. Despite being a newer brewery, Fairfield Craft Ales offers a fair selection of beer.
The brewery is inspired by music, and offers live music nights. Having two breweries in this close proximity makes Stratford a great place to try a wide variety of craft beers.
Stubborn Beauty Brewing
Located in a large, old manufacturing warehouse, Middletown’s Stubborn Beauty Brewing is one of the older breweries in Connecticut. The small tap room can get a bit crowded at times, but the beer is worth a visit. However, Stubborn Beauty offers primarily IPAs, which may be a deterrent to some people (looking at you, Mom).
Although there are a lot of IPAs, I've found that they are all different. However, my favorite is Happy Treez. Stubborn Beauty also has The Whey Station food truck outside, serving gourmet grilled cheese and other cheese-filled meals. There is no better combination with beer than cheese (pretty sure that's how beer cheese became a thing).
Forest City Brewing
In the same building as Stubborn Beauty, Forest City Brewing has recently taken up shop and is offering a few good beers. What they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. The Classic Irish Stout and Unfiltered IPA make Forest City an easy choice when choosing a brewery to visit. Much like Stubborn Beauty, the small tasting room can get crowded though. For the modern art connoisseur, Forest City has wall-to-wall art for guests to aprpeciate.
While these two breweries are so close, each one has a different vibe. Stubborn Beauty is darker, more eclectic theme, while Forest City has a brighter, country kitchen theme. As far as their beer selections, Forest City offers a wider array of beer styles, which might appeal to non-IPA drinkers.
While there are many more breweries outside of these few towns, Stratford, Branford and Middletown offer a good variety of breweries and many different types of beer. Since there are several in close proximity, these locations allow for a double header of sorts, maximizing your trip and affording you the chance to try many beers.
Plus, if you’re not there to have a flight, or you don’t have the time to sit and have a beer, all of these breweries will also fill a growler to-go for you.