I spent the last week in New Jersey for a work-related conference/training. I got a few recommendations of local New Jersey beers I should look for but didn’t have much luck tracking them down. The main reason was scheduling, I was booked all day and into the evening every day. A group of people from the conference went out at night and I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the beer selection at the two bars we visited, no local beers featured at all. It is still amazing to me that a bar could feature 15 taps and another 25 bottles/cans and not have a single beer brewed in state. Fortunately the trip wasn’t a total loss beer-wise. I made a pit-stop on my way home at Craft Beer Cellar in West Hartford and picked up a bunch of Connecticut beers that aren’t distributed into Massachusetts yet. I considered hitting one of the local breweries, but I don’t have much experience with these beers and thought it would be a more efficient use of time to grab a selection from the bottle shop and get a better handle on what the craft beer scene in CT has to offer. Craft Beer Cellar in West Hartford was also incredibly convenient, it’s an easy stop off on I-84 and I knew they would have the quality and selection I’ve come to expect from the Craft Beer Cellar franchise.
While this blog is devoted to beers from throughout New England, I haven’t reviewed many beers from Connecticut thus far. Some people argue that Connecticut isn’t really New England (they have more Yankees fans than Red Sox fans, which is pretty damning), but it still counts in my book. The main reason for the lack of CT beer reviews is availability in Massachusetts, only a couple of CT breweries distribute into the Boston area. I lived in Connecticut for a couple of years and the local brewing scene was virtually non-existent at the time, but it has exploded in size over the last few years and a number of these small breweries are building strong reputations for quality and innovation. Over the next few weeks I will occasionally break my “rule” of only reviewing beers available in the Boston area as I mix in write-ups of beers from some of the CT breweries shown above. I didn’t grab all of the local beers at CBC, beer is best when it’s fresh and I didn’t want to judge a new brewery based on a beer that sat in my fridge for a month or more. Not to worry, now I have an excuse to make another trip to West Hartford, grab some more beer and maybe even visit a few of the breweries!