Robert Frosty Mug
Two Roads Brewing, Stratford
Once I go to and write about Connecticut’s museums, I have a nasty habit of procrastinating and avoiding dealing with the behemoths. Too many footage, an excessive amount of to discuss, an excessive amount of history… I discover them daunting to write down about to say the least. I by no means really feel as if I do a great job describing the massive and nice museums of our state.
Ten years ago, once I began taking note of, and writing about Connecticut’s breweries, the few that existed have been tiny operations making a couple of totally different types each. I never would have thought we’d have a brewery equal of The Wadsworth or the New England Air Museum.
But here we’re. On the large Two Roads Brewing in Stratford. Far and away Connecticut’s largest brewery, and doubtless the third largest in New England after Boston Beer and Harpoon. Its sheer measurement is tough to quantify right here though, as a result of nearly all of what they brew is on contract. Roughly guessing, Two Roads produces more beer than the least-producing 80 state breweries.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wooden,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And seemed down one so far as I might
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Two Roads’ sheer measurement invited plenty of weirdly misplaced criticism when it first came to be. I used to be guilty of providing some myself. Wanting back, the few feedback I made towards Two Roads have been a number of the extra embarrassing issues I’ve written underneath the CTMQ banner. Let me be clear: Two Roads is great for Connecticut beer and has been since earlier than they opened.
Using their deep pockets, affect, and foresight, the house owners worked with the state to loosen the ridiculously restrictive legal guidelines governing breweries and taprooms. I not keep in mind the small print, but Two Roads is credited for helping craft the legislation that primarily opened the door for the mountain of breweries which have opened since. Pint gross sales! Package deal gross sales! Heck, the mere existence of taprooms!
So once I learn that first stanza of Robert Frost’s The Street Not Taken, I take into consideration the street the state might have taken. And naturally I take into consideration my own journey with Connecticut breweries. For years, I tread a loopy path of procuring and reviewing (literally) every beer produced by a state brewery. I luckily stopped that nonsense as soon as it turned inconceivable.
However the path I proceed to take is, I feel, still a reasonably lonely one. Dozens of others have started and ended beer running a blog efforts in recent times. I forge ahead. As we strategy out 100th Connecticut brewery in 2019, I’ve begun to consider the landscape and how much it has changed. And where Two Roads matches into it. And the place they are going to be in five and ten years down the street.
Then took the other, as just as truthful,
And having maybe the better declare,
As a result of it was grassy and needed put on;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the identical,
What I do isn’t all that unique. I go to breweries and write about my expertise. Nevertheless, I’ve heard many occasions through the years that what I do is appreciated simply because I’m “more honest” than others. I’ve cast friendships based mostly on that honesty – and have acquired some detractors along the best way. So be it.
There’s a little bit of irony with Two Roads building a business model that references Frost time and time again. What they do isn’t all that unique either. In reality, their core portfolio of beers is purposely made to attraction to the typical craft beer drinker. Head brewer Phil Markowski simply makes good beer. To the overwhelming majority of shoppers, no Two Roads beer is a standout. Nothing too wacky. (And importantly, nothing remotely “bad” either.)
A tiny proportion of insular craft beer fanboys and women will say that Two Roads is subsequently a horrible brewery. How dare our largest brewery not sell exploding cans with fermenting fruit! Why can’t they sustain with the lactose developments and murky 15% IPA’s? Where’s my pecan pie guava puree triple soured IPA?
Here’s the factor. Each Two Roads beer is sweet. Each type can sit in a distributor’s warehouse for a couple of weeks and nonetheless be good once they reach, say, Colorado shoppers’ arms two months after canning. Even their NEIPA, Two Juicy, has a sustainable shelf life. Their hef and saison are chic. A number of of their beers are among the greatest out there for his or her fashion. That small group of hazy fruit chasers are loathe to admit as a lot, nevertheless it’s true. It’s inarguable.
Two Roads does, actually, make a bunch of envelope-pushing beers outdoors of their core lineup. Some ridiculously good ones too. I’ve had 40? 50? totally different Two Roads beers and solely actively disliked two or three. And that was fairly early on of their existence. (Lavatory Wild, 20-Ton Blonde Barleywine, and Roadsmary’s Child when you should know. I don’t look after Street Jam both, but that’s just a private choice… the earlier three, I assumed on the time, have been simply straight up dangerous beers. Okay, Roadsmary’s isn’t dangerous I assume… I just don’t prefer it.)
And each that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I stored the primary for an additional day!
But figuring out how approach leads on to method,
I doubted if I should ever come again
The brewery is situated within the US Baird Building, which used to make metallic presses for 150 years. Despite the huge funding, Two Roads maintains the factory-look of the place. Walls of brick dominate and there’s still a little bit of a country, musty feel. It’s adorned in a type of shabby-chic method because actually, there’s no point in gussying up the joint.
It’s an previous manufacturing unit. Period. That stated, it is much more clear and ethereal than you’d imagine while ascending the staircase up to the tasting room. Make sure to stop and take a look at a few of the photographs and artifacts on the wall. Stratford can also be the house of Sikorsky, and Two Roads loves their Sikorsky tie-ins. Which really solely is sensible.
Lately (2019 and beyond), patrons have a huge array of beers from which to decide on. Your complete core line-up, plus perhaps a dozen different options. Some are taproom solely, some are restricted runs… you get the point. Two Roads is a real brewery in the sense which you could assume you’ll all the time know what you’ll get here, plus there can be some fascinating surprises.
One shock many individuals get is that the brewery disallows anybody underneath 21 and anything with four legs. As of this writing (once more, it’s 2019), they’re the one brewery in Connecticut that has the “no kids” coverage. And from what I understand, there isn’t any wiggle room. No six-week-olds, no sixteen-year-olds, and no 20.99 yr olds. I read as soon as that they’re following the suggestion of their lawyer(s) with this, and as an enormous company with tens of tens of millions of dollars at stake, they don’t need to take any possibilities. I’ve no challenge with the policy.
But for me, this meant a particular journey was in order. No youngsters means a weekday brewery run. So on Easter Monday, when my family-owned Danish employer that observes Easter Monday, even for its American staff, I hit the street for Stratford. I ascended those stairs and took a seat on the good-looking principal bar. When Two Roads is jamming, which it repeatedly is, there are different rooms and areas that turn out to be obtainable – including the outside area.
This place is BIG. I’d been right here a couple occasions before, but since I’d arrived at their midday opening time, I wandered about alone. Two Roads is probably the only Connecticut brewery that gives excursions value taking. No, not “probably.” Undoubtedly. I’ve never accomplished it, but I’ve read about it enough to really feel like I’ve. From the acres of tanks to the standard labs, this can be a tip prime brewery. Depending on one’s standards, one might argue that Two Roads is Connecticut’s prime brewery. I don’t use that same criteria, but it might be robust to argue.
They are the most important and widest reaching. They’ve never tousled. Phil Markowski is renowned for his brewing expertise and has written a definitive ebook on farmhouse ales. (Heck, he has been awarded the distinguished Russell Scherer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing by the Brewers Affiliation, given to just one brewer annually.) They did a collaboration stout with Guinness… who doesn’t do collaboration beers. They placed on a number of well-run and well-attended events throughout the year. They opened one of many higher airport craft beer bars within the US at Bradley and followed that with Area Two, a gorgeous 15-million dollar bitter/spontaneous fermentation brewery down the block. They distribute to Europe and to a third of the US. Their advertising is untouchable; from the beer names to the can art to their tie-ins to local historical past and charity. Again, I know numerous nu-skool craft beer drinkers will assume I’m loopy, however I really do assume Two Roads is pretty nice.
So, apart from the cash and measurement, what’s the thing fanboys love to hate about Two Roads? Contracting. However here’s the factor – the huge contract brewing operation was all a part of their initial business plan. Principally, their considering went, if we build a prime notch facility and supply up 85% of it to contracts, that may assist us develop our brand and reach down the street.
And boy, have been they right. Two Roads is among the quickest growing breweries in the nation. In 2017, they produced 53,000 barrels as Two Roads and 85,000 barrels for contract, which made them the 51st largest beer model and 21st largest craft beer brand within the country. In 2018, a couple of of their contract clients left, in order that they upped their Two Roads production to 63,000 barrels and took their contracting right down to 72,000 barrels. The plan is to succeed in a 50/50 cut up in 2020 or so.
And whereas they’ve contract-brewed some junk, they brew some incredible beers for other manufacturers here. Carton, Lawson’s Best Liquids, Stillwater, Evil Twin, Terrapin, on and on. From time to time, they’ve helped out other Connecticut breweries like Again East and once they hit production limits. And simply to say it for the 50-billionth time, Sip of Sunshine was all the time brewed at Two Roads – a minimum of up until 2019. If you realize somebody responsible of saying “Sip was better when it was brewed in Vermont,” you’ve got license to punch them in their neckbeard.
I heard an interview with Brad Hittle, one of many house owners, who stated that they might have doubled their contracting capability and had their tanks crammed. That’s… bananas. And hats off to them. (As for Brad, he’s lived a captivating life; from engaged on an offshore drilling ship in southeast Asia to helping revive Pabst Blue Ribbon, the person has finished it all.)
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Someplace ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one much less traveled by,
And that has made all the distinction.
And I’ll say this with a sigh… once more: Two Roads is nice for what needs to be. As one of the very few individuals you realize who has made the trouble to keep up with the exploding brewery scene, both on paper and on foot, I’m snug saying this. I’d be snug nudging anybody in the direction of buying their beer, regardless of the fashion.
Two Roads isn’t making an attempt to be Hill Farmstead or Allagash or Treehouse. It principally makes accessible true-to-style beers for shoppers who don’t give a crap about what’s “cool” on the earth of craft beer. Their beer isn’t going to blow fanboys away, but that’s not the purpose. That’s not their market. For every 32-year-old whale chasing, beer buying and selling dude in a hoodie, there are 100 50 year-old dudes who put on socks with flip-flops who respect a well-made beer. Two Roads’ market is the actual giant market out there, they usually seem to be succeeding within it.
Depart the youngsters and canine at residence, and maybe for as soon as veer away from the darling little breweries that now dot our state. Go to the monster that is Two Roads and just recognize who they’re and all they’ve achieved.
Two Roads Brewing (facebook page)
CTMQ’s Breweries & Brewpubs