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Something’s Brewing

Connecticut’s Growing Brewing Industry

Craft beer is a career in Connecticut. It’s entrepreneurism. And it’s taking the state by storm. See what’s happening here  and how it continues to grow.

The Brewing Industry

There’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into brewing beer. Whether you’re following a passion or applying manufacturing skills in a unique way, brewing beer, distributing products, or even growing hops, a career in the brewing industry comes with lots of opportunities  especially in Connecticut’s growing brewing scene.

Local brewers are entrepreneurs. They’re skilled businesspeople who followed a dream. Many companies began with home brewing in garages; they were born and grown from a labor of love. So, every taproom has its own story to tell.

But the breweries themselves are substantial businesses beyond just beer. They’re venues for food, live music and events, and even private parties and weddings. And the name of the game? Experiences. They’re selling tasting experiences, social experiences — and innovating their business models to meet that demand.

The state produces more than 325,000 barrels per year, with an economic impact of more than $750 million.

Connecticut: A Brewing Powerhouse

The state’s first brewery, Willimantic Brewing Company, was built in 1991 and is set in a repurposed post office. It was founded by David Wollner — the founding father of the Connecticut brewing scene, who started the local craft beer revolution. Wollner continues to be a resource and mentor to other brewers in the state.

Today, with 120+ breweries in the state, Connecticut’s craft beer scene is booming.

Many brands are standing out and distributing beyond state lines  some even nationally. Counter Weight Brewing Company in Cheshire has begun distribution in Massachusetts; Twelve Percent Beer Project is a distributor whose brands are available in multiple states. And many are looking to Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford as a brand leader in the space. Not only are Two Roads’ beers available nationwide, but the brewery is also always evolving and innovating to keep things fresh and meet demands, opening a second location and even building a distillery on their campus.

Supporting the Scene

The growth of the Connecticut brewing industry was powered by the love of local — a state culture of supporting small business, enjoying products made by hand, and appreciating the unique flavors our brewers continue to innovate. With the rise of the craft beer revolution, organizations, educational programs, and events began popping up.

  • The Connecticut Brewers Guild formed as an organization to support, protect, and promote the craft beer industry across the state, join in events, and collaborate in brewing great beer.
  • Sacred Heart University even offers a program called Brew at SHU, where you can go to college to be a brewer — a perfect way to take your home brewing game to the next level.
  • There are many local beer bars and restaurants, like Eli Cannon’s Tap Room in Middletown, Mikro in Hamden, and J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville, that support and serve Connecticut-made beer.
  • Connecticut-based BeerFests.com was created by Kevin Mardorf over a decade ago as a hub to bring brewers and enthusiasts together. They are a full-service ticketing service partnering with organizations to help build and run several successful beer fests statewide, driving event attendance and providing new concepts, staffing, execution, and marketing for beer fest partners. 

Plus, many of the festivals even donate proceeds to local charities; The community supports the breweries, and the breweries support the community.

Below (left to right): Kevin Mardorf, founder of BeerFests.com, CTbeer.com, and The Craft Beer Community, with wife and business partner Jennifer Mardorf and Willimantic Brewing Company founder David Wollner at Thread City Hop Fest


Becoming a Brewer

Want to get your own thing brewin’? Connecticut could be the place  and there are lots of avenues you can take.

If you want to open your own brewery and you have the capital overlay to do it, the state has venues looking for brewers. But if you have a dream of being a brewer and need assistance with capital overlay, contract brewing may be a good place to start. Contract brewing is brewing beer for other brands to sell, and ultimately labeling and selling them.

One thing you can expect? Support. In the Connecticut brewing industry, there’s a level of cooperation and collaboration. There’s often an understanding that when one succeeds, they all succeed. Cheers to that!

  • CT beer manufacturers are each crafting unique flavors to set themselves apart. Check out a list of all CT breweries here
  • From Oktoberfest celebrations to BBQ & Brews, find Connecticut beer festivals here. And even more good stuff here.

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