Split Thy Skull- A Barleywine Showcase

There’s tons of beer festivals now, so it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. For the 6th Annual Split Thy Skull festival, that special thing is barleywine. The event will take place at City Steam Brewery this Sunday, April 3, from 12:30-4:30 PM.

The Split Thy Skull Barleywine Fest is presented by Harvest Wine and Spirits and Harvest Country Store of West Hartford. The event began 6 years ago and was a more of a bottle share, in gratitude to loyal customers. It has grown exponentially, with over 100 different barleywines slated to be at this year’s event. Continue reading “Split Thy Skull- A Barleywine Showcase”


Learn To Homebrew Day 2015

I have been homebrewing for about four years now. While I have had other hobbies longer, homebrewing is probably the most interesting one I have ever had. Think about it- do you like cooking? Do you like making things? Do you like to drink? I don’t know too many people that cannot say yes to at least one of these questions.

The more people I talk to about it, the more I realize that homebrewing is much easier than people think it is. Sure, it can get difficult as you start to experiment with bigger batches, different ingredients, and new technology. But when it boils down, (all the puns intended), you are basically just following a recipe.

Saturday, November 7 is Learn To Homebrew Day. It was established by the American Homebrewers Association in 1999 to give homebrewers a chance to show non-brewers the ropes, and maybe get some new people into the hobby. Last year, a total of 6518 gallons of beer was brewed, at least according to the AHA report.

Like any other hobby, homebrewing has clubs. Connecticut has several, and I recently started going to a few meetings and events from Brew Haven, which is the New Haven area’s local club. Brew Haven will be hosting a Learn To Homebrew event this Saturday at the Outer Space in Hamden. Both extract and all-grain batches will be brewed so you can learn about the differences between both methods. Local homebrewers will also be on hand to answer questions. I myself might even make an appearance. Oh, and there will be plenty of beer to drink. Stop by between 12 and 4 PM- you just might learn something.


Black Ales For Black Friday: Record Store Day Picks and Pre-Work Beers

It really is awesome that there are so many Thanksgiving beer pairings around the internet. But it made me wonder what beer someone working on Thanksgiving night (aka myself) or Black Friday should consume before heading into the masses. In keeping with Now Beer This Tradition, I’m also including a list of the only things worth buying on Black Friday: records. At local retailers, of course. Continue reading “Black Ales For Black Friday: Record Store Day Picks and Pre-Work Beers”

Grow Your Own: NOFA Offers Organic Hop Growing Workshop

Making beer is awesome, but making beer with home-grown ingredients is even better. With so many breweries popping up in Connecticut, the task of gathering local resources to make beer can be daunting. Thankfully, it looks like farmers are getting more involved with helping brewers get the hops and barley that they need here in Connecticut. CT NOFA, which is the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, is a grassroots organization that advocates for organic food, farming, and land care across the state. Despite the name, NOFA does a lot of work throughout various Connecticut communities to educate all people, not just farmers. On December 11, they will be having a mixer at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford. The event will include an organic hop growing workshop, led by John Suscovich of Camps Road Farm in Kent.

I started growing my own hops two years ago, and it has been incredibly fortuitous, not to mention much easier than I imagined. I plan to increase my plants next year, and would like to look into more organic gardening methods, so I’m especially looking forward for a chance to pick some brains (and drink some beer!). The mixer will also discuss NOFA’s new Technical Assistance program, which, for a farming and gardening n00b such as myself, sounds like a great thing.

Camps Road Farm grows all the hops for Kent Falls Brewing, which broke ground over the summer. Out of all the new breweries opening up in Connecticut, I think I am most excited for Kent Falls. In addition to using local hops, they will also use local malts, which is something I have not seen before. Kent Falls has also embraced sustainability practices, through solar hot water heating, reusing spent grain, and proper wastewater handling- all of which you can read about here.

All the details on the mixer are below. I am planning on attending, so be sure to join me if you’re interested. Click the flyer to register.

Fermenting In New Haven: Common Ground Workshop

Today I write about something that is not inherently beer-related, but definitely made me think about the brewing process. This Saturday I spent a relaxing rainy day at what may be the coolest (in my opinion) high school in Connecticut. For those who are unfamiliar, Common Ground is an environmental charter high school in New Haven that was founded in 1997. In addition to core academic subjects such as math and literature, students at Common Ground have a curriculum that is focused on the environment. Classrooms include kitchens, farms, and even state parks. I spoke with one student who is currently raising chickens and learning how to (humanely) butcher them. Definitely not things I knew how to do as a junior in high school.

You don’t have to be a high school student to take advantage of the resources Common Ground offers, though. They have a series of classes offered to both families and adults. This weekend I took a class on Canning and Fermentation, where I learned how to jar food for preservation, and wild fermentation through making sauerkraut. The canning (which is technically called jarring) portion was taught by Common Ground chef Theresa Brooks, and the fermentation section taught by Diane Litwin, who is an educator at Common Ground.

I have family members who have won awards for jams and jellies and other Mason jars full of delicious. So I figured it was time to learn myself. You can’t just put fruit in a Mason jar and call it a preserve. There is a bit more to it than that, but it’s still fairly cheap and not that difficult. The process? Basically, boil, dry, insert pickles/fruit/kim chi/whatever, put the lid on, and boil again. The amount of time a jar must stay submerged in the boiling water seems to be different for each recipe or person making it, but it generally seems to be 10-20 minutes. I think the most important thing I learned was not to re-use the lids on the jars. Apparently you can buy a box of them for a few dollars. Once the are unsealed, you can re-use everything else, but the lid can be dented or damaged once the jar is opened.

Wild fermentation is a totally different animal, and made me think way differently about sour beers. The bacteria that is allowed into the sauerkraut, or beer, or anything else, builds up and allows our bodies to digest food easier. You are adding all the organisms from the atmosphere around you. Plus, as Diane brought up, fermentation has been around for centuries, and continuing to do it is honoring an ancient tradition. Until I can come up with a good place to brew sours and pick up some extra equipment, my homebrews will be bacteria-free (intentionally, anyway) for awhile. But it’s definitely something I would like to pursue more.

Since the Mason jars provided a strong seal, I decided to a bit of research on whether I could bottle my beer in them. The first obvious issue would be the clear glass. I have seen some Mason-style jars in other colors, but they are not as easy to find as the clear variety. I have not seen any in brown, either. So that’s a bit of a problem. The seal is created through high temperatures, almost like a vacuum. You know it’s sealed properly when you hear that signature “pop” sound. However, when you’re carbonating inside the jar, the pressure that builds up could potentially cause the seal (and the jar) to break.

So unlike this article from my favorite news source suggests, you can’t use Mason jars for EVERYTHING. But, you certainly can for lots of things. and I will continue to demand that if I go to a hip (or hipster) bar, I need to drink my pint out of a Mason jar while bathing in the Edison-lightbulb glow of a Mason jar chandelier. It’s only right.

And upon seeing this, I will undoubtedly say “WHAT A GOOD IDEA”.

Tin Bridge Brewing Bridges the Gap Between Beer and Music

A few months ago, I wrote about Within The Ruins’ guitarist Joe Cocchi’s brewery, Tin Bridge Brewing. I recently got an opportunity to chat one on one with Joe, and he was able to give me a little more background on the brewery, and balancing the brewing and being in a metal band.

Joe started out as a homebrewer, and talking to homebrewers-turned-owners always gives me hope that my own craft can become something larger than boiling water in my kitchen. The brewery got its name from a bridge where Joe used to hang out with his friends growing up in western Massachusetts. Which is fitting, since now Joe is hanging out with his friends and making beer. The brews of Tin Bridge are described as “high gravity”, and Joe said that many of them are stouts and porters with some really interesting ingredients. Barrel-aging is becoming so prevalent lately, and Tin Bridge recently picked up a used bourbon barrel from Woodinville Whiskey Company, which was also used to age maple syrup. They have plans to put a vanilla porter inside it, which is something I would love to try.

Band and breweries are two different animals, although they do have a few basics in common. Joe seems to have a good grasp on the balance of both. His partners at the brewery, which includes family and close friends, keeps a strong hold on things while he is on tour or recording with the band.


With so many craft breweries popping up, packaging is more meaningful than ever, and really helps brand a brewery and catch people’s eyes. Joe said he that the labels on their bottles may reflect their metal background and possibly be similar to the artwork on Within The Ruins’ album covers. The band has had some really great artwork, so seeing that tied into a beer label would be pretty awesome.


What I thought was really interesting that Joe mentioned was the prospect of Internet distribution for their beers. Having beer at the merch table while on tour isn’t a possibility. However, distributing it online would be a great way to bridge fans of the brewery and fans of the band. Not to mention attracting beer lovers from across the country and around the world.

Tin Bridge Brewing is open, but operates as a production space right now. So while there is no tasting room yet, the guys certainly welcome visitors who want to check out the brewing in progress and taste the finished project on site. Check out their Facebook for updates on what’s getting brewed! As for Within the Ruins, they will be on tour with Born of Osiris this month, which is really exciting. CT folks can catch them on Halloween at the Webster Theater in Hartford.

Craft Beer Goes Green

In case this blog has not made it explicitly clear, I feel better as a human drinking craft beer. I feel even better when I am supporting breweries that source local ingredients. Some breweries are taking that positive attitude to the next level and not only growing their own ingredients, but also using their own power through solar energy.

Bear Republic’s new solar system.

A small homebrew shop in New Jersey and a larger-scale brewery in California have both harnessed the power of the sun for making beer. Read more

Craft Outdoors: Harvest Fest @ the New Canaan Nature Center

unnamedAutumn is one of the best seasons for beer, and beer-related events. Although there is a chill in the air, it’s still great weather for spending time in the outdoors. The New Canaan Nature Center will be hosting the Beer, Bites, and Wine Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 4. The outdoor sanctuary is over 40 acres, with plenty of gardens and hiking trails. The harvest festival is from 7PM-10PM; I am thinking it would be a good idea to arrive early to get a hike in before the festivities begin. Connecticut breweries Half Full and Two Roads will be the main beer pourers, while a variety of other breweries, bottle shops, and more will be bringing in brews as well.

The Jazzholes will be providing music to go along with the libations. Tickets are $65 in advance, and $80 at the door, so it’s recommended to pick them up ahead of time. You can get them online here. Tickets include beer, wine, food, and all the entertainment and admission into the nature center.