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.

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Run To The Brews: Craft Brew Races Hit New England

Having a cold beer after doing some physical activity is pretty satisfying.

The Craft Brew Races are taking that satisfaction across New England this summer, offering a run with a beer festival that showcases local brews and other craft beers from around the area. The races will be stopping in New Haven this Saturday. I have never run a 5K before, and generally maintain the attitude that I only run if I am being chased. However, I’ve been training with the Couch to 5K app on my phone, as well as my own Outkast to 5k (where I made a playlist of Outkast songs with beats to go along with my intervals of running or walking- GENIUS). Working out makes the taste of beer that much more delicious, and it’s helping me get in shape, too. Luckily, if you are not 100% prepared to run a whole 5k, the Craft Beer Race calls itself a “relaxed” 5k, which encourages walkers as well.

The race takes place in Edgewood Park at 12 PM, and for non-runners, the beer festival drinking begins at 12:30 PM.

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The post-race beer fest is free for runners, or if you’re simply someone enjoying the beer-drinking, you can get a ticket to the festival only for $45. Registration goes offsale online this evening, so be sure to grab them while you can!

If you live outside of CT or need an excuse for an end-of-summer road trip, the Craft Brew Races will be in Waterville Valley, NH on August 23 and Cape Cod on September 28.

ConNEWticut: New Brewing In The Nutmeg State

The Internet has been buzzing with a bunch of new breweries opening up in Connecticut. Here’s what you need to know about a few of the up-and-comers.

Overshores Brewery of East Haven has a unique spin on their brewing. They are dedicated to Belgian-style brewing, which is a refreshing sight to see against all the super-hoppy IPAs that seem to be so popular in the beer scene right now. So far, I have tried their Belle Fermiere, which is a saison. Super tasty and light, and the bottle conditioning gives it an interesting flavor. The hops are a blend of the noble European varities, as well as American Simcoe, so it gives a nice combination of both continents. Belle Fermiere is already available at a whole bunch of bars and liquor stores across the state, and more styles will be released as the summer goes on.

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Black Hog Brewery is opening this summer in Oxford, and is owned by brothers Jason and Tom Sobocinski. Their name may be familiar to cheese-lovers in the New Haven area; they own the restaurant Caseus, which has a great menu and beer list. OmnomCT caught up with the brothers, as well as head brewer Tyler Jones.

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Oxford will also be the home to another new brewery. OEC, which stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores (Order of the Eccentric Boilers). OEC comes from the folks at B. United, who distributes some really interesting beers, ciders, and meads, from all over the world. OEC’s grand opening is this Saturday, June 7. Six of their beers will be on tap, and growlers will be available for fills.

A few other new breweries of note:

The CT Beer Trail and CT Beer and Wine both have running lists of all the new breweries opening up, so stay tuned!

Beersmith: Bending Metal Makes Functional Art

Although Now Beer This does a lot of beer and music pairings, there is always time to appreciate beer and AWESOME pairings. What does this mean? Well, last weekend it meant that I took part in a blacksmith class where I learned how to use a forge and make some really unique bottle openers. I also spoke to the owner about getting started as a blacksmith and some insight into teaching classes.

A Creative Evolution holds a variety of workshops to show people how to create metal works from scratch. I did the “Pop The Top” workshop, but there are some other really fun-looking ones on their website, to make a variety of functional pieces of art, from tools to firepits. Basically, some really fun things you can use while consuming some delicious craft beers and listening to great records, which is what this blog is all about.

It was definitely a very unique way to spend a morning. It is amazing how some of the simplest acts- such as hitting hot metal, can create some beautiful and functional objects. It is not as easy as it sounds, though. There are techniques to everything, and just the way you stand and hold a tool can make or a break an object. The tools themselves are numerous; sure, you’re mostly using a hammer or mallet, but the shape and size is what makes the difference between making a small bottle opener or a huge sculpture. Founder Erich Davis says, “I have always been the type of person who like to inspire people to see things a little differently…I like watching people light up when they do something new and challenging.” The workshop was definitely challenging, but a lot of fun in a very different and unique way.

Davis’ metal career began in college as a sculptor. He told me his love for working with metal stemmed from forging bronze and aluminum, and became inspired to build his own foundry. He says that showing people the ropes is a win-win situation; “I get to engage people on a personal level and offer them an opportunity to see things in a different light both through the act of making things the old fashioned way and through coaching and consulting people to be inspired to apply “the creative process” to other parts of their life and work”.

Davis says A Creative Evolution will be gearing up for classes in the new year, so that people can purchase them to give as gifts for the holidays. Check out the website here for more information on how to sign up for a workshop!

OktoBEERfest: Connecticut

Despite the name, Oktoberfests are historically held in mid-September as a celebration to kick off the fall, and to welcome the month of October. While the biggest one is in Bavaria, of course, Connecticut is stepping up with a few of their own. All of them are awesome celebrations of seasonal as well as local beer, and most of them have some great musicians performing too! Here are some highlights of upcoming beerfests in the area coming in the next few weeks.

Ok2berfest

Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22- Two Roads Brewery- Stratford, CT

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Two Roads Brewery’s Oktoberfest will span 2 days and take place at their brewery grounds. Music, food trucks, and of course, great beer. Just in time to try their rum-barrel aged pumpkin offering, Roadsmary’s Baby. One of my favorite bands, Slavic Soul Party, will be playing from 12:30-3:00 PM on 9/21, as well as local favorites, the Mclovins, afterwards. Admission on either day includes a beer stein!

Harbor Brew Fest

Saturday, September 28- Harbor Yard- Bridgeport, CT

I grew up in Bridgeport so I am happy to return for events that involve the things I love, such as Rush concerts or beer fests. Well, I already saw Rush last fall there, so this fall brings the Harbor Brew Fest which has a list of over 30 breweries that will be there. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Harbor Light Foundation, a non-profit that provides activities and programs to children in the Connecticut area. Bands that are slated to perform include John Reid, Tom Crowley & the Speakers, String Fingers, and Alpaca Gnomes. There will be a variety of food trucks, including my favorite, Super Duper Weenie! Plus for a $40 ticket, beer sampling is unlimited.

Milford Oktoberfest

Saturday, September 28- Fowler Field, Milford, CT

http://ctmonuments.net/

I recently moved to Milford so I have to throw this one up here. Plus, there is a bratwurst-eating contest. Do I need to say more?

CT Museum Quest Oktoberfest

Sunday, September 29- Old Heidelberg- Bethel, CT

http://oldheidelbergct.com/

CT Museum Quest is embarking on a Connecticut Food Tour of the World! They have already traveled to Portugal and Venezuela, and the third stop will be Germany. What better time to taste German cuisine than Oktoberfest season?

Can’t make it on Sunday? That’s okay, the Old Heidelberg will be celebrating Oktoberfest every weekend starting on September 13 and culminating on the 29th.

Luck and Levity September Brewlounge

Tuesday, September 17- Luck and Levity Brewshop- New Haven, CT

This one isn’t being referred to as an Oktoberfest, but any gathering of beer drinkers during this time frame might as well count! So get down to the Luck and Levity Brewshop on Tuesday for some beer sharing! You don’t need to be a homebrewer to participate, and for this one, you can bring either a beer or something deliciously autumnal to eat. Plus if you’ve never homebrewed before, it might just encourage you to start!