Re-posted from my blog: Malted Musings.
Earlier this month (March 1st) Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company officially opened it's doors, becoming Middletown CT's first true production brewery. I had a chance to talk to the owners (Shane Lentini and Andrew Daigle) before the grand opening, and then swung back for the grand opening itself to get some notes about their solid, robust line of beer.
The first question I had (the night before the big day) was whether or not they were ready to open. Shane and Andrew half-jokingly told me they weren't really ready, but they were excited nonetheless, and about as ready as they were going to be. Indeed, as I walked in the two were cleaning and getting everything all setup for the grand opening. Now March 1st was the official opening, with a previous soft opening a few month's back to start up their growler club. This soft opening was invaluable, said the guys, as it pointed out a few things they did well and a few more things they could do better as more people would start flowing into the brewery.
The talk then turned to the brewery itself -- as in how did it all get started? As it turns out the brewery was the furthest thing from an "impulse buy" as possible. As Andrew said, it was a measured, careful approach. They tested the waters first, taking around two years (working on and off) to complete a business plan. They knew they had to be realistic to succeed and realize their dreams of beer so they took their time. Only when as many contingencies as possible were planned, the financials lined up, and the general logistics were squared away did the guys finally get serious about securing brewing space. Andrew said they knew it would be difficult, but it was a challenge they were ready for. There are many new state and federal regulations in place over the past ten years (perhaps due in some part to the massive influx of breweries in the CT area) Shane said, but stipulated that, in their experience, most of federal "red tape" was really in place to help people out: to make sure everything was done as it should be. Shane went on to say that CT is very friendly to small business, but the process itself is very involved and time consuming.
The building itself (The Remington Rand in Middletown) caught the guys' attention right away. As Shane said, it was a wide open building with tons of room and high ceilings. Beyond that, the industrial look inside struck the guys' fancy so much that they embraced that particular style to be the theme for their tasting area. They first toured Remington Rand around 2009. Shane continued to say that they hemmed and hawed over logistics for a little while, but when they broke it down they really liked Middletown. According to Shane it's a town with some great beer bars and beer fans, a lack of overall breweries in the area, and just good geography for distributing beer through the state. They finally revisited the building in early 2013 and pulled the trigger on getting established. Fast forward to Fall 2013 and they were ready to start producing beer.
As far as brewing philosophy goes, the guys say that they typically brew what they like, focusing on quality combinations of flavors that taste rich and balanced. Shane and Andrew have been home brewing since around 2008, but their love for beer goes much further back. Self-expressed "beer snobs" in college they have been developing a good palate for beer for years now. They have a good taste for flavor, usually preferring some complexity in their beer. Due to this many of the styles (as the guys put it with a laugh) usually just kind of "end up" rather large. Their ideas about beer are free form -- first and foremost, as Andrew says, they want to avoid holes in the palate and end up with a well-rounded beer (no matter what the intended style is). As far as the process goes, Andrew says that they apply their usual careful procedure to the process, researching the style they're going for, then brew up a few batches to see what works.
Right now the guys are working off of a fairly small one barrel fermentation system, but their full brewing equipment should be here any day now (or should have been here already Shane and Andrew told me with some eye rolling). Despite that the beer will be ready to ship soon-ish, at least sooner rather than later. The guys are more than excited to finally start pushing out larger batches of beer, because they are in the beer business to get better and brew better beer. As Andrew said, "If you're only in the buisness to be good enough, what's the point?"
It's this ideal that really seems to drive Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company. This is a company that isn't really in it to make a ton of money (though the guys did wryly say that it would be good to have the brewery be their main 'real' job eventually), rather this is a company formed on the love of beer: beer that tastes good and uncovering and developing even better tasting beer. Aiming for freshness, the guys told me that they'll brew a batch multiple times until they get it "just right," but even then they'll take a familiar recipe to switch it up just to see "what happens." They brew, sample, reassess, then move forward. It's like creativity wrapped with pragmatism: a perfect mix of caution and wild abandon. As Andrew said (to which Shane readily agreed), "If I won the lottery I would still work at the brewery."
The guys do tons of different combinations of styles, and really aim to make as many different kinds of beers as they can. The simple reason for this is that Shane and Andrew have wide tastes and want to see what type of flavor profiles can be developed. In other words the guys brew beer they want to drink, then hope that everyone else wants to as well. So far it's working rather well as people are very excited for the brand.
As Shane was talking about the vast amount of "likes" and "follows" they were receiving, at least a few people walked in during the interview to get more information on the opening and the beer the next day: making it obvious that people knew what was going down and couldn't wait to get in on it. In this case the small size is actually more of a benefit than anything else. Due to the limited brewing size the guys can do as many "test batches" as they can think of with no real limit. They have a flexibility which enables them to stick to their business plan and develop even more firm styles of beer. They pointed out that they don't want to be foolish as, at the end of the day, they still have to sell beer to remain open, buy bigger and better brewing equipment, and continue impressing their vision of beer on the world.
This interview was done the day before the grand opening. The pictures above speak volumes about the popularity of the event, which went off awesome. There was packed crowds, shoulder to shoulder, with people filling up growlers, sampling the beer, chatting up the brewers, and really just enjoying the day. The tasting format was five different beers and you got a card that allowed you five different samples. The tasting was so popular, in fact, that the guys ran out of beer a hour early! Despite that the grand opening was a stellar event to introduce Middletown to its brand new hometown brewery. I managed to grab tasting notes of four of the beers on at the Grand Opening, be sure to check back here for the specifics on that soon. Then go to Stubborn Beauty's site and Facebook to see when you can get in on the tasting action next. Finally follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ for more tasting notes and news on local CT breweries!