Counter Weight Brewing: From The Nuanced To Big And Bold

If you recognize the beer names Sea Hag, G-Bot and Fuzzy Baby Ducks, you're likely familiar with Matt Westfall's career. During his decade-long tenure with New England Brewing Company, Westfall served as part owner and head brewer of the Woodbridge brewery, watching its popularity skyrocket in recent years thanks in part to demand for those highly rated IPAs.

Last summer, Westfall began working toward a new goal — opening his own brewery. When he joined New England Brewing in 2006, choosing the job in Connecticut over an internship offer from Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewing, the company had been operational for about four years. "I wanted to do one more thing, from the ground up," he says.

The Bristol native left his position in early October and began planning what would become Counter Weight Brewing in Hamden. Less than six months later, in late March, the brewery opened its doors. "We were able to do it pretty quickly, as a result of lots of wonderfully generous people doing me a lot of favors," he says.

Westfall says he stopped to savor a milestone on the first day he and his staff ran the canning line in the brewery.

"Just seeing beer go into cans, like … we actually put this together. To see it actually work, and to kind of prove to myself, I can build something from the ground up, I did know what I was doing. That first pallet that went on the truck, I took a picture of it. I've got to remember that moment."

FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY BEERS: The brewery's ultimate goal is to "eventually provide an experience that is not one-dimensional," Westfall says. "As much as we love IPAs, we don't want to only offer IPAs. We want to find ourselves in a position down the road where we have an array of styles of beer available, and hopefully be a leader in education."

Counter Weight's IPAs and double IPAs have naturally been successful in its first months, like the Headway, brewed with four varieties of American hops. Spiral Architect, a DIPA with "mango and orange-like aromas and flavor," is set to become a staple, and Space Coyote is a rotating series of IPAs that uses an alternating selection of hop varieties. Counter Weight also recently partnered with Watertown's Lasting Brass to produce Cohesive Resistance, a collaboration DIPA with Denali hops.

The Van Art gose, made with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pink Himalayan salt, has been a popular summer sour, and Westfall describes the Mixed Cassette Grisette, a low-alcohol Belgian table beer, as crisp and dry with pepper and citrus flavors. "We put it out not knowing what to expect. But it's actually done really well here."

Counter Weight has also generated buzz for its WorkHorse pilsner, a traditional German beer described as "refined yet unfettered" and "brewed to be seriously drinkable."

"It's a style that's just starting to come back around," Westfall says. "There's still such a loud demographic of beer drinkers [saying] 'Why do we want to drink this? It's not hoppy.' But I think there's a whole new group ... just fatigued from the vast amount of hops, maybe they just want a beer-flavored beer. If we can provide that for them, let people know that you can drink beers that are nuanced, rather than just big, bold, flavorful citrus bombs."

Westfall has plans for different versions of the Void oatmeal stout, with coffee and vanilla bean, to run throughout the winter, and he hopes to focus on more lagers and barrel-aged sour beers in the future.

TASTING ROOM HOURS, AMENITIES: Counter Weight has two tap rooms: one on the ground floor of the building that also serves as its retail space, and another on the second-floor level that overlooks the brewing operation. The upstairs room features a few wooden tables with built-in games.

The brewery also offers three guest taps: a rotating featured beer from another Connecticut brewery, one European beer and one cider from Wallingford's New England Cider Company. Guest bottles include Orval and a rotating lambic.

FOOD OPTIONS: Guests are welcome to bring their own food to the brewery, and Counter Weight also books regular food trucks on weekends, with recent visits from DrewbaQ, Crazy Taco-Mex, Caseus Cheese Truck and The Meat Truck.

PRICING: Pints are $6 to $7; four-packs of cans are $12 to $14. Guests can also build their own tasting flights at $1 per one-ounce sample.

COUNTER WEIGHT BREWING, 23 Raccio Park Road, Hamden, is open Friday, 3 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 203-821-7333, counterweightbrewing.com.

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