New Park Brewing, West Hartford's first craft brewery, sold so much beer during its March opening weekend that the owners had to close for two weeks to catch up on production.
"It was a great problem to have, for sure," says John Doyle, a co-founder along with Tom Atkins and head brewer Alex Dee. They began planning the brewery three years ago, generating buzz by offering samples at friends' parties, beer festivals and local events.
"We were hopeful that things would take off well, but I was pretty blown away by the response."
In the months since, beer lovers have continued to flock to West Hartford. On warm weekends, the 80-seat tasting room and 400-square-foot patio are regularly packed with visitors enjoying beers and food from a rotating lineup of local trucks.
"There's a culture around it; everyone seems happy," Doyle says. "You're supporting a local business, you're drinking something very unique and delicious, you're playing games with people, it's usually a pretty good energy level, it's a communal vibe. Everything comes together and works well."
FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY BEERS: Double IPAs Hopiary, brewed with oats and wildflower honey, and Headband, with three varieties of American and Australian hops, have been early favorites. The Cloudscape IPA features "notes of grapefruit and tropical fruit" and the Calyx IPA, with large additions of flaked oats, produces "flavors of mango, creamsicle and oatmeal." The Warbler saison, described as a "patio beer," is made with fresh lime zest added at the whirlpool stage.
In June, Afterglow, a raspberry Berliner Weisse, kicked off the brewery's Blender series of fruited sours. The magenta-hued brew "sold better than any beer we've ever done," Doyle said, and upcoming Berliners will feature blackberry and mango peach flavors.
Doyle said New Park's smaller size allows for experimentation. "As a seven-barrel brewery, you're always refining, trying different ingredients, trying different brewing methods, recipes. You're constantly slightly improving. And then you always have new things for people to try. I think it's nice at this size that you can do that and you're not just pumping out the same thing."
TASTING ROOM HOURS, AMENITIES: New Park has added summer Thursday hours for the months of July and August, opening from 5 to 9 p.m. Regular hours are Friday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
This summer, the brewery has partnered with Sub Edge Farm of Farmington, Mystic Cheese Company and Sweet Sage Bakery for a "beer, bread, cheese and veg" CSA, with weekly pickups at the tasting room.
FOOD OPTIONS: New Park Brewing features a food truck nearly every day the tasting room is open, with a wide variety of options: fried chicken sandwiches from Yardbird & Co., Italian eats from Brasato, barbecue from Bear's Smokehouse and much more. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food.
PRICING: Beers are served in 12- and 16-ounce pours, priced at about $5 to $8. One-liter "to go" growlers are $10 to 12. Note: New Park Brewing only fills its own growlers, which are available for purchase for $5.
New Park Brewing is at 485 New Park Ave. in West Hartford. 860-232-2033, newparkbrewing.com.
If it seems like a new brewery opens in Connecticut every week, that's not far off — the state's beer scene continues to grow at a rapid clip, with nearly 50 operational breweries and dozens more in planning and development.
We're planning to tell the stories behind these local breweries and what you'll find when you visit: core beers, specialty brews and sought-after releases; tasting room amenities, food trucks, special events and more.