Elm City residents will soon be able to drink more locally brewed beer when a new brewery opens in East Rock next semester.
East Rock Brewing Co. is nearing the finals steps of designing its premises, and its construction will be put out to bid in the coming weeks. The brewery at 285 Nicoll St. will produce beers for distribution in Connecticut and serve them in its nearly 100-seat beer hall. East Rock Brewing Co. founder Tim Wilson said he hopes his company will turn out its first batch of lager in the fall.
Wilson began his project in 2015, and by the time it is complete, it will have taken roughly two years from start to finish.
“It’s quite a process. It’s not as easy as starting an internet business from your house or something like that,” Wilson said. “Just because of the nature of the brewery and being a concept that the city of New Haven hasn’t had in 20 or 30 years.”
On the New Haven beer scene, East Rock Brewing Co. joins BAR, located at 254 Crown St., which operates as a brewpub — a place where beer is created onsite and served alongside food such as pizza. BAR manager Daniel Brodoff said that, because all of BAR’s beer is sold within 254 Crown St., customers must either drink in the building or bring the beer home in 64-ounce growlers. BAR’s facilities are already operating at full capacity, Brodoff said, and the company has no intention to expand to distribution.
This approach represents the major difference between BAR and East Rock Brewing Co., which will generate most of its revenue through distribution to bars and other retailers.
East Rock’s new brewery is part of a nationwide rise in craft breweries, and some view a larger-scale New Haven brewery as long-awaited.
Many of Connecticut’s breweries are located in the state’s suburbs, said Jonathan Wharton, one of New Haven’s city plan commissioners. Cities such as Hartford have multiple breweries, and another beer maker in New Haven was therefore long overdue, he added.
East Rock Brewing Co. has been a long time in the works for Wilson, too. He brewed his first batch of beer while he was studying sociology at Binghamton University in the early 2000s. Since then, he has worked for multiple breweries in New England.
The search for East Rock Brewing Co.’s home began in the fall of 2015, when Wilson decided to found his own craft brewery. In the summer of 2016, Wilson signed a lease for 285 Nicoll St. and received construction approval from City Hall in the following months.
The lot previously was previously home to, though it currently hosts a gym and office space.
At East Rock Brewing Co., Wilson, who will also work as the brewmaster, said he will brew German-inspired lagers. Unlike breweries that make multiple styles to develop a diverse portfolio, Wilson said his brewery will start out with only three different beers. He added that he will focus on developing elegant, refined beers instead of high-alcohol, bitter ones.
“To me, beer is supposed to be a beverage that is engaging but without pretense,” Wilson said. “I think that’s a little bit lost in today’s craft beer world. So we’re just trying to get back to the basics.”
As of 2015, Connecticut had a total of 35 craft breweries, ranking 32nd in the country.