It’s always exciting news hearing about new breweries entering the Connecticut craft beer scene. The newest addition in the making is Alvarium Beer Company in New Britain. If you’re like me, the term “Alvarium” came across as a head scratcher at first, but after consulting their logo (a beehive with a pint glass shaped entrance) I figured out it must have something to do with bees. Then, after learning they are based in New Britain, and the city was founded on the motto, “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey,” I really started getting it. Safe to say the guys at Alvarium have taken some time in the branding department.
But who are the guys behind the hive? Chris, Mike, and Brian all met at different points in life. Mike and Brian were homebrewing buddies for over ten years, while Mike and Chris met just over three years ago.
Chris, Alvarium’s brewmaster, has a long line of professional experience starting in New York. He served as assistant brewer at Chelsea Brewing as well as the 508 Gastropub. From there he relocated to Connecticut where he worked at City Steam in Hartford, before accepting the brewmaster position at Cambridge House in Granby. Cambridge House is where Chris cut his teeth and gained some incredible experience. Mike, a degreed mechanical engineer will oversee the guts of the brewery. Seeing as Mike is someone who created his own homebrewing stand from scratch with real propane burners, Alvarium’s construction is in safe hands. Brian is an Eagle Scout who comes with over ten years of sales and finance experience with a multi-million-dollar software company. The devil is in the details and Brian is someone who embraces them, making sure everything is running smoothly from buildout and beyond.
The idea to start a brewery was a rather simple one. Two or three years ago, while enjoying a pint at Firefly Hollow Brewing Co. in Bristol, “let’s start a brewery” was the topic of discussion. What seemed like a borderline humorous idea at the time, quickly enveloped the three friends entirely. The ideas starting flowing and before long it was keeping them up at night.
Today, the crew is hard at work converting a space in an industrial area into Connecticut’s next craft brewery. The floors are being cut, layouts have been drawn up, and the equipment has been purchased. The space itself is large, easily fitting over 100 people, and the floor plan is coming along as well.
But what about the beer? Important question indeed. Chris will take his years of experience and harness them on a 7bbl (seven barrel) steam system. Starting at 7bbl gives Alvarium some flexibility when it comes to experimental batches, but also the strength to pump out close to, or over 1,000 barrels per year with ease. That’s 31,000 gallons of beer for those of you doing the math at home. Many breweries use direct fire when it comes to brewing, or maybe electric heat, but the steam system might be the most efficient. If you’re like us, you fall in love with stainless steel fermenters at first glance; they’re stoic, yet sleek, and just beautiful. The Alvarium team plans to build a half-wall with a window so taproom guests can admire the majestic beauty of fermenting beer.
In terms of beers that will be available when the doors open (projected early 2017) Chris wants to throw a
bunch of different styles at the public. Obviously, New England Style Double IPA’s are popular right now, and Chris would love to offer a few, along with more classic styles such as East Coast IPAs, Porters, Stouts, Browns, etc. I may not be as experienced as the guys at Alvarium, but I will put in my two cents and say there has to be a “Hard Hittin’ Double IPA” as an ode to the city, but I digress.
But what seemed the most interesting to my brother and I was the space toward the back corner of the brewery that is planned to be utilized as a sour/aging area. Chris and his team would love to put a small system and work on sours, along with the installation of barrels strictly for aging Stouts and Baltic Porters. Typically, breweries tend to wait a while before toeing into sour territory. The equipment is usually something that is considered as part of an expansion, but the idea of having it out the gate is exciting.
“I want to do everything the right way, I don’t want to half-ass anything,” Chris says as he maps out the space. It’s evident these guys have planned their every move. When it comes to their calling card beer, or “flagship” if you will, Mike says, “We’re going to let people define our staple beer.” Whether that be the mysterious House Beer Chris mentioned which may never stay the same for too long, or even something more classic, Alvarium will let the pints do the talking.
One style we’re excited to see however, is Alvarium’s take on small beers. While in Utah, Chris found that (amongst other weird liquor laws) beers cannot exceed 4% ABV. So, you might be drinking a deliciously thick, rich, Imperial Stout with all kinds of flavors, but it’s barely doing any damage. Instead of seeing the negative in that, why not see the positive? You mean you can drink four Imperial Stouts in a row and not be face down on the bar top? Sign me up.
Alvarium plans to roll out something similar to this with the idea that people want to try more styles of beer but sometimes the alcohol percentage can be off-putting. Lining up a flight is a blast, but when half the flight is on the heavier side of things, it can be difficult. So, creating that balance could be an amazing way for people to not just try more beer, but actually stay a little longer and interact with one another (you mean human to human?). “I want to do beer in different ways that people just haven’t thought of yet.” Amen Chris.
If there’s one thing we took away from our trip to Alvarium, it’s that great things are happening and we cannot wait for them to open. The team has experience down the line, incredible personalities, and the work ethic that makes it impossible not to root for. I hope I’m not just speaking for myself when I say I can’t wait to grab a pint in the Hardware City.