Deep within Middlesex County there stands a barn, and in that barn there is a brewery. Straying from the conventional, Fat Orange Cat Brewing Company fully operates out of a beautiful two-story barn in East Hampton, CT. This is a taproom you have to see to believe, partly because of the sheer beauty of their barn, and also to really understand the backyard party vibe of Fat Orange Cat.
Named after Billy, a beloved orange cat that enjoyed hanging around and observing the brewing process (rest easy Billy!), Fat Orange Cat opened its (barn) doors on August 3rd. The flaming hoops breweries have to jump through just to serve a pint on their own grounds can be endless, and somewhat impossible, and Fat Orange Cat faced similar struggles. They literally had to change a law in East Hampton that prevented the exchange of money for alcohol in a residential zone. Once that was changed, it was a Planning & Zoning Special Permit, and then countless public hearings where local support finally helped bring this whole project to life.
Now, two months into the game, FOC is changing the whole landscape of Connecticut breweries. If Two Roads and Stony Creek are the Goliath’s in this great state, then consider Fat Orange Cat the ultimate David. There are no gigantic stainless steel fermenters capable of holding hundreds of gallons of beer looming in their brewhouse, instead you can get up close and personal with the smaller chronical fermenters lined up along the taproom walls. There’s no fancy bar fully equipped with a long line of taps, instead they run their beer from kegs in a chest freezer, or as homebrewers have come to call it, a keezer.
For just $5 you get four poker chips which you exchange for tastes out of a wonderfully crafted tulip glass…which you get to keep! Add “best deal ever” under things Fat Orange Cat has to offer. We slapped an Abe Lincoln down, got our chips, souvenir glass, and got to work.
We were able to try three original Fat Orange Cat offerings along with a guest tap from Third Stage Brewing. First up was Jalapeño Jack, a Cream Ale infused with, you guessed it, jalapeño peppers. We were initially a little timid to take on a beer infused with jalapeños considering we thought our mouths would end up on fire, but after a few sips, we were happily mistaken. The delicate brewing process used to make Jalapeño Jack creates the aroma and flavor of the peppers without the heat. So what you are left with is a Cream Ale with the unique flavor injection, and for the full experience, add a lime wedge. For its unique style and incredible execution, Jalapeño Jack earned the Must Try distinction.
Next up was The Frog, a Double IPA brewed with Mosaic hops. Right away we had to applaud its balance. Any beer above 8% ABV can be hit or miss when it comes to how much of that alcohol content you’re going to taste. The Frog did a wonderful job of bringing the flavor of an Imperial IPA, without paying the price that comes with an 8.4% ABV tag. The Mosaic hops were on full display here, showcasing fruity and tropical flavors while a subtle malt backbone allows for big flavors. The Frog is the third and final installment of what FOC calls their Courageous Cat Trilogy, and we’re glad we were able to get a hold of it before it takes its final bow.
Severe Tire Damage rounded out our day. The New England-Style IPA, coming in at 9.4% ABV was another great example of drinkability. Featuring a worthy trio of hops; Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic, Severe Tire Damage poured into the glass with that traditional New England-style haze. There’s just something about that bright orange cloudiness that gets our taste buds jumping, and this did not disappoint.
Generous amounts of citrus and earthy undertones are abundant in its aroma, while more fruit and citrus was found on the palate. Once again, this beer was smooth, I’m not sure how they do it. Packing in all those hop flavors without coupling them with a thick malty backbone isn’t easy, especially when the ABV exceed 9% but Severe Tire Damage accomplishes just this. For its delicious aroma, taste, and sneaky drinkability, Severe Tire Damage earned the Our Favorite distinction.
If you’ve been to a few local breweries, then you must visit Fat Orange Cat. Turning conventional brewery tactics on its head, FOC blends an incredible backyard party vibe with great beers to match, culminating into one amazing brewery. Be sure to check out their website (https://fatorangecatbrewco.com/) to find out what beer will be available before you visit. They are open every Saturday from 12-5pm and try to keep the taplist fresh by rotating beers as much as possible. So stop by and enjoy some local craft beer, soak up the friendly neighborhood vibe, and get to know Connecticut’s most unique brewery.
FAT ORANGE CAT
I mean no disrespect from the above comparisons, I think it’s amazing to have a fully functional taproom from the comfort of your own barn. Rather than tell you more of what FOC doesn’t have, let me tell you what they do have. For starters, it’s a one-of-a-kind vibe; cars parked on the side of the road, people walking up the driveway growlers in hand, dogs running around and children exploring the farm animals behind the brewery, it has all the makings of a neighborhood party. The taproom itself is beautiful, the crew is kind and just as excited as you are, and most important, they have some great beer.