Sometimes, just before you hit “publish” on a
rant post you think better of it and crumple up your virtual paper, toss it across the room and start all over. My original intent here was to rekindle the debate surrounding some recently proposed bills concerning the sale of alcohol in Connecticut. Back in October I wrote a post about a bill to allow beer made in CT to be sold at farmers markets and the issues I had with it not tying any part of the permit to some use of ingredients grown in CT. So what made me hit delete? Well, nobody likes a person who benefits from something and still decides to complain.
I still have very strong feelings that this bill is flawed at best, and could potentially be a road block to any substantive farm brewery legislation in the state, but decided to throw my support behind it last Friday and call for your support to phone Governor Malloy and urge him to sign it into law. Thank you to any of you who called!
Then a funny thing happened on the way to writing this piece. While looking online for a full text of the bill I came across the general assembly summary page that said it had been signed into law on Thursday June 4. Not 15 minutes earlier I had been on the phone with the Governor’s aid who was unaware that this bill (or at least this specific provision) had been signed into law. I immediately called the Department of Consumer Protection Liquor Control to begin the application process. Turns out, it takes more than one day for new liquor permit applications to be created and makes it way to the agencies that handle enforcement. Nonetheless, whenever the application is available, you can bet I’ll be first in line to apply.
The rules are fairly straightforward:
– Breweries that manufacture beer in Connecticut (contract breweries included) are eligible to sell such beer at CT farmers’ markets
– No beer shall be poured at the farmers’ market. All beer sold must be pre-packaged and sealed ie no growlers will be able to be filled or samples poured for customers at the market. Cans, bottles, and pre-filled growlers are eligible for sale.
– No brewery shall sell more than 5 liters to any one person
– Breweries must be invited to become a vendor by the market manager
– No brewery shall be allowed to manage a stand at more than three markets
– A bunch of administrative application and licensing fees apply
Aside from not having no tie to Connecticut agriculture, and allowing breweries to act like farms but not make it possible for a farm become a brewery this bill is actually pretty good! So what does all of this mean for us?
Well, you will finally be able to buy some of our beer alongside our pasture raised eggs and chicken and say hello to your brewers and farmers while swinging through the New Milford Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning! More to the point, here’s our plan.
Despite there not being a requirement to do so, we will do our best to sell beer with ingredients grown in CT at the market. I would not fault any other brewery who applies for this permit for not following suit as the law does not require it. After all, not all of our brewing ingredients are sourced locally, but we do our best and will put a focus on these beers at the farmers’ market.
Considering our limited bottle production, it would only hurt our current retail customers if we decided to take supply form them to sell at the market. Instead, we will use the farmers’ market as a venue for special releases of our barrel aged beer. Never before has the decision to use the same CT grown malt for our barrel program as we use in Field Beer seem to pay off.
So where are we with our barrel program? Every barrel is unique; each with its own microbes and history contributing to the developing character of the beer you age inside it. After filling the barrels in March we let them rest for more than a month to see what character developed from the wood, and the existing microbes within it. Our cellar is made up of a mix of 16 neutral red and white barrels, some French oak, some American giving us a small but diverse palate of base beers to work with. Once barrel character is able to be detected, the decision can be made to add additional yeast cultures and microbes to accentuate and develop even more complex character inside the beer; permanently inoculating that wood for future use. Certain barrels received multiple cultures, some barrels were left as is because of the clean and beautiful notes developing from them.
Now that Spring/Summer is basically in full swing (lets forget that 45 degree week) the fun is just beginning. Working with local farms in our area, we plan on adding several different fruits to the barrels, and blending others to create deep complex, brett and sour barrel aged beers. We’ve already gotten to work on two barrels, adding zest and juice from grapefruits grown just up the road and have plans for several more. In fact, the rhubarb is already picked!
As for growlers? Well, we’re working on this one. Most likely, depending on the time in which the permit is available we will bring a small number of growlers to the market (freshly filled) and have them available for sale. As things grow, we will work toward a pre-sale system where the market is primarily a pickup location rather than actual point of transaction. This way, we don’t have to bring unnecessary amounts and there won’t be any growlers that go to “waste”.
All in all, we’re extremely excited to be able to have more frequent and direct interactions with you, our customers and be able to bring CT Beer and CT Agriculture one step closer together. Progress is progress, and imperfections are a part of the process. The conversation must continue, and a farmers market is not a bad place to start. So to that, I say, “See you at the market!”
To those that are interested, I welcome discussion on the efficacy of this bill (and others including the growler law) in the comments section, in person, or via email.