Brew-Inn, Part IV: Favorite microbreweries, distilleries and wineries in Connecticut

Beer tasting at Outer Light Beer company in CT

Photo credit: Outer Light Brewing Company

We’ve been taking the ultimate beer tour of New England in the DINE blog, which has expanded beyond craft brews to include distilleries and wineries too.  This is quite the “spirited” tour and it makes for the perfect itinerary for tasting and pairing your way through the 12 Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE).  How can you beat a romantic getaway at one of DINE inns blended with tours and tastings at fabulous New England microbreweries, distilleries and wineries?   We call that the perfect pairing!

Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, summer shot.This is the fourth in our Brew-Inn series, this week featuring ideas for combining a stay in Mystic Country at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, with wonderful microbreweries and wineries in the region.  The first post in the Brew-Inn series covered a wide range of fun microbreweries in Massachusetts all favored by our innkeepers at Gateways Inn, Harbor Light Inn, Captain’s House Inn and Deerfield Inn.  The next week, we focused on Newport, Rhode Island,  highlighting Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling, the microbrewery and distillery favorite of Nancy and Bill at Cliffside Inn and makers of Newport Storm craft beers.  Next, we explored options in Maine, a state where the craft brewing movement has exploded, but also home to some fabulous wineries and distillery favorites of Captain Jefferds Inn and Camden Maine Stay Inn too.  So, without hesitation, let’s learn more about what the Mystic region of Connecticut offers to those who love to combine local libations with the Connecticut shore.

Barley Head Brewing is the only brewery in Mystic, CT.  Located on Water Street, it’s considered a nano-brewery with beers changing every week. Their two BBL brewing system allows the brewery to make a wide variety of beers, meaning something for taste. They strive for four to six beers on tap with a surprising range of flavors for a small brewery. Many of their ingredients are sourced locally, sometimes from the brewer’s own garden. Plan to try tastings as beers are available by the glass, the growler, and in cans. They are open Thursday through Sunday.

Outer Light Brewing Company produces beers in cans and kegs available in local establishments and liquor stores. Brewing everything from the Lonesome Boatman Ale to a Coffee Stout and a Double IPA, there’s something for every beer drinker in this collection – from light to dark.  In addition, visit their taproom on Bridge Street in Groton, CT. The child-friendly tap room offers pints, tastings, can sales and growler fills to go.

Beer production at Beer'd Brewing Co

Photo credit: Beer’d Brewing Co.

Head down the CT coast a little farther and you come to Stonington, CT’s Beer’d Brewing Co. Brewing specialty beers in nano small batches, this brewery has only been around since 2012, but they know their stuff. Their 217 gallon/7 BBL brew house allows the brewers to be creative, agile and extremely hands-on with every ounce of beer they produce, harkening back to the days when beer was produced by someone down the block rather not a multinational corporation. Visit their tasting room for a complimentary taste of each of their available brands ranging from one to five beers. They also offer 64 oz and 32 oz. growler fills for takeaway sales. They’ve recently added seating and on-site beverage service.  However. No food is served, so feel free to bring a few of your favorite beer snacks in to pair with your pints! Some of their beer staples are the Whisker’d Wit, Midnight Oil, and Anomaly. And yes, when you look at the photos of their brewers, they do have beards!

While not generally considered a destination for wine production, coastal southern New England offers up a surprising hotbed of small yet mighty wineries. In fact, a group of 14 of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts wineries have joined together to form The Coastal Wine Trail, a nonprofit group of wineries that weave through the heart of Southeastern New England. This group has quietly built a reputation for serving award-winning winning wines in distinctive tasting rooms that offer not only a deep connection to their local roots of each bottle but also fabulous event and in Connecticut, music venues too.

No need to head to Napa.  Napa has been brought to N. Stonington, Connecticut at the Jonathan Edwards Winery. Wine lovers will enjoy this fabulous venue, for its tasting room, festivals and events.  From light Pinot Grigios and oaky Chards to a wide range of reds, the care that goes into growing, harvesting and serving these wines is evident.  The tasting room is open daily, seven days a week from mid-May through October. A 30-minute daily winery tour is complimentary beginning at noon. Weather permitting, the tour includes walks in the vineyard and a visit to the tank and barrel rooms offered by one of the experienced Tasting Room associates. During the summer an additional outdoor tasting bar is available on the stone patio. The winery offers a small selection of local cheeses and accompaniments but encourage visitors to bring snacks to enjoy. Picnic tables are available to use while enjoying a bottle of wine available in the store.  Tastings of 7 wines are available for $15.00.  In addition, the vineyard offers a fabulous barn, popular for weddings and events.  Time your visit to the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina with the Spring Festival at Jonathan Edwards Winery on June 2-3, 2018, and enjoy wine, music, artisan vendors and more.

Vineyard view at Saltwater Farm Winery

Photo source: Saltwater Farm Winery.

Nearby, and also in Stonington, Saltwater Farm Vineyard is noted for its preservation of the property’s place in Stonington history: a combination of a coastal farmland and a WWII-era private airport.  Rooted with a keen knowledge of New England viniculture, French winemaking techniques and modern design, the experienced vineyard team here has created a portfolio of small production, estate-driven wines.  From whites and roses aged in stainless steel tanks to reds matured in French oak barrels, wine lovers are sure to find a new favorite here. The Tasting Room is located on the mezzanine level of the farm’s restored World War II-era airplane hangar, overlooking fifteen acres of grapevines, complete with a fully preserved and maintained 1800ft grass landing strip dating back to the 1930s. Now open for the season, the Tasting Room is open Wednesday through Sunday; reservations are suggested for Saturday tastings.  The May Music Series offers Sunday concerts, perfect for pairing with a tasting.

And finally, about 15 miles north of Mystic sits Preston Ridge Vineyard, a 60-acre winery with views of the Connecticut countryside. Currently growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Triaminette, Vidal Blanc and Baco Noir varietals, the vineyard is open to the public on Fridays, and Saturdays/Sundays. Enjoy live music in the tasting room scheduled on Fridays and Sundays.  Visit the events list to see the full schedule and line-up of entertainment. A great reason to extend your weekend stay at Inn at Harbor Hill Marina through Sunday!

That’s it for our visit to coastal Connecticut’s microbreweries and vineyards. Visit each of the Distinctive Inns of New England by clicking below on links that will take you to each of their websites.  Better yet, visit them in person for your next “spirit-filled” getaway in DINE country.

In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic

In Maine:  Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport & Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden

In Vermont:  Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton

In New Hampshire:  Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield

In Massachusetts:  Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Gateways Inn & Restaurant in Lenox, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod.

In Rhode Island: Cliffside Inn in Newport