Connecticut is one of those places where the craft boom is still reverberating. It’s fun to watch. Eli’s Restaurant Group, a restaurant chain based in Hamden, Conn., loves craft beer so much it launched Eli’s Craft Beer Project, a campaign highlighting craft breweries across the state and New England. Today, Two Roads Brewing Co. in Stratford, Conn., is the largest craft brewery in the state, employing more than 150 full-time workers. Overall Connecticut is home to more than 60 operational breweries with lots more in planning. That maybe seems low compared to a lot of states. From a Hartford Courant article:
[Brewers Association Economist Bart Watson] compared the state of Oregon, with 2.9 million people over the age of 21 to Connecticut, which has 2.1 million people over the age of 21.
“Oregon has 300 active brewing licenses. Perhaps they’re approaching saturation,” he said, adding that some breweries closing in Oregon as new ones open.
Connecticut laws are fairly amicable. Beer sales are not controlled by the state. Beer can be sold in grocery stores. Breweries, restaurants, taverns and licensed retailers can sell sealed growlers of draft for off-premise consumption (four liters of beer per day last time we checked, which was also the first time). Last year, the state government passed House Bill 5928, which established a farm brewery manufacturer permit, which allows for, among other things, the manufacture, storage, bottling and wholesale distribution and sale of beer manufactured on a farm. A permittee may produce up to 75,000 gal of beer annually. These farm breweries can advertise the product as “Connecticut Craft Beer,” but they also must use a certain number of hops, barley or other fermentable grown or malted in the state.
This environment has the industry growing, and we can now get ready to add another new craft brewery to the trail (well, once it’s built). Dockside announced that it is seeking to add a waterfront destination to Milford (that’s coastal Connecticut). The craft brewery is teasing 30 tap lines, a waterfront biergarten and approximately 112 parking spots, located just over the Washington Bridge (40-50 Bridgeport Avenue, Milford) that spans from Stratford to Milford. According to the press release:
“Our hope is for Dockside to serve as a Gateway to Milford,” said [co-founder] Bob Chicoine. “Now more than ever, the craft beer industry is thriving with a more than $700 million impact statewide. And, we believe that Milford-residents, as well as folks across the region, deserve to be able to enjoy locally brewed beer near the waterfront and to experience the neighborhood revitalization benefits of the growing craft beer industry. Our aim is for Dockside to be more than just about beer: It will be a gathering place, a source of local identity and pride, and a means for local job creation.”
There is a bit of hurdle here. The property where Dockside will be located is currently occupied by a home (50 Bridgeport Ave.) and Village Marina (40 Bridgeport Ave.). Building a brewery is never easy. Plans for the property include demolishing the existing home — which will pave the way for 112 parking spots — and renovating the 4,000-sq-ft building that currently houses Village Marina to then serve as the new craft brewery. In addition, near the waterfront, two docks will be renovated to hold boat slips and inland will be home to a snazzy-sounding biergarten, which will have sweet shore views.
“Milford has the most shoreline of any coastal town in Connecticut,” said Chicoine. “We look forward to offering residents and visitors an opportunity to drink locally brewed craft beer by the water, help to add value to the city’s thriving economy, create jobs and build an establishment that fits well within the fabric of the community while bringing in a new and exciting venue.”
The next step for Dockside is to receive approval of its plans from Milford’s land-use boards.
Today’s zany fact
Co-founder Dan Bagley has owned the future Dockside location for eight years and was waiting for an opportunity that was the best fit for the community, and that’s when he met Chicoine. Since 2016, Bagley and Chicoine had been discussing the possibility of putting together a waterfront craft brewery and biergarten at the Milford location. And, after two years of planning and making sure the project was just right for the property, Chicoine and Bagley decided to move forward this spring.
We should also note that Chicoine is a partner at Engine15 Brewing Co., an award-winning craft brewery in Jacksonville, Florida.