Monday, September 26, 2011


After enjoying a really satisfying visit to Mystic, despite chowing down on a delicacy that I hope to never have to ingest again, we headed off to the first of two breweries we had planned to visit: Cottrell Brewing Company. The fact that the brewery opens to visitors at 3:00PM afforded us the extra time in Mystic to find John's, but also endangered our chances of visiting the second brewery as it closed at 5:00PM and was about an hour's drive without traffic. But we'd cross that bridge when we got there. So off to Cottrell it was!

But wait! On route 1 in Stonington something caught my eye off to the side of the road. It looked like a little church so I made The Control hang a U-ey to see what it was. As it came into view we noticed that the structure was in a cemetery. We drove into the cemetery expecting to be told to leave as soon as we did, but meeting no such recrimination we drove to the structure I had seen, parked, got out and proceeded to take copious amounts of pictures. Here's one.

Still curious as to what the structure was we approached some groundskeepers and inquired as to its nature. We were told that it was a mausoleum that was built by Cottington Billings but was never used for its intended purpose. Cottington is buried in another part of the cemetery, but one of his descendants was cremated and his urn is inside. As you can see from the picture, the mausoleum is in need of repairs and they mentioned a group that was set up to raise money for the refurbishment, but I couldn't find anything on the internet about it when we returned home.

Cottrell Brewing's "Front" Door
We left the cemetery and drove into Pawcatuck and found the brewery with fewer wrong turns than most people. Driving around the back of a factory we could see the dock door for the brewery with empty pallets scattered about. Getting out of the car and walking we passed a hopper of spent grains that seemed to still be warm which meant that they were brewing today. Sweet! As we walked through the open dock door we got confirmation of this in the form of the lovely, malty aroma wafting about the place. We noticed that there was only one other person there at the sample bar. When you think "sample bar" think of a table set up right outside the office door with a kegerator, a few freshly-opened bottles and small, plastic cups. Drew, the tour guide was pretty generous with his pours and led us on a tour of the brewery. The mash tun was still open after having been cleaned out and the brew kettle was going, giving off that sweet, malty smell. Love it! Empty malt sacks hung from the hook of a massive industrial overhead crane which probably could have lifted the engine from a cruise liner. We pointed out that it was a bit of overkill but Drew confirmed it came with the space they were using so why not put it to work. Yup.

Drew at the sampling bar
The fermenters
He took us in back where the nearly antique bottling line sat behind teetering stacks of empty cases. There was a fermenter encased in...something...Drew may have said, but I didn't catch it. There were also the more familiar stainless steel fermenters...four of them lined up against one wall another tank labeled "CARB". Guess what that's for. The place was dingy, the floor was less-than-spotless and detritus from the brewing process was here and there. This was a working brewery, run by someone who put stock in the end result of great beer. Okay, pretty good beer. Nothing really stood out about their Yankee Ale, Mystic Bridge IPA or their Summer Ale, but they were very drinkable. In many regards this place reminded me of Cricket Hill without the lovably lunatic owner. And who knows? If the owner had been there, he may have shown as much passion for brewing as Rick Reed.

The place was pretty small, but made good use of its space and it didn't take much time to complete the tour and down the samples. After nearly convincing the other tour participant to ditch his wife for the day and come into Newport with us to drink at the brewpub, we jumped in the car, turned onto Route 1 and took the bridge over into Rhode Island. Hmm, spellcheck claims that I have spelled "Rhode" wrong. Perhaps we should change the name of our smallest state to Road Island? Then again, spellcheck says that I've spelled "spellcheck" wrong.

Their sign shows both businesses
I never asked if they used this tank
After hitting a little bit of traffic we crossed that bridge that I mentioned we'd cross when we got there at the top of the page (you can go back and check; this will all be here when you're done). In reality it was two bridges: the Jamestown Bridge and the Newport Bridge, but it sure seemed like one, long, damn bridge with no good view of the lighthouse next to it. The next destination on the itinerary was Coastal Extreme Brewing which brews the Newport Storm brand of beer and also distills Thomas Tew Rum. We had lost hope of making it in time for their 5:00 closing when we left Cottrell, but once again we had made pretty good time, getting into Newport at 4:30. So we thought we'd give it a shot. We got there at 4:40, ran inside and asked if we were in time for the tasting bar. We were informed that they'd be closing in 20 minutes but from the looks of us we could easily down the five samples in that time. Taking that as a high compliment we paid our $7.00, got our souvenir tasting glass and our tasting sheet and hit the bar with a fury.
Their taps...I guess we got some out of bottles
Mike Rowe signed this shirt "Do not clean"
After finishing the first two samples we took a look around the tasting room. It was really nicely appointed with a large u-shaped bar in the back corner, nautically themed wall hangings and shelves, and a sizeable gift shop with Newport Storm and Thomas Tew merchandise available. Mike Rowe recorded an episode of Dirty Jobs here distilling rum, all the while getting snookered on Newport Storm beer. It's worth a watch as he gets pretty silly...sillier than usual. The video quality on this is okay, but there are annoying ads that automatically run and mess up the audio. I paused the video when the ads ran and started again when they were done.

There was a large window in the tasting room where you could look out over the brewery; we were too late for any guided tour. The brewery was all shiny, stainless steel and had floors clean enough to eat off of. Even the structure that housed everything looked like a brandy new prefab factory building. Their dock doors were big enough that their bright tanks could have been brought in upright. Everything about this place was clean, crisp and orderly. Quite a difference from Cottrell Brewing's leased out dock space. You've got a 50% chance of guessing which one I liked better, but those who know me know easily know the answer.

The beer was pretty good, but nothing really stood out except maybe the Thunderhead Red. Many of their beers had a lighter than expected body and weren't as fully flavored as the beers I tend to favor, but they were all pretty good. They are deservedly local favorites, but nothing I would really go out of my way to get. But sit me down at a bar with some of them on tap, then I'll be drinking one or two for sure.

I was very happy to have made it to both of the breweries in the area and now it was time for a brewpub, dinner and the sights of Newport, RI.


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