Search This Blog

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hog River Brewing- Hartford, Connecticut

Next stop on the Connecticut Brewery tour was in Connecticut's capital city, Hartford.  Hog River Brewing is located in the Parkville neighborhood, a trendy little area that made you kind of think "Hartford isn't so bad after-all".  This section seems to be an up and coming neighborhood that was once industrial and is being converted to a commercial space with cute storefronts, restaurants and now a brewery.   The quick and dirty of this brewery is a historic rubber factory turned beer making, shiny brewing tanks and 20' machine presses sitting in this lofty industrial building.  The guy behind the beer left his 9-5 to brew full time, working his way up the ranks to create Hog River.  He has a variety of styles and overall decent beer in an awesome space.  Bring your own food or enjoy the ndifferent food trucks that park right outside on the weekend.  Read on to learn more about one of Hartford's new breweries. 

Hog River was a little hard to find I must admit.  The area is packed full of industrial looking buildings with minimal signage and Apple Maps just wasn't leading us to the brewery (it took us two laps).  Finally, we spotted a lone food truck parked in a lot by a large building and figured "this must be it".  

We walked in and immediately loved the space the brewery was in.  It had that industrial trendy "hang out have a beer" vibe in a large lofty open space.  You could tell the brewery was more developed with its large building, brewing operations, and people filling its tap room.  Just past the entrance is the wall of mugs behind the bar (they have a mug club) and the gear logos spread throughout the board and space.  As you walk further into the building you notice the shiny new looking and very impressive brewing tanks standing behind a glass wall with a short counter top and bar stools.  

And then, as you walk further into the space, you notice the two turn-of-the-century 20 ft machine presses.  These impressive machines are back in the corner of the building and give the space its unique industrial vibe with various seating around the presses. 

I loved how their website gave some detail on the industrial space because when you walk in and see the space, you just want to know all about its history.  The machines speak to the history of Hartford and the Parkville neighborhood when the building was formerly Hartford Rubber Works and Pope Manufacturing Company.  These towering presses were used by some of the first automobile and bicycle tire manufactures in the country.  

So far I thought the neighborhood was great and the space within the brewery unique and awesome.  Historic, raw, industrial and full of beer.  So, next step?  Let's talk to the staff and try the beer. 

We walked up to the bar and were overall pretty unimpressed by the service behind the bar.  After coming from Tidal River Brewing where the owner was the one behind the counter, pouring his personality and passion for beer, I was quite underwhelmed by the Hog River staff that day.  They seemed uninterested and like they kind of had somewhere else to be.  I know that is a little bit of tough love but I was just disappointed by the service and lack of passion behind the people pouring Hog River Beer compared to other local breweries we've been to.  To be fair, we did walk in at the end of a Saturday but the main thing I look for is the passion of the people pouring the taps.  The brewery opened in August of 2016 and I attributed this little speed bump a part of growing pains and figuring out their groove and personality.    

While I didn't love the people behind the bar, I really liked the story of the owner, Ben Braddock.  He's one of several up and coming CT brewers with the "left the cubicle to pursue the career of beer" background, but his story had the credentials needed to stand behind a succesful brewery.  According to an article in the Hartford Courant, after leaving his desk job he started off his career cleaning kegs at Thomas Hooker, then eventually becoming a brewer there, while also completing a certificate in brewing science and technology. He left Thomas Hooker and began working as head brewer at Willimantic Brewing company before starting his own company.  

When we arrived on Sunday there were four beers being offered on tap, which consisted of a summer ale, brown ale, red ale, imperial stout.  Four total beers worked out perfectly for a flight (a sample size of usually 4 beers), so we grabbed a paddle and settled onto a picnic table to see what Hog River was all about:

Gentle Giant Summer Ale: 19 IBU, 4.4% ABU 
"Psuedo pilsner summer ale brewed with oats and hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo hops. Unique aroma balanced by a light, smooth and easy drinking body."

8th Ward Brown Ale: 15 IBU, 6% ABV
"Based on a traditional British Brown Ale, this beer is beefed up with a full, body with a slight roast. Easy drinking and full of flavor. Hopped with German noble hops for an unmistakable finish."

Flight of Crow Imperial Stout: 28.5 IBU, 48 SRM, 8% ABV
This beer is named after the annual crow roost over I-84 in Hartford every fall. From the description, "It's a creepy experience but this beer is anything but that. Brewed with 7 malts and clocks in at 8% with intense roast flavors balanced by a silky smooth sweetness. We hopped this beer with Hallertau German Northern Brewer to round it out."

Behind the Rocks Smoked Red Ale: 15 IBU, 6% ABV
"A cross between a classic Rauchbier and an American Red Ale. This full bodied beer has just a hint of Beechwood smoked malt to give the beer a unique twist. Sip, wait...oh there's the smoke!"

I loved the diversity of the beers, from a summer ale to an imperial stout.  They all had great color and smelled quite delicious (especially the smoke of the last beer).  The summer beer was easy to drink as all summer beers should be.  It didn't really jump out in flavor or leave me wanting another but it was, overall, an enjoyable light beer.  This trend kind of continued as we sampled the beer; they were all were fine, drinkable beers, but unfortunately nothing really jumped out at us and made us want to fill a growler or get a full pint.

After our flight, we ordered two of the ciders to try while placing an order for food from the day's food truck.  What made this brewery even more unique was its garage door opening featuring a different food truck on the weekends.  You can also bring your own food, or the staff can point you in the direction of their favorite picks around the neighborhood.  We opted for the food truck because it smelled delicious (it was a fried chicken truck) and was just too convenient to pass up. On this particular day the food truck was "Cheek's Chicken" and we settled on some wings and a chicken sandwich while working on the ciders.  The food was good and the guy working the food truck brought it all out right to you.

Overall, I loved the neighborhood, the building, the story behind the brewery and the owner.  I was not overly impressed by the beer, or the staff working that particular day.  As I said, all the beers were okay but nothing really jumped at me as something I needed a 6 pack of.  I loved the space and the food truck was a great touch. I wasn't impressed with the ciders on tap either (though they were not brewed there) but it was nice to have an option for any non-beer drinkers out there accompanying a beer lover on a brew tour.  With the rotating beers, I would definitely visit Hog River again to try more of their beers coming up throughout the fall/winter season. 

1 comment :

  1. Nice post! I never knew people could hold such a passion for breweries. It was really fascinating reading your article and feeling the passion you hold for breweries.


Let's Chat!