Stonington, CT – Aaren Simoncini plans to open The Beer’d Brewing Company to hearken back to long gone days when beer was purchased from neighborhood breweries.
Simoncini’s self-proclaimed “small” brewery is scheduled to open in mid-September and will provide local craft beer enthusiasts with a constantly changing selection in limited runs. A business model Simoncini hopes will satisfy beer lovers’ thirst for variety.
"Don't just stand out in the crowd, stand somewhere else,” says Simoncini, who hopes to serve what he feels is a geographically underdeveloped portion of the state’s craft beer industry.
The CT Beer Trail recently had the chance to chat with Simoncini about his plans, influences and general thoughts about local beer. The following is the list of questions and answers are an unfiltered look at the man behind the Beer’d Brewing Company and his aspirations.
Q: Why are you opening the Beer'd Brewing Company?
A: My drive to open The Beer'd Brewing Company has always been the result of my inability to settle for the expected. Everyone in life expects you to take a certain path, and while you may deviate slightly from said path, it is never too far. The Beer'd Brewing Company is my way of drawing outside the lines. When you look at the "beer map" of CT, there is a giant void in the Eastern section. Really when it comes down to it, Willi Brew and Cottrell are the only ones here. I want to create a company that is a throwback to the time when people purchased their daily beer from a small brewer down the street in South Eastern Connecticut.
Q: What will set you apart from your peers, what will you bring to the state's craft beer community?
A: Because my facility will be so small, it will make it very easy to produce a wide variety of ales. Where larger brewers in the state may produce flagships and seasonals only, I plan to constantly rotate what is available from The Beer'd Brewing Company. I feel that craft beer drinkers are serial samplers and I plan to provide them with the variety they crave.
Q: What experience and background do you have in brewing?
A: I began my craft beer experience in college when I took a class called “Beers of the World”. The class was designed to expose students to the entire range of beers from around the world. There was a home brewing demonstration at the end of the course and that's where I first learned that it was feasible to brew beer at home. After school in Rochester, NY, I moved back to CT for a full time job, and it was decided that I needed a time consuming hobby. That's where home brewing came into my life. I very quickly became enthralled in the hobby. I moved from brewing with extract to using grain very quickly. I was at the point where I was formulating all my own recipes and brewing as often as possible. It wasn't enough for me so I approached Cottrell in Pawcatuck, CT. After taking an impromptu tour with Charles Surney, the head brewer, I asked if I could come and watch him brew. He said I couldn't come watch, but instead I could come help.
The rest is history. I scheduled as much time as I could away from my day job and volunteered that time at the brewery. As of recent I have not been able to spend much time there due to the planning process that comes with opening my own facility. They were extremely welcoming to me, and I cannot thank them enough.
Q: What will you brew? Set recipes? Seasonals?
A: The first beer that is set on the regular rotation is our Belgian Wit. It's very dry, in the 5%abv range, 4.1 SRM, and very refreshing. The yeast runs the show as far as flavor profile, and there are also hints of curaçao orange peel involved. Other recipes up our sleeve for immediate release include an Oatmeal Stout, Saison and an IPA. Like I previously said, our small size lends itself to experimentation so if there is one takeaway from this; it's to expect variety from The Beer'd Brewing Company.
Q: Who are your brewing influences?
A: This is a great question because I have two very solid influences! Rogue is my number one influence. Everything from their marketing to their involvement in the farm to brew kettle movement fascinates me. They consistently put out world class beers, while being very creative. I really love their clean flavor profiles and John Maier is a rock star of the craft brewing world!
The second most influential brewery for me is Allagash. They have done fantastic things as far as main-streaming the Belgian style of beer in America. Also, the last time I visited their facility, I saw their barrel aging room and was very impressed with not only it, but also the fact that they have a functioning coolship out back for spontaneous fermentation. Again I think experimentation is paramount in the craft beer world, and while some breweries have been satisfied to produce a few beers, these two are constantly releasing epic beers.
Q: Where will your brewery be and why did you choose that location?
A: The Beer'd Brewing Company currently calls The American Velvet Mill in Stonington home. The 2100 square foot space located at 22 Bayview Ave was picked not only due to zoning and utilities, but also due to its rich history. The American Velvet Mill was exactly as it sounds, a mill that produced velvet. Its connection with the town was very important as it employed a large amount of locals. Over time it has changed hands and served different purposes.
Establishing The Beer'd Brewing Company there is a way to revisit its rich manufacturing history, and hopefully rekindle its strong community ties.
Q: Will you be open for tours and tastings? When?
A: We do have plans to open our tasting room for tours and samples weekly. When we open, Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday afternoons are slated for tours, tastings and growler hours. We want to see consumers as much as possible, face to face, and this will be one way to do so on a regular basis. One of the biggest outlets for experimental and new beers will be via growler hours, so we encourage anyone interested to visit on a regular basis once we open.
Q: Will your beer be available in package stores and bars?
A: Initially the main retail channel for our beers will be via the tasting room growler fills, and bars/restaurants. Anyone looking to keep up with what's available and where, is encouraged to check our Facebook, website, and Twitter on a regular basis. Eventually we also plan to bottle condition seasonals in larger format bottles, but that is a little way off for us.
Q: What are your overall impressions on the current state of craft beer in Connecticut and what is your vision for its future? How will your brewery help get the community there?
A: I feel that the craft beer industry has come a very long way in the last few years. Support is now blatantly apparent among consumers and they seem to be thirsty for more. It doesn't just seem to be support for craft in general though, I also think it's amazing how much support has cropped up for domestic craft breweries in CT. I plan to join the scene, and help to fill the void that is Eastern CT. Cottrell and Willi Brew have done a fantastic job and I will be honored to serve Eastern CT with them. Also, I can't wait to become an active member of the new CT Craft Brewers Guild. I feel that it is very important to organize as a guild to work together on things like equality with CT wine producers, event promotion and beer tourism in general.
Q: Will you embrace the CT Brewery Trail concept and make the Beer'd Brewing Co. a destination for tourists and beer travelers?
A: The CT Brewery Trail is the best thing since malted barley to happen for CT based brewers. I haven't even opened yet and I fully embrace the concept. It is important for all domestic brewers to work as one when it comes to promoting beer tourism. I would love to see our CT based craft beer community reach a status similar to VT or Oregon. I think we are listed at 33 in the US for breweries per capita, and I don't see that as anything but room to grow for the breweries in this state.