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One of the most bohemian campus-styled beer halls in the whole Northeast, ELI CANNON’S TAP ROOM serves Wesleyan College and the whole free-spirited Middletown community with its lively frathouse appeal , antique memorabilia, graffiti-clattered walls, eclectic curiosities, local paraphernalia and well-selected revolving draughts.

In the heart of Connecticut just south of Hartford at Middletown’s North End, the recently renovated red brick tavern co-owned by beer-centric entrepreneur, Phil Ouellette, will appeal to any seasoned brew hound. In business since ’94, its offbeat dive bar appearance never obstructs the fantastic pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, snacks).

Mugs hang from the 35-tap bar and several brewery signposts decorate the walls alongside bikes, fire engines, skeletons, motorcycles and a mummy poster.

My wife and I grab a table at the cramped right side dining area where several college kids tip glasses. It’s a stormy Friday in April ’18 when I consume local Connecticut fare such as Back East Crosby Stills & Smash Pale Ale and New England Kewl Beans Stout plus Cali’s Anderson Valley Framboise Rose Gose (all reviewed in Beer Index).



Photo of Stubborn Beauty Brewing


Fifteen miles south of Hartford, yet another very worthy Connecticut brewpub operating out of a rustic red brick warehouse opened. Past the bustling downtown shopping district and not far from liberal arts mecca, Wesleyan University, STUBBORN BEAUTY BREWING COMPANY is hidden away in the industrial back roads half a mile off the beaten track.

Visited on a sunny Friday afternoon in April ’15, brewer-owners Shane Lenini and Andrew Daigle tend to the two-and-a-half barrel brewery (with seven fermenting barrels) before the place packs up with happy local denizens and a few out-of-towners thrilled to soak down some of the latest great suds. With expansion imminent, Stubborn Beauty has both the space and captive audience to grow substantially in quick time, possibly canning and bottling within months (and already featured at nearby Celtic Cavern and 36-tap bar, Eli Cannon).

The maroon-walled tap area features a concrete-topped serving table, two stainless steel tables with six benches apiece, brass replica lighting, black hanging fans, and an eye-grabbing silver and red bottle-capped mosaic donning the company’s rose insignia. A humorously named Sour Tiddy’s ale make it past the censors but is now gone as I dig into seven really fine samplers.

Starting with the lightest choice, the briskly yellow grapefruit-juiced Naughty Eskimo Session IPA, each succeeding ale leads into the next in orderly fashion. Setting the stage, the above-mentioned Naughty Eskimo’s grapefruit rind and peel bittering softly flows into its light Vienna malt sweetness, picking up a lemony squint.         

With its rye malt base deepening the sweet-soured citric hop oiling, How Rye I Am Saison plied honeyed saison yeast to lemony orange and grapefruit illusions, musty farmhouse rusticity and dark-roasted mocha malts. Its stylishly darker counterpart, How Atramentous I Am Black Saison, contrasted chocolate-roasted dark cocoa against black grape, green raisin, prune and fig.

Two impressively detailed German styled brews arrive next. Wheat-wined delight, Panzerfaust Weizenbock, with its nominal 15-IBU hop presence, allows all the Sugar Daddy-candied sweetness and Belgian chocolate spicing to shine above the honeyed grain spine. Perhaps as worthy, Kommandant Lassard Dunkelweizen combines fig-dried plantain souring and bittersweet chocolate with ESB-like tobacco-roasted peat tea.

Conquerer Imperial Brown Ale relied on hop-roasted chocolate spicing.

Coming full circle, Nummy Nummy IPA, the flagship beer, loaded sharp grapefruit-peeled bittering atop sticky pine resin and pilsner-like Maris Otter malts, gaining tangy orange rind, peach and tangerine illusions at the heavily-hopped citric finish.