A respected 23-year military combat veteran in the 2nd armored cavalry regiment, new-sprung brewmeister Michael Mc Creary developed a love for English ales while running a sales force over in Europe. And now he’s importing English barley and hops to create his own crisply approachable British styled elixirs under the banner of CAVALRY BREWING COMPANY.
“My policy is to make Cavalry a veteran-owned and run operation,” Mc Creary informs me as I peruse his 3,000 square foot warehouse space in an industrial mall along the rolling countryside of rural Oxford, Connecticut. “Right now I have only one employee for sales and delivery, but I’m about to hire another one.”
Starting January 2010, it took the industrious entrepreneur four-and-a-half months to assemble equipment and then fill brew tanks. Since then, he has crafted four flagship and two seasonal ales. In order to get his beers to truly emulate specific British characteristics, Mc Creary treats the local water source in order to mirror the ‘hard water’ from the Midlands of England. And from the taste of each dry-bodied potion, I’d say he’s definitely on to something. Each selection seemed to identify with the rustic tree-lined foliage surrounding this clean-as-a-whistle central Connecticut brewery.
As Led Zeppelin’s chilling “Heartbreaker” plays in the background, I sampled Cavalry’s lightest offering, Dog Soldier Golden Ale from the tap. Modeled after an English session beer, its grassy Fuggle hop earthiness and dry lemony orange interlude mellowed into a light rye finish.
Next, Hatchplug Ale, a Classic English bitter named after a first lieutenant, seemed not far removed from an easygoing Extra Special Bitter, with its earthen leafy hops and barley-toasted cereal graining picking up alfalfa, whey and mushroom illusions (finishing drier than Dog Soldier).
Taking its moniker from a World War II brigade, Marauder I.P.A. maintained an easy flow as well, but its bark-dried oaken cedar parch and desiccated date-fig-prune conflux leaned towards a Classic English IPA style instead of a citric-pined American takeoff. Fuggle-hopped earthen peat soiling and minor nuttiness underscore this medium-bodied delight.
“The biggest pain in the ass is bottling,” Mc Creary confesses. “I’d rather do kegs any day of the week and service local bars.”
Presently, he turns out about 180 cases per week and the rest is kegged for consumption. After he runs back and forth getting one of the brew lines ready for boil, Mc Creary serves up an experimental concoction just filtered, transferred and carbonated the day before. X Limited Edition, a Nut Brown Ale, brought mild tea-leafed hop-toasted ESB-like bittering to refined peanut-shelled walnut-chestnut-butternut illusions, ancillary autumnal foliage, and tertiary citric licks.
The Eagles revitalized sneer “Already Gone” blares from the speakers as I slip into Cavalry’s darkest ale selections. Nomad Stout places roasted hops and black chocolate malts into a sedate black coffee setting, picking up hazelnut along the way.
“That’s probably my simplest recipe given to me by Steve Potts of Bull Lane Brewery. I use a highly attenuated, very aggressive yeast for that Dry Irish Stout.” he offers while the opening riffs of Derek & The Dominoes esteemed “Layla” takes us back to the Seventies. “I like the malt-y front end of my beers. And I like to get a little hop bite at the backend.”
Though not presently available on tap, Mc Creary’s best bottled offering may well be Big Wally Porter, a creamy caramel nutty medium body utilizing whole bean coffee and designated after an Iraqi commander. Peanut, hazelnut and Brazil nut crowd the hop-charred cocoa bittering and dark chocolate confections.
“We have a Cask Wednesday in the middle of each month. It’s a traditional cask beer and we usually get around 25 people for the $5 tasting tour,” Mc Creary concludes.
Check out the Beer Index for all bottled reviews. Also, 20 miles west of Oxford is Danbury’s Fairgrounds Wine & Spirits, featuring a large selection of microbrewed beers.