Out of the rural hilly sticks in central Connecticut pops up the small metropolis of Willimantic, home of arguably the best Northeast brewpub, originally visited October ’07. Over a frog-pillared bridge in a historic street-cornered granite-limestone ex-post office, WILLIMANTIC BREWING (formerly Main Street Café) has cozy left side wood bar with eclectic wall-bound specialty tap handles, windowed side tables, and encased brew tanks plus separate right dining area.
Bottled beer selection included amiable local, English, Irish, and Belgian ales. And though I sleepwalked through acrid wheat-oats-fronted, dry-hopped, grapefruit rind-embittered Certified Gold, subtly citric-hopped corn-sugared Mail Carrier Maybock and cardboard-y fruit-crimped pecan-skimped oxidation Autobahn Alt on my initial stopver, the proceeding seasonal offerings were terrific.
Most Wanted IPA had illustrious grapefruit-peach-mango burst harboring Cascade-hopped maple-sapped piney bark bittering. Well-calibrated Willi Whammer Barleywine boasted 10% alcohol-soaked cherry luster, bruised orange-banana sweetness, teasing brandy snipe, and buttery vanilla finish.
Scotch-rye-affixed, fig-date-tinged, raw-honeyed Extra Postage Pub Ale went down gently alongside flatbread pizza, nachos, and sandwiches.
During March ’09 revisit, discovered five more worthy brews. Vienna-malted Saaz-hopped corn-sugared hop-spiced Czech In The Mail suited connoisseurs and nubians alike. Cask-conditioned barrel-aged cider-sharp grape-soured fig-dried Willi Funk Hammer maintained tart tannic acidity. Piney citric-spiced pear-sweet grapefruit-embittered Pushing The Envelope Extreme Unfiltered Double IPA possessed heady ethanol flare. Citrus-tingled honey-sweetened pilsner-malted Springfest and unfiltered tea-like cocoa-powdered fig-sugared honeycomb-finishing Winter’s Dunkel had easy appeal.
Amazingly, on my third trip to Willimantic Brewing, February 2011, there were seven (!) more new beers to try. I’d already quaffed eleven preferable libations on my past two visitations, but there were two amazingly distinct and differentiated stouts to discover as well as a terrific IPA, expressive pale ale, and four other favorites. My wife and I settled into a vegetal pizza while dipping into lightest fare, dry-hopped German Pils, Hope & Hops, a perfumed corn-husked wheat-grassed moderation with lemony grapefruit tingle that may’ve topped tranquil Carrier’s Credo Cream. The latter, a dry-bodied grassy-hopped maize-flaked wheat-cracked clover-honeyed cream ale, placed cooked veggie, orange rot, lemon meringue, and white apricot illusions in the subtle backdrop.
Bettering those promising openers were three diversified medium body brews. Excellent Spam Mail Pale Ale brought woody Amarillo hop parch to dry lemon-seeded grapefruit-juiced grape tannin, apple skin, apricot, orange, and tangerine tartness contrasting ascending honey-sugared crystal malting.
Creamy Double Black IPA retained intense hop-roasted tobacco chew, black cherry, prune, raisin and fig frenzy contrasting rich chocolate malt durability. Nearly as fine, Scarlet Letter Red situated sweet caramel-crystal malting alongside dry spice-hopped alacrity and compost-wafted vegetal mineral graining.
An engaging sidestep, Scotch Tapped Scottish Ale diverted away from any restrictive regimented style with its Band-aided beechwood-smoked peat malting contrasting sweet honey nuttiness.
I was admiring the terrific, colorful tap handle collection above the walnut bar while imbibing astonishingly reciprocal dessert treats. As much as I enjoyed creamy espresso-coffee fronted Just Stout, with its dry hop-roasted vanilla bean bittering coarsening black chocolate, anise, hazelnut, and walnut illusions, its chocolate-milked counterpart reached nirvana quicker.
A perfect chocolate dessert beer, S.W.A.K. Stout, advanced creamy brown chocolate sugaring and rich vanilla sweetness above soothing coffee roast, allowing rich chocolate cake, Belgian chocolate, and Hershey Kiss opulence to spread across the mouth.
My long-time pal, Dennis Flubacher, brought back growlers of two previously untried brews, May 2011. Roaden Zok Flanders Sour Red Ale retained crisply tart green apple spicing and hard cider pucker above fig-dried oaken cherry, vinous white grape, and sour pomegranate fruiting, embittering raspberry-boysenberry conflux along the way.
Next up, Victorian Neighbor Pale Ale placed caraway-seeded rye breading and caramel-roasted chocolate nibs snip atop fungi yellow-fruited apicot-fig dryness for proper English ale styling.
Quaffed another five rangy brews during 2011 winter solstice (December 21st) on trip back from Boston with wife and daughter. One of the most popular local selections, Rail Mail Rye, maintained a soft, unfiltered flow with fig-dried citric rye gently caressing mild hop peppering. A sturdier dried fruiting spread across brown sugared, dark-spiced Edge Of Darkness Brown Ale.
Just as approachable and twice as delectable, Pushing The Envelope Double IPA plied brown-sugared cinnamon spicing inside orange-cherry fruiting, crystal malted sugaring, wood-singed walnut sharpness and sweet hazelnut clusters.
Nearly as great, Coco Porter took dry cocoa powder and smoked chocolate malts to the soft black cherry midst, where mild caramel latte, milked coffee and espresso illusions claimed ground.
As for the wintry seasonals, unobtrusive Winter Fest had a musty dry-hopped fig-plum-date astringency and very little spicing. But 1st Class Festive Imperial IPA doused a load of brown-sugared cinnamon spicing inside sugary crystal malting, leaving wood-singed dried cherry, hazelnut and walnut undertones.