All posts by John Fortunato


Checking Out the Bad Ash Brews at Ashton Brewing - Brewery | Ashton Brewing Company, Middlesex, NJ | United States


Meeting out in Denver while touring Colorado brewpubs, the husband-wife team of Steven and Donna Ashton soon settled in Jersey to open a worthy brewery near the heart of Middlesex. Occupying a gray brick Industrial space, ASHTON BREWING COMPANY had its soft opening March ’20 (before Covid hit) but marked its Grand Opening September 18, 2021.

An Ashton Brewing emblem above the overhead door welcomes patrons to the cozy red brick-walled interior (and a neon Taproom sign sits atop the main entrance). The epoxy-floored pub features a six-seat wood-topped serving station and small couched lounge area. A white awning covered the community-tabled front deck.

A cement-floored, back-spaced storage facility included stainless steel brewtanks, a canning line and large cooler. Ashton’s brews ran the gamut from sessionably traditionalist fare to richly creamed nightcaps to Euro-styled lagers.

On Labor Day ’21 weekend stopover, my wife and I imbibed fourteen niftily diversified libations.

Ashton Brewing Has the Right Stuff

Efficient Czech-styled pilsner, Jersey Dreamin,’ let mild dewy mossing seep into orange-oiled lemon musk and floral-spiced Saaz-hopped herbage to its honeyed biscuit spine.

Dewy copper-toned Czech dark lager, Beach Badges, retained a wattle-seeded chocolate roast for its lightly beechwood-smoked barleymalts.

Mossy maize-dried, leafy-hopped, bread-crusted Festus Haggen, an Octoberfest-styled golden lager, stayed crisply clean.

Easygoing That’s How Love Gose activated lemon-twisted Himalayan sea salting for floral-tinged key lime tartness above its straw wheat bottom.

“Mellow’ hazy yellow-glowed Take 5 Pale Ale had Citra-hopped yellow grapefruit, orange and pineapple zesting rise above herb-tinged pine tones contrasting mildly creamed crystal malts.

Toasted amber-grained tobacco roast crisping secured Scarlet Red Ale, leaving red-orange fruiting upon its earthen truffle rusticity.

Tart strawberry candied piquancy gained spritzy lemondrop spark for dry cream ale, Strawberry Alarm Clock, a citric-splashed daquiri knockoff with a cracked wheat base.

Sweetish ‘pink saison,’ La Vie En Rose, provided ginger-backed hibiscus florality for white-wined Zinfandel tannins and distant white peppered blackberry snips.

Butterfly pea flowering provided mild green tea bittering for uniquely hybridized dry-hopped blue velvety farmhouse ale, Stella Blue, caressing white-peppered lavender, floral-spiced blueberry and tart pomegranate over damp barnyard acridity.

An IPA collaboration with nearby Trap Rock, dry beige-hazed moderation, Ash Rock, brought dry Sauvignon grape esters, Hallertau Blanc-hopped white wining and mild grapefruit zesting to delicate oats base.

Brut champagne bubbled IPA, The Other One – Brut, allowed lemony grapefruit-orange zesting to reach the sparkling wine surface above acidulated maize-flaked malts.

Enthusiastic flagship IPA, Your Lips…Are Juicy, plied brisk orange-peeled grapefruit tanginess, buoyant papaya-pineapple tropicalia  and spritzy lemon liming to honeyed pale malts.

Offshoot blood orange-doused NEIPA, Your Lips…Are Bloody!, worked zesty grapefruit, orange, pineapple and papaya tanginess and spiced tangerine licks into its earthen pale malt graining.

Chalky chocolate-dried nuttiness provoked Billy 2 Hats, an extra dark mild English brown ale with caramel-burnt coffee staining.


East Rock Brewing Company & Beer Hall – Brewery Ratings


On the northern outskirts of town five miles from Yale Bowl or the inner city, New Haven’s EAST ROCK BREWING COMPANY opened in July 2018 and quickly became a splendid cafeteria-like family friendly neighborhood beer hall specializing in traditional German-inspired beers. Inside a cavernous terra cotta-bricked light Industrial warehouse, East Rock’s ample community-tabled 12-draught tap room features a rounded 20-seat bar on an epoxy cement floor with a right-walled “Rediscover Lager” wood emblem celebrating their time-honored Bavarian craft brews.

Co-founding head brewer, Tim Wilson (former quality controller for Jack’s Abby), operates the enormous windowed brewing space at the rear. Serving all of Connecticut since before my initial August ’21 visit, East Rock’s upcoming Octoberfest’s already sold out.

A wood-paneled front deck expands on both sides of the glass-enclosed front entrance. My wife and I grab a few seats outdoors to down four straightforward prospects. I’d already consumed Hopfen Lager and Black Lager two years back (see Beer Index).

East Rock Brewing Company | Visit CT

Dry Helles-styled lightweight, Lager, a cumulous-headed yellow body, let herb-tinged lemon musk, celery-watered fennel seeding and doughy raw-honeyed malts coalesce.

Crisp dewy mossing sideswipes pasty Vienna malt pasting and musky fungi retreat for Vienna Lager, leaving orange-rotted tangerine tang upon its damp-grained truffle earthiness.

Sweet tea-leafed cereal grain crisping, toasted caramel malting and mild orange oiling paced Oktoberfest, an amiable amber lager.

Bright ‘n lively India Pale Lager, Goat Herder, let sharply spiced lemon-peeled grapefruit bittering, zesty orange peel tang and distant passionfruit-pear-watermelon snips gain peaty compost-tinged resinous pining for pungently hop-dried, citrus-dominated medium body.


Urban Lodge Brewing Co. – Brewing Persuasions  Urban Lodge Brewing (Connecticut) - 2021 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go  (with Photos) - Tripadvisor


In the heart of Manchester, coolly rustic neighborhood pub, URBAN LODGE BREWING COMPANY, opened its doors August, 2019 and quickly helped revitalize this former silk haven. Reworking a dilapidated building, head brewing co-owner Ryan Fagan enjoys crafting “crushable” beers easy to consume in the totally relaxing ‘lodge’ atmosphere.

Metal furnishings line the linoleum floor leading back to its earthen flat-bricked wood-topped serving station with eighteen draught handles and scenic Hartford landscape canvas at the rear.

There are three individual turf-grounded sofa lounge sections amongst the family-friendly interior and a large black metal-gated backyard deck with marbled pavers, a central fire pit and ample plant life recalls an English garden. Brewtanks are stationed in the wood-shingled kiosk.

The beautiful graffiti-styled mountain-ranged cityscape painting sprawled across the deck serves as a breathtaking landmark.

My wife and I downed five of the thirteen available brews on our pre-dinner August ’21 Sunday afternoon trip.

“Gateway” lawnmower fodder, light-bodied golden ale, Morning Mist, provided lemony orange-grapefruit sunshine to honey-spiced pale malting.

Dewy Irish Ale, Emerald Shores, yielded honeyed caraway sweetness, prune-licked dried fruiting and tobacco roast crisping.

Dry floral-spiced tropical fruiting generated vibrant pineapple tartness, orange peel sweetness, yellow grapefruit bittering, lemon zesting and peach candying for bark-like resinous pining of Maui, a juicily rewarding NEIPA with starchy amber grained base.

Sweet anise-dipped vanilla stickiness doused the smoked wood bittering of Fireside, a heavy vanilla porter with sugared coffee, milk chocolate, hazelnut cake and spiced toffee undertones.

Dry coffee-stained dark chocolate bittering consumed Pop’s Milk Stout, leaving hazelnut-glazed sweetness upon its cola nutty backend.


Counter Weight Brewing Company, United States, Connecticut, Hamden |  BrewCruizer


Exhibiting their motto of “exploring innovative methods,” bucolic hillside pub, COUNTER WEIGHT BREWING COMPANY (located two miles south of Quinnipiac University) allowed former New England Brewing Company owner, Matt Westfall, and head brewer, Sean Piel, to refine many popular ale styles, embrace German pilsners and delve into ‘passion projects.’

Opening its doors at a former retrofitted gym in 2017, the rustic white aluminum-topped beige-bricked Industrial taproom features a wood-floored, right side, twelve draught bar with beautiful mosaic wood side wall and tidy coffer wood ceiling.

Four community tables and barrel seating are available indoors. Upstairs, an extra tap room has more community seating. Outside, a butterscotch-hued fenced patio with blue umbrellas is where my wife and dog join me to try seven sturdy brews on a sunny Saturday afternoon, August ’21.

I’d already enjoyed conventional flagship IPA, Headway, a few years hence (reviewed in Beer Index).

CTMQ&A: Matt Westfall of Counter Weight Brewing

On draught, traditional pilsner Workhorse is Counter Weight’s ‘core beer.’ Its cool lagered keller-styled crisping allowed dry raw-honeyed husked grain leathering, grassy Noble-hopped lemon musk and herbed alfalfa acridity to politely unite.

Herbaceous Coolship Kellerbier retained spritzy lemon-candied tartness and grassy hop astringency atop bready whole grain malts. Simply excellent!

Toasty oak-conditioned Czech pils, Drevo, let spritzy lemon zest, musky raw graining, mild Saaz hop bittering and dry spicing coalesce.

Sweet-breaded Vienna malting engaged Fest Bier, a Marzen-styled lager with lemony orange desiccation contrasting floral-daubed honey spicing beneath the soft grain surface.

Buttery banana-breaded CW Hefeweizen gained bubblegum sugaring and subtle clove spicing above its herbal Tettnang-hopped pilsner malt base.

Lemony orange rind bittering anchored double dry-hopped IPA, Superfluous, picking up mango-peach-pineapple subtleties to contrast herb-tinged pine resin.

Zestful glowing yellow-hazed IPA, Creature Preacher, utilized fruitful Citra/Galaxy hops for its bright lemony grapefruit-tangerine effervescence and spicy mango-papaya-pineapple splash hovering above hearty caramelized pale malts.


New Park Brewing Offerings Now Include House-Made Pizza, Wines - We-Ha |  West Hartford News


Becoming West Hartford’s first craft beer operation on March 25, 2017, NEW PARK BREWING boasts a rotation of ‘originally designed’ recurrent, seasonal and one-off elixirs with popular hoppy IPA, Cloudscape, leading the way. Set in a 19th century-built Industrial zoned edifice with high ceiling, cement floors and decorative wood mosaics, the casual juke joint’s a popular attraction for the so-called streetcar suburb.

Managing the 2,500 square foot warehouse, New Park owner John Doyle hired home brewing biomedical scientist Alexander Dee to man the upgraded tanks installed during Covid 19 shutdown upon my August ’21 sojourn to the Nutmeg State. Twelve reclaimed wood-planked taps at the chestnut-topped serving station provided the varied suds emanating from the windowed right side stainless steel tanks or the nearby barrel aging room.

Ten community benches, a few wood tables, a host of Edison lights and back-walled surfboards garnish the white-walled pub. A wood-barriered community tabled patio and covered outside deck area provide ample extra seating. A private backroom is setup for parties and banquets.

Starting three weeks ago (July ’21), New Park installed a wood-fired pizza hearth at the new arched hole in the wall behind the bar. Organic wine is also available.

The Barrel Room | New Park Brewing

Dewy sweet-leafed mossing and gentle Tettnang hop herbage guided Helles Lager, leaving honeysuckle-perfumed pale malt spicing on the tail end.

Mild lemon lime-salted Don Limon Gose retained a sugary lemonade twist in a limestone-soured oceanic mist.

Sumptuous Market Saison let white-peppered herbage seep into the zesty lemon spritz and mandarin orange licks of its barnyard-dried leathering.

Three fruited Mosaic-hopped Berliner Weisses then caught my attention.

Blackcurrant-clad blackberry and blueberry puree resonated for Blender Black & Blue, a tart citrus-prickled moderation.

Veritable Smoothie-styled Berliner, Blender Tango, conditioned on mango, strawberry and tangerine, stayed ultra-tart as lemony yogurt souring crowded the thickly pureed fruiting.

Mild Blender Bramble, conditioned on strawberry, blueberry and blackberry and reminiscent of a fruited cobbler, placed tart rhubarb-pied boysenberry, cranberry and pomegranate illusions in the back.

Then it was on to a trio of New Park’s durable, rangy India Pale Ales. Though I missed out on flagships, Cloudscape and Headband, these others were equally compelling.

Soft heather-like flowering caressed the mild pine-needled lemon, grapefruit and orange bittering plus ancillary peach-pineapple tang of Heather IPA.

Impactful herb-salted grapefruit, mandarin orange and peach tanginess galvanized wood-toned Expression IPA.

A maltier Imperial IPA alternative, Stereogram, contrasted sugared orange, pineapple, guava and passionfruit spicing with lightly pined herbal hop pungency above gluey wheated oats.

There were no dark ales on draught for my August ’21 visit.


Hog River Brewing Company - Hartford, CT - Party Venue


In the rustic red-bricked Parkville section of Hartford, HOG RIVER BREWING COMPANY occupies a warehouse backspace in multi-storied Parkville Market, a recently renovated and reenergized food and drink complex.

Owned by German beer-lovin’ husband-wife team, Ben & Joy Braddock, Hog River began operations springtime 2016 and quickly flourished in its historic neighborhood digs (formerly Hartford Rubber Works factory). The Seibel Institute grad previously honed his craft at nearby Thomas Hooker and Willimantic breweries.

The cavernously cement-floored, reclaimed wood-clad, catacomb-like Industrial pub features a ten-seat/sixteen-draught serving station, several community tables, butcher block tables, several gear-related metal machine relics and cozy wood-bound couch lounge (with opposing elongated cafeteria counter). Barrels, tanks and brewing equipment settle at the overhead door.

A spacious outdoor patio fills up during my sunny August ’21 sojourn.


Hog River Brewing | Hartford's Craft Brewery

My wife grabs some Parkville chow to down at Hog River as I consume seven wonderfully diverse libations.

Dry earthen grains and wheat-husked astringency provide raw grained rusticity to the citric-spiced hop zesting of Warehouse Pils, an appealing lightweight.

Sweet Scotch-licked Vienna malting, leafy hop dewiness and mild dried fruiting saddled Oktoberfest, a crisp autumnal moderation.

A slightly drier stylistic changeup, Peels & Blossoms Wit forwarded lemon-peeled chamomile tea to coriander-spiced orange tartness and musty white peppered whim.

Tangy pink guava and pineapple puree adjuncts outdone by salty lemon-limed green grape vinegaring and chalky limestone parch penetrating Thingaling Sour, a mildly acidic tropical dry body.

Then came the “Big Beers.” Creamy peanut-buttered dark chocolate malting dominated Princess Butter Cup Chocolate Stout, overriding sweet vanilla-spiced bourbon and port wining plus subtle red grape tartness.

“Luscious” vanilla ice cream-drenched hot fudge sauce sweetened tart maraschino cherry bruise for luxuriously rich Brain Freeze Ice Cream Sundae Stout, leaving bourbon-soaked anise spicing and maple-glazed cocoa nibs splendor upon Graham Cracker honeyed wheat spine.

Heavenly lustrous Caribbean elixir, Mango & Coconut Tripel, aged in Jamaican rum, let mango-pureed coconut toasting, mild vanilla-spiced creaming and ancillary pineapple-salted guava tartness get seeped in buttery Chardonnay wining before boozy phenol ethers hit the tail end.


Blog — Stephanie Gaston Designs


Inhabiting a blue-gray paneled river-bound shack in the village of Turners Falls, BRICK & FEATHER BREWERY started operations October ’15. Entrepreneurial husband-wife team, Lawrence George (experienced brewer formerly at Flying Fish and Berkshire Brewing) and Emily George specialize in “soft, rounded Belgian and American style ales” in a family friendly light Industrial environment.

Though Brick & Feather’s diminutive white-walled front pub contains only a few community tables and an L-shaped wood top bar in its aquamarine-walled setting, its cement-floored interior extends to an expansive stainless steel brew tank back space (with seven barrel system and canning line).

Right off the canal bike path at an olden bridge on the Connecticut River, B & F craft some of the best brews in the state. I bought five home brews on my July ’21 Pioneer Village journey.

Muskily dry yellow-cleared light body, Montague Gothic Kolsch brought champagne-licked green grape esters and wispily lingered herbal-tinged lemon rind bittering to cracker-like pilsner malts.

Musky straw-dried mineral graining and delicate floral herbage backed the brisk lemony hop fizz of Kitten With A Whip, a Bavarian-styled helles lager.

Lemony grapefruit salting spreads to tart green grape, guava and red berry illusions as piney herbal-hopped floral whims gather for Positively 11th Street, a dry-hopped pale ale.

Semi-sharp citrus spicing rode above dry pale malting for Scotland But Further, another dry-hopped pale ale. Lemony yellow grapefruit spritz mellowed out alongside mild mandarin orange tartness as lollipop-soured strawberry, peach and apricot illusions surfaced.

Exquisite hazy golden glowed Letters From Zelda, a zestful IPA, let pineapple-juiced orange peel tanginess settle alongside mild lemony grapefruit rind bittering and rustic pine resin.