Tag Archives: STAMFORD CT


 Half Full Brewery - Stamford, CT - Beers - BeerAdvocate


Plopped into a light industrial complex right off major corridor, Route 95, Stamford’s HALF FULL BREWERY was the brainchild of entrepreneurial zymurgist, Conor Horrigan. Open for business, September ’12, Half Full’s raw white-walled space (with exposed pipes and metal fixtures) offers enough square footage for future expansion.

As I enter through the inconspicuous front door in early January ’13 for a one-hour stopover, the rustic interior where the tasting room resides is completely empty except for a wall-bound brewery insignia, blackboard with flagship beers listed, Tap Map (instructing customers where to get the brewery’s suds), silver stooled tables and two wood community tables.

Down the hall lies the high ceiling brewing space, an unassuming echo-drenched room with silver brew tanks across the temporary serving table. My wife chats with two post-collegiate femmes as I try Half Full’s four fine offerings.

Next to newfound mega-brewery, Two Roads, and decades-old standby, Cottrell’s, this fully-formed operation stands as the third biggest Connecticut brewery.

“We didn’t want to have to scale up immediately,” multi-faceted chief beer organizer Jordan Giles explains. “We have four 40-barrel tanks and room for at least eight more 40-barrels or 60-barrel tanks.”

While Two Roads, twenty miles north, is a multi-million dollar operation with large East Coast distribution, Half Full serves the local community with kegs and growlers to go.

“It’s Conor’s baby,” Giles admits. “He wasn’t happy in his Wall Street job and found it unfulfilling. He wanted to bring people together. After being a home brewer, he worked at New England Brewing for one year with Rob Leonard. Then, he got an MBA and wrote our business plan.”

One of their best clients is Coalhouse Pizza – a beer-centric pizzeria a few miles west. Word is spreading quickly.

As we converse, I settle into the splendidly easygoing sessionable flagship blonde ale, Bright Ale, a pilsner-evoking Vienna-malted moderation with grassy-hopped lemony grapefruit florality and honeyed grain sublimity caressing the soft white-breaded spine.

Next up, simply named fellow flagship, India Pale Ale, utilized dry rye malts to deepen the piney citric profile, earthen peat dewiness and juicy Cascade hop-oiled orange and grapefruit bittering (as well as ancillary pineapple, peach, mango and passion fruit tropicalia).

As a collective, Half Full’s handful of employees all brew. Test batches are made on a half-barrel nanosystem.

“When I heard Conor was interested in brewing, we went for a run and grabbed a brew at (local hotspot) Brennan’s. It’s a famous hole-in-the-wall tavern from the 1800′s. Conor had investment money and just got this space. They were installing tanks when I arrived. We did three months of construction before brewing began,” Giles confides.

A sessionable seasonal from an “unplanned batch” gets poured post-haste. Not far removed from a toasted lager, the one-time InAugur Ale, blends sourdough breaded Vienna malting with grassy-hopped mineral graining and airborne whey-alfalfa-wheatgrass, gaining lemony orange tartness down the stretch.

“All our beers are slightly hybridized. Bright Ale’s a blonde ale hybrid. The IPA’s rye malts taste different than the stylistic standard. We’re doing an amber ale tasting tomorrow to see which recipe is best. Plus, our chocolate coffee brown’s not a stout or porter,”  Giles says as he smiles.

Before heading to dinner at nearby SBC, I sample the above-mentioned Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale, a nifty collaboration with a local Darien coffeeshop. Its mild ground coffee roast brings sourness to brown, dark and Baker’s chocolate malting as well as molasses-sapped Brazil nut, hazelnut and walnut illusions (plus dark toffee snips).

“Our work is still not done,” Giles concludes as he fills a few growlers. “The front space will become the main tap space soon. Then, we’ll fill out the back.”





One mile west of downtown Stamford in the Bull’s Head Shopping Center, COALHOUSE PIZZA not only offers the greatest and widest selection of coal-fired pizzas, but also 50-plus tapped beers alongside 50 bottled selections and a whole lot of Blues and Jazz music.

On my initial dinnertime visit, the recommended pizza joint (open 2009) is hopping at 8 PM on a Wednesday in mid-December ’12. The Main Room community tables are packed so I head into the cozy left side dining area with my wife and youngest son. Two TV’s sidling the doorway to a backroom (where karaoke singers wreak havoc and kids play shuffleboard) show the Nets game and the Madison Square Garden Hurricane Sandy concert while I order 16-ounce Mason-jarred beers such as previously untried Allagash Yakuza Tripel, Blue Moon Caramel Apple and Clown Shoes Miracle IPA (reviewed in the Beer Index). A fabulous beer bottle collection runs across the overhead shelving and several homemade stringed instruments line the far wall above a gorgeous mural featuring many famous Blues, Jazz and rock artists.

The open kitchen in the Main Room serves pizza as well as burgers, pulled pork and several salads (named after popular Blues or Jazz tunes or musicians). I order the delicious red-peppered honey-glazed Ma Rainey Chicken Wings while my wife goes for the half Favorite Things (ricotta-cheesed mozzarella, rosemary, prosciutto and garlic pesto) and half Kind Of Blue (goat-cheesed mozzarella, pancetta ham, goat onions, capers and balsamic reduction). My son settles on the equally fine Freddy Freeloader (Monterey Jack-cheesed mozzarella, chicken, scallions and sour cream).

During May ’16, revisited ambitious pizza-beer joint to try three fabulous dark ales alongside two mixed pizzas. By this point, Coalhouse Pizza had added an exquisitely upscale sportsbar in the rear with sapele wood-adorned top shelf liquor and 100 draught taps. Featuring a 14-stool laminated wood bar, multiple TV’s, compact 4-seat tables, one large booth and a beautiful Blues-collaged mural, it’s the pride of hands-on owner/ manager Gerard Robertson.

As for the pizza and beer, my wife and I enjoyed stout-marinated Sunny Side Of The Street (goat-cheesed figs, prosciutto and parmesan), cherrystone-clammed Shake Your Money Maker (bacon, pesto, mozzarella, parmesan and garlic), roasted pepper-sauced Minnie The Moocher (eggplant, mozzarella, onion, poblano and garlic) and goat-cheesed Hoodoo Man (arugula, onions, almond and balsamic reduction). On the liquid side, New England Coup Beans Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Singlecut More Cowbell! Chocolate Milk Stout and Meantime Naval College Old Porter proved to be tremendous finds (fully reviewed in Beer Index).

Several cool specials run daily, including Wednesday’s trivia night and Thursday’s 50 cent mini-wings (plus occasional tap takeovers). Week day Happy Hours run from 3 to 5 PM, offering $5 select drafts and half-price mixed drinks.

Wonderfully affordable for families and absolutely perfect for parties, Coalhouse Pizza may well be Connecticut’s best pizza-beer hotspot.




Though northerly neighbors Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire boast richer craft beer heritages, Connecticut doesn’t lag far behind, despite several unnamed brewpubs falling by the wayside during the formative ‘90s. SOUTHPORT BREWING COMPANY (with locations in Southport, Branford, Hamden, and Milford) still thrives. SBC Downtown in Stamford, with its blue-suited gorilla mascot, brick oven pizza, and American cuisine, featured a decent array of compatible brews, September ‘04.

The intriguingly deviant Palace Pilsener, flaunting unusual beechwood-smoked Band-Aid frontage juxtaposing soured citrus finish, as well as the dry cherry coughdrop-induced mocha-licked Stam Porter, were most adventurous.

Wheat-husked green-hopped citron-like Big Head Blonde, buttery grass-dried lemon-soured Rippowam Lager, red-fruited dry-spiced Stamford Red, mild-grained tea-like Big Head Brewnette Brown Ale, nectar-bruised pumpkin-induced seasonal Southoberfest, and sedate dry malted Bull’s Head English Pale Ale provided adequate backup.

Finally revisited downtown Stamford bedrock, January ’13, on a brutally blustery winter’s night at supper time. My wife and I reinvestigated two upgraded SBC staples plus four previously untrie libations over Cobb Salad and hummus.
Sitting by one of the side-windowed booths at the green-walled 12-stooled right side bar (with 5 TV’s), we opened the evening with the sessionable standard fare. Big Head Blonde gathered grassy-hopped lemon peel tartness, bark-dried hard wood astringency and wheat biscuit sweetness for a light-bodied trinket suitable for pilsner fans. Big Head Brewnette, an amber-marooned English Brown Ale, garnered fig-spiced dried fruiting, distant dark nuttiness and perfumed hops.
Heartier thirsts will appreciate mild-mannered Porter, with its stove-burnt coffee roast and oats-charred black chocolate bittering picking up washed-out walnut and Brazil nut nuances. Clay-like Helpline English Pale Ale allowed peat-grained minerality to influence yellow-fruited honeyed malts.   
Better still: Big Chill Winter Warmer brought sugar-spiced dried fruiting to honey-glazed caramel malts, placing bruised banana sweetness ahead of candied fig, sugarplum and dark cherry notions.
For dessert, Mambo Bock proved truly essential with its sugared fig, sweet banana and bruised cherry conflux creating a sensational digestif on par with the best bottom-fermented strong lagers.