So, what do brewmasters have in common? Well, the first requirement to becoming a brewmaster is the ability to give a speech and respond to questions from the audience while simultaneously drinking a cold beer. Everything else thereafter is serious business.
Last Wednesday I had the good fortune to spend time with two of Connecticut’s own brewmaster superstars at the Stamford Innovation Center in Stamford, Connecticut. I met Scott Vallely of Charter Oak Brewing Co. and Conor Horrigan of Half Full Brewery. These are two men with blood rich of fortitude and passion. They are unstoppable on their quest to quench the thirst of craft beer fans near and far. In fact they’re so driven with so much positive energy and enthusiasm, I can’t help but want to enjoy their beer all the time.
The hypnosis began as I entered the room where the brewmasters stood. They towered like giants protecting their harbors which were filled with ships of greatness. Like a pirate lusting for treasures I couldn’t help but fixate my eyes on the cold ones peeking from the waters below. I grabbed a glass and filled it with the latest and freshest craft beer Connecticut has to offer. It was bliss. I was speechless. It was perfect.
Scott and Conor both talked a little bit about their journey to the craft brewery business. Both agree that it’s not as easy as make a great beer and they will come. No, it’s all about pushing on and building awareness. A typical workweek is usually all seven days and even nights if an opportunity presents itself. It’s a continuation of educating the customers through tastings, events, onsite brewery tours, or anything else that comes to mind.
Scott Vallely began by brewing in his basement. These days he’s brewing small batches up in Massachusetts each week, but soon will have a flagship brewery open at a very cool spot in Southern Norwalk, aka SONO. He has over 60 recipes and is excited to introduce them all. With the new brewery he can introduce one new recipe a month and really start to cater to the niche craft beer market. He’s all about high quality and freshness when in comes to brewing to drinking. In fact one of his newest editions was so fresh it wasn’t completely ready yet and still had a couple of days to go in the fermentation process. Still, I was very excited to try it, but it went so fast that I guess I’ll have to wait until it hits the local shelves. He also produces 22oz limited editions such as, “Lights Out Stout” which I’m drinking while I write this.
Conor Horrigan started his journey in college when he got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. He started a painting company one summer during break and painted houses on Cape Cod. Although this eventually ended it never really did leave him. He new the bug bit hard and the entrepreneurial virus lived dormant waiting patiently to become active again. That day came after many hours spent basking in ideas and bouncing them off his friends at the Spring Lounge in Manhattan. He was working in finance on the investment banking side at the time. He wasn’t feeling fulfilled with the life work choice he made. So one day he went from Bear Sterns to just Beer. He started off by educating himself on how to brew beer. He continually experimented with a brew at home kit and even went to work at a brewery to learn the nuances and true craft behind the art. While his education in beer was developing he studied at UConn for an MBA. It’s only been a little under three years since the first batch of Half Full Beer hit the streets and it’s growing fast.
I don’t want to work for the man, I want to be the man. Life is short, so beer is the answer. Conor Horrigan, Chief Beer Philosopher
Connecticut alone has over 20 breweries. It’s clear the pursuit of creativity and uniqueness in the craft beer industry is flourishing, but to stand out from the rest you have to shine like a superstar and these guys really know how to shine.