1. Just over a year ago I was able to sit down with Michelle Stanish, one of the founders and owners of CT Beer Tours to learn more about her beer tour company that she was starting. Fast forward a year and now CT Beer Tours has been open for a year. I wanted to check in with Michelle and the CT Brew Tours crew to see what it has been like to be operating a brewery tour company. What we learned was that starting CT Beer Tours has been a fun journey but not without its ups and down. We also learned that CT Brew Tours will be starting tours in Massachusetts soon and also what beers would be in Michelle’s dream six pack.

    Michelle we originally talked about a year ago when you were getting ready to start CT Beer Tours. Now that you have been open for a year, how has the first year of running CT beer tours been going? 

    Our first year in business has been filled with learning curves and we've earned a few bumps and bruises along the way. Overall the breweries are great and support our cause to bring people to their facilities and giving them an experience that you can't normally get walking in the door off the street. Private tours utilizing our 13-passenger Ford Transit with a driver and guide is our biggest selling feature.

    What is the best part of owning and operating CT Brew Tours? 

    We started Connecticut Beer Tours to provide entertaining trips for people to enjoy. This still remains the best part of our business. Getting to take a group of people,
    making them laugh, and all the while enjoying great beer around the state is still our pride and joy. Whether it be for a bachelor/bachelorette on a private tour or putting a group of strangers together on a our public tours - everyone leaves friends, is better educated in the beer process, and hopefully learned of one or two new local beers they really enjoy.

    Are the tours set tours or can riders pick what brewery's that they want to visit? 

    Both. We have public tours that are listed on our website throughout the year, where people can purchase individual tickets to hop on. Most people don't realize that even though we have designated pick-up spots, we are willing to create custom pick-ups as well. You just have to ask. Custom tours are available for anyone who wants to do a private tour. These are typical for bachelor/ettes, company outings, or trips with friends. We do require a minimum of 8 people and we will customize the trip entirely to their liking including but not limited to samples, tours, and food.

    Michelle, you recently announced that you will be expanding CT Brew Tours to Massachusetts. Can you tell us more about your expansion to MA and what breweries you will be visiting?

    Jack's Abbey reached out earlier in the year to chat about doing some cross promotion in Connecticut. As we began talking they mentioned how the tourism in that part of the state (Framingham, MA) had been wanting a beer tour to start up in the area. We immediately jumped on the opportunity to meet with the breweries in the area to setup tours in that area. It's a way for those in Connecticut to get safe transportation and visit four breweries which include Wormtown Brewing, Exhibit A, Cold Harbor and Jack's Abbey. 

    Right now your expansion to MA is limited to the Worcester and Framingham area. Do you plan to expand your tours in Massachusetts?

    The difficulty with this business is that there is no one major tourist area in CT. We don't want to spread ourselves too thin by having a bunch of tours offered at a limited amount of dates throughout the year, but we also don't want to limit ourselves as well. This is where the first year learning curve comes into play. Getting our company name out there more, educating people what we do, and analyzing our trip data the best is critical in helping us make the best decisions to move forward.

    Michelle if you could have a dream six pack from beers only from brewery's that CT Beer Tours visits, what six beers would be in your dream six pack? 
    Great question! My taste for beer ranges based on the season, but with that being said I would have to go with: Minnie Winnie by Cold Creek Brewing; Two Juicy by Two Roads Brewing; Ice Cream Man by Back East Brewing, Imperial Stout Trooper by NEBCO; Beliqique du Noire by Overshores; and Thimble Island Vanilla Coffee Stout.

    If you could expand CT beer tours to any state what state would you pick and why?

    When we formed Connecticut Beer Tours we spoke about being able to offer international and foreign trips. Taking Connecticut residence and being able to bring them to California, Colorado, or Europe and Germany and provide a beer touring experience beyond state lines. It is an idea that is still not forgotten and still may come to fruition one day. Stay tuned...

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  2. Jim Gokenbach like many in the craft beer industry got started by brewing a beer as a hobby at his house and sharing his beers with his friends and family. Jim quickly realized that his hobby could be something more. Back in June, four and half years after opening his brewery, I met Jim Gokenbach and his Zaftig crew at a beerfest in Boston. I loved Zaftig beer and wanted to learn more. Recently I was able to sit down with Jim to discuss all things beer, music and what Zaftig means.

    Jim how did you get into the craft beer business? 

    I got into this business when a friend and I got into home brewing. We started brewing small batches in the kitchen. The hobby quickly expanded to the garage, where we started brewing larger batches of beer and having people over to try them. The get togethers turned into parties with over 100 people walking through the doors to drink/try our beers. That is how I met my current business partner. He was impressed and wanted to start a brewery. Four and a half years later here we are :)

    What is the most difficult part of opening a brewery? 

    The toughest part for us is size and boot strapping the business. It has been a huge time commitment for my entire family, and cashflow and money is always an issue. We don't have the luxury of just dripping in dollars like many other breweries are so it presents lots of challenges in that regard.

    Jim, I like the name of your Brewery. Can you tell us more about the name and what does it mean?

    Zaftig is a German or Yiddish word typically used to describe women. It means full bodied, or voluptuous. Originally we didn't know what it meant, but when we found out, we thought it would work great for our brewery because we specialize in large full bodied high gravity beers. With my background in marketing it is always fun naming beers like Juicy Lucy, Hazy Miss Daisy, Heavy Hearted Amber, and Shadowed Mistress etc... That goes right along with our name and branding.

    You have five year round beers, which one of your five beers is your most popular?

    Juicy Lucy is certainly our flagship and most popular. It is a 7% IPA. Between the name, branding and last but not least being a really nice beer, we can hardly make enough of it.

    Where can people find Zaftig Beer?

    We are distributed state wide in the Great State of Ohio. As far as specifics I won't go crazy on that but here are a few


    Giant Eagle Market District stores in Upper Arlington and Grandview

    Wine and Brew Emporium

    Kenny Road Markey

    Crafted Drafts

    Brass Tap

    World of Beer Easton

    Crafty Pint

    101 Beer Kitchen's

    Pint Room

    Condado's Tacos locations

    Up North:

    Heinen's Markets



    Beuhlers Markets

    Barrio Taco's locations

    The Rail locations

    Dayton and Cincinnati:

    Jungle Jim's

    Dorothy Lane Market locations

    Jim the craft beer industry has been growing rapidly over the last 10 plus years. Do you think the industry can sustain this rapid growth? 

    I think you will see it really plateau over the next couple years. I think you will probably still see a lot of new breweries pop up but you will start to see many breweries go by the wayside due to competition in the market. In my opinion you will start seeing a lot more brewpub breweries pop up and I think that is probably the best way to survive the marketplace now if you are not already well established.

    Jim if you could go on a beercation anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

    Beercation--- That is tough. I would probably stay here in the great USA and split a 10 day vacation between Michigan, California and Colorado. These are where some of the best barrel aged stouts and strong ales are made in the world in my opinion and that is what I really dig.

    Jim what music do you listen to when you are brewing and what music do you have playing in the taproom?

    I get out ruled on this all the time... The guys don't let me control the tunes. We typically listen to rock, alternative and sometimes bluegrass. I am known around town as the brewer in the camo hat (a bit of a country boy) and they don't let me listen to that. Taproom almost always classic rock or alternative/punk music.


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  3. Norwood, Mass. – On the heels of its recent taproom opening, Castle Island Brewing Company is expanding its core line-up with the release of Hi-Def, a new Double IPA.

    Known for its other year-round beers, Candlepin Session Ale and Keeper IPA, Castle Island has gained local praise and was recently named the Best New Brewery in Massachusetts by RateBeer, an online beer rating site. Hi-Def marks the first addition to the core lineup that will be available throughout Castle Island’s distribution network since the Company opened its doors in late 2015.

    “We have released a number of Double IPAs over the last year and a half, but only sent out a limited number of kegs to the market.” said Castle Island President, Adam Romanow. “The increased demand for Double IPAs from both customers and local retailers has been deafening, so we’re really psyched to have Hi-Def available all year long in both cans and kegs.”
    The beer taps into one of the hottest categories within the craft beer segment, a new breed of Double IPA which tempers traditional bitterness and instead favors a soft, “pillowy” mouthfeel with a focus on fruit-forward hop flavor and aroma.
    To develop the recipe for Hi-Def, Castle Island utilized several hops that have been popular for some time now – including Warrior, Citra, and Mosaic – as well a relatively newer hop, Idaho 7, which was first released in 2015 and is known for pungent tropical fruit aromas.
    “We played around with some samples of Idaho 7 on our pilot system,” added Head Brewer, Matt DeLuca, “and were blown away by the complexity and intensity of its flavor and aroma. We knew we had to use it in Hi-Def.”
    Hi-Def will be available in four-packs of 16-ounce cans and on draft throughout Massachusetts. The beer will begin shipping to retailers beginning the week of August 21st. Castle Island has also scheduled a number of launch week events throughout the Commonwealth, including parties in Worcester, Plymouth, Cambridge, and Danvers. Details about these events are available on the Company’s website.
    Located off Route 1, at 31 Astor Ave. in Norwood, Mass., Castle Island’s taproom and retail shop are open to the public 7 days a week. Current hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 4:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M., Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M., and Sundays from 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. Free tours are offered on Saturday afternoons, and may be booked through Castle Island’s website.
    For additional information about the brewery and for an updated list of retail locations where Castle Island beers can be found, please visit the company’s website (castleislandbeer.com) and Facebook page (facebook.com/castleislandbeer). Email contact@castleislandbeer.com or call 781.951.2029 with any other questions.
    Castle Island Brewing:
    Castle Island is dedicated to crafting the highest quality beer with purpose and without pretense. With a focus on American-style ales and lagers, we make offerings that are both unique and approachable. You can find our beer throughout Massachusetts in cans and on draft, as well as at our Norwood brewery and taproom.

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  4. On June 2nd myself along with some friends attended Beer Advocate’s Microbrew Invitational at the Seaport Trade Center in Boston. The plan was to meet up after at the hotel after work before heading to the event.
    I arrived first and waited anxiously in the lobby with my overnight bag and a cooler of frozen waters to help fight dehydration and the inevitable hangover on Saturday morning. As each minute passed I anxiously looked at my phone looking for the call or text that my friends have arrived and I can get changed out of my work clothes and get ready to sample some great beer. Unfortunately they were stuck in Friday afternoon traffic so I had to change in the lobby and meet them at the Seaport.
    After waiting in line to get in we immediately started sampling some beer. Some of my favorites of 
    this year’s event was some great beer from new breweries I hadn’t tried before from Brew Gentleman, Whalers Brewing, Greater Good Imperial Brewing and 3 Star Brewing Company. I also did some sampling from old friends like Castle Island Brewing company and Some Brewing.
    I was also excited to meet and talk to Ben Keene, author of Great Northeast Brewery Tour and editorial director at Beer Advocate.
    Attending beer advocate craft beer intentional is always a great time. I felt that the last two years of the invitational have had less breweries at the fest compared to previous years. In my opinion it gives it more of an exclusive feeling. Also, I feel that the Friday night session is less crowded compared to the Saturday night session. This is good because you don't have to fight crowds or wait in line for long periods of time to sample great beer. Most of the lines I was able to sample most of the offerings without having to wait more than a few minutes for my next sample. Overall it was a great night and I am looking forward to attending the next Beer Advocate brew invitational.

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  5. Yesterday, I got the opportunity to visit Navigation Brewing Company for their 3rd
    Anniversary celebration. The brewery was packed with fans and new comers all sampling some great beer. It's crazy to think 3 years ago I visited Navigation Brewing for their initial opening and met the owners Bob Johnson (Head Brewer/CEO) and PJ Mercier (Brewer/CMO). If you have a chance to visit Navigation Brewing Company in Lowell, MA you won't be disappointed! News from PJ is that Navigation Brewing beers will be available in cans later this summer. I don’t know about you but I think that just made my summer.

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  6. Somerville, MA – Bantam Cider Company is releasing its Ginger Beer, fermented with fresh ground ginger root and citrus, in 12oz. cans. Bantam’s long-standing taproom specialty is primed for market debut when it becomes available in stores throughout New England, beginning this week.
    While Ginger Beer is Bantam’s first foray outside of cider, it remains right within Bantam’s expertise of making small batch, high quality, craft products.  
    Bantam Ginger Beer will be available in 4-packs of 12oz. cans beginning April 18, 2017.
    Stats:   5.5% ABV | Gluten Free
    Notes:  Smooth & spicy with a nice ginger bite. It’s delicious on its own or a great addition to your favorite cocktail.
    About Bantam Cider Company
    Launched in 2012 and based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Bantam has grown to become one of New England’s most highly regarded cider houses and currently distributes in 7 states across New England, New York and Illinois.
    To learn more about Bantam Cider and their products, contact Christina Bencivenni at 617.299.8600 or email, hello@bantamcider.com , or visit www.bantamcider.com.


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  7. [Malden, MA] On Thursday, May 4, Original Gravity ENTRANCES you with its season finale, featuring the stellar music of Paula Matthusen paired with the beer of Idle Hands Craft Ales!

    Paula Matthusen’s unique compositional style amplifies and expounds on the secret sounds that encompass our every day lives—transforming the mundane into the fantastical and entrancing. Brett Bauer, master brewer at Idle Hands Craft Ales, has listened to Paula’s works and is fashioning a one-night only adventurous brett-fermented Belgian called "3 Collaborating Yeasts" to pair with Paula’s soundscapes. This quixotic brew will only be available the night of the concert.

    In the brewer's words: "In the spirit of taking classic instruments and using them for dissonance and experimentation as I've heard throughout attending the Original Gravity Concert Series, we have decided to take some of our simple and clean Heide wort and fermented it using a combination of Belgian ale strains with brettanomyces bruxellensis. What was originally destined to become our clean and light hells lager has been transformed into a funky, fruity and spicy brett Belgian pale ale."

    Heralded as Boston’s Best Buzzworthy Concert Series 2016 by the Improper Bostonian, Original Gravity is a sell-out concert series that harmonizes live modern music by regional composers with the artistry of local craft breweries.

    We will be joined by the best new music artists in New England to bring this music to life:
    * Terri Hron, recorder
    * Trevor Babb, guitar, banjo
    * Mike Avitabile, flute
    * Amy Advocat, clarinet

    Tickets to Original Gravity’s ENTRANCEMENT are $15, on sale now. 
    Student and senior tickets available for $10 with valid ID.

    About Original Gravity
    Curated by local pianist and composer Keith Kirchoff, Original Gravity Concert Series takes modern classical music out of the concert hall and presents it in an informal, fun environment: a brewery. Committed to the music of New England composers, the Original Gravity crew collaborates with the host brewers to design a beer specifically in tune with the artist’s work, creating a blended synchronicity of sound and zymurgy.

    Keith Kirchoff (Artistic Director) is a pianist, composer, and Vice President of the Society for Electro Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). Specializing in works which combine interactive electronics with solo piano, his Electro-Acoustic Piano tour has been presented in six countries. Keith is also an accomplished homebrewer and beer connoisseur, having travelled extensively in the United States and abroad in search of the perfect pint.

    Paula Matthusen (Featured Composer) writes both electroacoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations. In addition to writing for a variety of different ensembles, she also collaborates with choreographers and theater companies. She has written for diverse instrumentations, such as “run-on sentence of the pavement” for piano, ping-pong balls, and electronics, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker noted as being “entrancing”. Her work often considers discrepancies in musical space—real, imagined, and remembered.

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  8. On Friday March 24th my wife and I attended Somerville Brewing Brewery and Taproom for the beer release party of their new beer Saturday Morning. The turnout for the release of Saturday Morning was great, the brewery was filled. It was a great beer and we both really enjoyed it. A fun fact is that Saturday Morning is actually brewed with cereal.  We also enjoyed how they served a little cereal with every sample of Saturday Morning. Kudos to Jeff and Caitlin who brewed a great beer and put on a great show. If you are in the area and have the opportunity to visit Somerville Brewing and try Saturday Morning along with the rest of the great beers that they brew you won’t be disappointed!


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  9. This is my first post in awhile, sorry for that life has been busy. Tonight's review is of Lost Nation Brewing MOSAIC IPA. Lost Nation Brewing is located in Morrisville VT and MOSAIC is American IPA Style of beer and is 5.5% ABV and is available year round in cans and Draught. Check the Lost Nation website to see if MOSAIC IPA is available in your state.

    Mosaic pours a hazy dark yellow color with nice off white head that leaves a little amount of lacing on the side of the glass. The aroma is floral hops and citrus. The taste is of tropical fruits and citrusy with a light bitterness. This is a very light bodied IPA I could drink this all day. If you like IPA's and I would say the New England style of IPA's that have been popular over the last few years I think you should give Lost Nation Mosaic a try.

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    Castle Island Celebrates First Anniversary with ONE Imperial Stout

    NORWOOD, MASS. – A year after opening for business, Castle Island Brewing Company is releasing ONE, the brewery’s first imperial stout, to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

    A traditional Russian Imperial Stout, ONE clocks in at 11.5% alcohol by volume, and is the strongest beer the brewery has made to-date, according to Head Brewer, Matt DeLuca.

    “We wanted to do something big to celebrate our first year,” said DeLuca, “and ONE is just that. We pushed our equipment to the limits with this beer. Honestly, we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to pull it off until we actually brewed it.”

    ONE will only be available at Castle Island’s Norwood brewery beginning Tuesday, December 13, and will be sold in single 16 ounce cans. A limited number of kegs will also be distributed to the market at a later date.
    This also marks the beginning of the Company’s barrel-aging program. The growing popularity of barrel-aged beer has made it an ongoing request from Castle Island’s customers, and the brewery has selected ONE to kick off the new effort.

    “We’ve always wanted to dabble in barrel aging, but we couldn’t find time or the right beer to start it up over the last year,” added Founder, Adam Romanow. “ONE is the perfect candidate for a brief rest in bourbon barrels, so we’re excited to finally launch our barrel program.”

    The Company plans to expand its use of barrel aging in the future, but only plans to produce “clean” beers, or beers made only with traditional brewers’ yeast. The alternative, sour or “wild” beer, is typically made with mixed yeast and bacteria cultures and can create a challenge for brewers trying to avoid cross contamination. Because of that, Castle Island does not have any immediate plans for barrel-aged sour beers.

    Castle Island opened its doors to the public on December 11 last year, and experienced swift and significant growth in the Massachusetts market. The Company’s beers are found at bars, liquor stores, and restaurants throughout the Eastern and Central parts of the State, and the brewery has shipped beer to over 1,000 accounts since January.

    Located off Route 1, at 31 Astor Ave. in Norwood, Mass., Castle Island is currently operating on limited visiting hours. The brewery is open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 12:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M., and Thursdays through Saturdays from 12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

    For additional information about the brewery and for an updated list of retail locations where Castle Island beers can be found, please visit the company’s website (castleislandbeer.com) and Facebook page (facebook.com/castleislandbeer). Email contact@castleislandbeer.com or call 781.951.2029 with any other questions.

    Castle Island Brewing:
    Castle Island is dedicated to crafting the highest quality beer with purpose and without pretense. With a focus on American ales, we make offerings that are both unique and approachable. Our singular goal is to brew distinctive beers that honor proven traditions and celebrate fresh ideas.

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