I’ve been keeping pretty close to home recently but managed two recent and memorable beer trips. Last weekend, we went to a perennial favorite in the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic, Connecticut. Located in a renovated post office, it is a quirky environment for a brewpub. Owner and brewer Dave Wollner ups the quirkiness with his unbending dedication to hops. While most New England brewer seem averse to making American-style IPA’s (there are notable exceptions of course), Wollner is one of our biggest hopheads.
He brews more than 20 different IPA’s during the year and puts loads more on his guest taps. For the Jake 180 IPA, Wollner turned over the system to assistant brewer, Jake Matot. The Jake is an unusual IPA in that it employs only two-row Munich and wheat malts. It is hopped with Warrior, Simcoe, and Perle hops. The resulting flavors remain strongly hoppy, but the underlying malts playfully confuse and bedazzle the palate.
Wollner’s own pleasantly sour Willi Whammer ’06 Barleywine (Jack Daniels aged, 10.4% ABV) and RodenZok (in collaboration with homebrewer Paul Zocco) were also enjoyable.
A few weeks before, we also had the chance to travel to Walpole (not for legal business) to visit the British Beer Company. I’ve heard a lot about this small chain of pubs from readers and industry types but this was my first personal visit. Now, the south shore is not particularly well-known for its dedication to good beer by the BBC is doing a great job countering that. The pub has a very authentic interior created and built in Britain, with lots of nooks throughout the place.
The extensive, written beer list is praiseworthy in its level of detail. The menu even offers a range of vintage and aged beers for purchase. The list is near evenly split between British beers, many hard to find in Boston, and craft beers. The owners seem to have good relationships with craft brewers ranging from Dogfish Head to the Berkshire Brewing Company. The owners also have an innovative employee exchange program with the Newcastle Brewery, where employees can travel to England to learn the pub trade there before returning to the states.I enjoyed a beautiful Ridgeway IPA that was remarkably fresh. The only complaint I have, and it’s a small one, is that the pub appears to employ the controversial, fake cask engines Fuller’s has unfortunately brought to the United States.