An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Apr 15, 2014
11:54 AM
The Connecticut Table

Half Full Brewery in Stamford to Can Beers, Sell Across Connecticut

Half Full Brewery in Stamford to Can Beers, Sell Across Connecticut

By Corinne Morrell

It's Friday afternoon at the Half Full Brewery in Stamford, Conn., and owner Conor Horrigan (below) is in full mad scientist mode.

The smell of cocoa fills the brewery’s taproom. At the bar, Horrigan, 32, has a plate full of melted chocolate, which he is trying to scoop into a growler filled with the brewery’s Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale. He’s working on a brand new concoction for the Castle Bar & Grill, a Stamford venue that will soon be opening a chocolate shop. The idea is to see how fresh melted chocolate will alter (and hopefully enhance) the flavor of the ale, but right now the experiment is in its messy stage.

“This does not look appetizing,” says Horrigan apologetically as he attempts to clean chocolate off of the bottle he’s filling and the bar.

Welcome to Half Full Brewery, a beer world’s Willy Wonka factory that will make an optimist out of even the most ardent my cup-is-half-empty pessimist. The young  (in beer years it would still be fermenting) brewery opened in 2012 and thanks to popular artisan crafted ales and upbeat branding it has successfully tapped into craft beer enthusiasm in Connecticut.

The brewery’s beer is available at more than 200 restaurants and bars across the state. In May the brewery will start canning its beers and distributing to Connecticut liquor retailers. But you can go to Half Full right now to sample the beers and more, as the brewery's website explains in the Hours section:

Thurs – Fri:  4-7 PM – Growler Fills and Samplings

Sample some quality Half Full beer and/or fill up your growler!

Saturday:  1-5 PM – Tour & Tastings (Tour at 3:00 PM)

Guided Brewery Tour, Sampling and Growler Fills 

Every Other Friday:  5:30-8:30 PM – Open House

We open up the doors to the Brewery and welcome everybody to come in and have a good time! (You can also swing in and grab growlers during these hours, however, we do not offer samplings once the Open House begins.)

Third Wednesday of Every Month:  7-9pm – Rare Beer Night

Each month we host a Rare Beer Night in our very own Tasting Room in which our Brewers, Jen and Jon, brew a few Rare Beers that are offered for a limited period of time. We spend the evening living life Half Full, sampling each beer with a food pairing. It’s a great evening of not only trying new beers, but you get to help us evaluate each craft beer in order to better Half Full’s production!

In anticipation of the milestone of being able to purchase Half Full beer in stores across the state, we stopped by the brewery last week and met with Horrigan.

In recent years breweries have been popping up across Connecticut thanks in part to legislation passed in 2012 that allows them to sell their beers on the premises (priviously beer companies could only sell to bars and restaurants). Horrigan says his brewery has been able to set itself apart from the competition by offering distinct brews that are not so bitter tasting you have to be a beer-nerd to enjoy them.

“We brew some of the most complex but approachable beers,” he says. He adds that in today’s crowded craft beer market, to be successful you have to offer a great product. “You used to be able to put out a mediocre beer and it was fine because there wasn’t a lot of craft beer options," Horrigan says.

The beers at Half Full are brewed by the brewery’s brew master, Jennifer Muckerman, to achieve complex flavors without intense bitterness. The brewery often employs a process known as “dry hopping” where hops (an integral ingredient in beer) are added later in the process, which gives the finished product more hop aroma with less hop bitterness. “Our hops are all in the nose not in the texture,” Horrigan explains, unlike some craft beers which are “so bitter they strip the enamel off your teeth.”

The brewery’s beers include the Half Full Bright Ale, a delicious pale and blonde ale hybrid, the aforementioned Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale, and the hop infused, but not overpowered, IPA and Double IPA.

Though you can get Half Full beer elsewhere, it’s fun to stop by the brewery and see firsthand what the place is all about. The taproom is big and open with the laidback feel-good vibe of a Bohemian coffeehouse.

The vibe is all part of Horrigan’s philosophy for the brewery. A native of Litchfield and a graduate of Notre Dame University, Horrigan began his professional life in the world of finance. His first job out of college was at Bear Stearns, but after four years spent working for the brokerage firm he had what he calls his “oh my God, what am I doing with my life” moment. As a result of this quarter-life crisis, Horrigan decided Wall Street wasn’t for him and left his job in 2008 (he timed his career switch well as that was the year Bear Stearns collapsed). After leaving the world of finance he hatched his plan to open a brewery that would be dedicated to locally crafted beer and reminding people to look at the brighter side of life.

Today his brewery is inspiring people one glass at a time.

“We’re kind of like a cheer company within a beer company,” he says.

It’s a statement that might induce groans if his company’s product line was anything but beer, but it’s also a statement Horrigan truly stands behind. His brewery works with other local business’ (the artisan Stamford coffeehouse, Lorca, provides the coffee for the Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale); encourages state pride (UConn men’s basketball star Shabazz Napier, who is over 21, has been offered free beer at the brewery for life); and works with the community (among other local projects, Horrigan plans to have the brewery host some type of entrepreneur club that will help support aspiring Connecticut business people).

“Breweries build character wherever they are,” Horrigan says. “they are great gathering places.”

Starting in May beer lovers will be able to sample some of that local character in a can.

Half Full Brewery is open to the public on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are offered on Saturday and additionally the brewery hosts an open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every other Friday.

Editor's note: Erik Ofgang is currently writing a book about New England breweries that is scheduled to be released in 2015 by Islandport Press. 

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

 

Half Full Brewery in Stamford to Can Beers, Sell Across Connecticut

Reader Comments

comments powered by Disqus
 
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed