This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

State #2: Connecticut

Beer: Mystic Bridge IPA

Brewery: Cottrell Brewing Company, Pawcatuck, Connecticut
ABV: 6.0%
A Connecticut beer on a real, actual kitchen table in Connecticut. Notice how the beer is completely opaque: as former Westport resident Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."
While I live in California now, I grew up in Connecticut. A recent trip home the holidays was a great opportunity to pick up some beers from states and countries that would be difficult to find back in California. First up in my “Tour de Northeast” is Mystic Bridge IPA by The Cottrell Brewing Company in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, which is in the far, far eastern part of the state, just across the Pawcatuck River from Rhode Island.

I would have loved to represent Connecticut with a beer from closer to where I grew up (Fairfield County, closer in location and culture to New York City than to the rest of New England), but my options were limited: in fact, according to The Beer Mapping Project (best website ever?), there are only four breweries in the entire state that sell their beers in stores (that is, that are not strictly brew-pubs, where their beer is only sold on-site). To that end, let’s compare Connecticut to San Diego County for a minute, which is something I like to do all too often, but usually not in terms of beer:

Connecticut: Population: 3.5 million. Area: 5,500 square miles. Breweries: 4.

San Diego County: Population: 3.1 million. Area: 4,500 square miles. Breweries: 19.

Connecticut vs. San Diego County breweries, from The Beer Mapping Project. Step it up, Nutmeg State! (Cottrell is the one way over to the east).
My choice was also made easier by the fact that my wife, who is really pretty great, brought home a sixer of Mystic Bridge before I even got out of bed my first morning back in Connecticut. I am pleased to say that it is really good stuff, even compared to the West Coast-style IPAs I’m used to. Having relatively recently had New England-made IPAs from Shipyard (Maine) and Harpoon (Massachusetts), and found them to be pretty uninteresting, this was a pleasant surprise. Mystic Bridge is nice and hoppy, but not over the top with the hops, meaning the average drinker could easily enjoy three or four of them in a row. It’s also a little more citrus-y that pine-y (if you’ve never had a West Coast IPA, they can sometimes taste like you’re sucking on a pine cone, if you can imagine such an experience as somehow being enjoyable). I love my West Coast IPAs, but count me as a fan of Mystic Bridge, too.

Never heard of this brewery? I hadn’t either. But what about that name? As microbrewing has become more widespread and competitive, many breweries are trying to market themselves with names (either for the brewery itself or for their different styles of beer) that emphasize their locality. This beer is no exception, but its nomenclature may confuse some people. The Cottrell Brewing Company, according to its web site, is named for its owner and founder, one Charles Cottrell Buffum, Jr., the descendent of a local industrialist, who in addition to owning a brewery is also in possession of an awesomely blue-blooded Yankee name. The beer itself is named for the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, which is pictured on the label, and which spans the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, home to the locally famous Mystic Seaport, the Mystic Aquarium, and which is the setting for this gem. There is even a Cottrell Street in Mystic, named for Ol’ Buffum’s ancestor. 

Art imitates life: The Mystic River Bascule Bridge (photo on right by Panoramio user gustl).
Here’s where it gets confusing: the brewery itself is instead in nearby Pawcatuck, which sounds like it might be in Rhode Island (and almost is). Non-New Englanders also might first think of this Mystic River, which is in Boston, instead of the one in Connecticut. While it reeks of New England goodness no matter what associations one might make, someone at the brewery was savvy enough to include a little “Made in CT” right on the six pack box.

Of course, most people are not nearly as concerned with these kinds of geographic idiosyncracies as I am; they only care about what the stuff tastes like. And it tastes good.

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