Stratford Taps Hartford For Support For Brewery [Stratford Star]

March 8, 2012

Article as it appeared in the Stratford Star on March 8, 2012

By John Kovach

Stratford’s legislators are pushing for passage of two bills in Hartford that would pave the way for Two Roads Brewing Co. to set up shop.

State Sen. Kevin C. Kelly (R-21st District) and Mayor John Harkins testified before the General Assembly’s General Law Committee Feb. 28 in support of An Act Concerning Competitive Alcoholic Liquor Pricing and Hours of Operation for Permittees.

The section would allow breweries to “sell their craft beer to wholesalers, produce beer brewed under contract and sell it back to brewery clients in and out of state, offer visitor tours with a sample of their product, sell a glass of beer to visitors to enjoy, or sell beer by the package to customers to share at home.”

“In my hometown of Stratford we are getting ready to welcome Two Roads Brewing Co. into our town,” Kelly said in prepared remarks. “Two Roads is a recently formed Connecticut company that intends to produce high-quality craft beers to participate in the rapidly growing craft beer segment of the United States beer industry. We are extremely excited about their investment, and looking forward to the creation of 70 jobs in our community.”

Brad Hittle, a partner in Two Roads Brewing Co., said the ability to sell beer in its tasting room and conveniently packaged for taking home is “not do or die, but it’s very important to our business model.”

He and partner Peter Doering attended the hearing but did not testify.

“To get a brand off the ground you need to have a consumer trial,” Hittle said. “To facilitate that, we want to have a consumer tasting room, where you can buy a pint or buy packaged.”

Under current law, visitors may tour a brewery and have a free sample.

At the same time, wineries and brew pubs may sell their product for consumption there, or to take home.

“If anyone wants to come in and not do the tour, we want to be able to do that,” Hittle said.

The goal, Hittle said, is to develop an “emotional attachment” between customers and the brand through “a beautiful room in a beautiful building.”

“You’re not making that emotional connection in a grocery aisle,” he said.

“Supporting this aspect of the governor’s bill will enable microbreweries such as Two Roads to enjoy the same benefits we accord to wineries,” Kelly said. “It will allow them to give tours of the facility, tastes of their product and the sale of sealed containers to be taken home.”

“In order for Two Roads brewery to effectively implement their business plan they are seeking a legislative change to existing state statutes,” Harkins said in his testimony. “Because of the larger scale of the Two Roads brewery, and the amount of investment involved, it is critical that Two Roads Brewing be able to grow quickly by launching several beer brands for sale within Connecticut and for interstate commerce and to build a loyal consumer base from patrons visiting the brewery’s tasting room as part of a unique brewery experience.”

Stratford’s representatives in the General Assembly — Laura Hoydick (R-120th District), Terry Backer (D-121st District) and Larry Miller (R-122nd District) — joined Kelly Feb. 29 in sending a letter to Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, in support of Stratford’s application for funding through the 2012 Municipal Brownfield Grant Program.

The $574,000 grant would aid in the remediation of previously unidentified contamination in the main building of the former U.S. Baird Corp.

“I am excited to welcome a new business to Stratford,” Kelly said. “We must encourage greater private investment, and the brownfield grant program allows businesses to utilize existing industrial buildings, clean them up, and bring jobs to our communities. Some of my top priorities include economic development and job creation, and I look forward to supporting similar initiatives in the future.”

“This project is a win-win,” Backer said. “Using the state’s brownfields legislation as a vehicle to clean up this location while bringing in private development to our town is a home run. The reuse of this industrial land means its return to Stratford’s tax rolls plus welcome jobs for our citizens.”

Two Roads has said the brewery will bring with it 70 jobs.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs, that is what the people in my district are concerned about right now as I meet them at the local coffee shop,” Miller said. “This brownfield grant program is the perfect way to encourage businesses to come and bring their jobs to Connecticut.”

“I think it’s very significant that we are turning the Baird building into a home for the Two Roads brewery,” Hoydick said. “We are getting the dual benefit of bringing jobs to Stratford and cleaning up an industrial site. By locating this new business in Stratford it will also enhance the existing cultural attractions of Perry House, Judson House and the Shakespeare Theatre.”

“We’re going to start work in terms of building improvements in a couple of weeks,” Hittle said. “We’re champing at the bit to make that happen.”

Hittle said Two Roads is fortunate in that the building was “kept in very good shape.”

When the plan was first announced in December, Two Roads estimated it would open in December 2012.

“We’ll probably be earlier than December,” Hittle said. “We’ll be brewing beer sometime between September and the end of October.”

State and local officials have thus far been supportive of the effort to open Two Roads Brewing.

“The town, Mayor Harkins and his staff have been phenomenal,” Hittle said. “The help given us and the general attitude has been beyond belief. The state has been just as supportive.”

One of the biggest supporters of the effort, however, will not be around to see Two Roads serve its first pint, as Director of Special Projects Bruce Alessie died Jan. 5.

“We’re going to name one of our house beers in the tasting room the Alessie,” Hittle said. “We’ll do a number of things, because he helped us and because he was such a good man.”