While Connecticut has plenty of storied brewpubs that offer a full-service restaurant in addition to beers brewed on premise, newer breweries have begun to launch with robust food menus, and already-established breweries are building onsite kitchens, offering pizza, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, fries, cheese boards and other hearty snacks.
Here’s a look at some of the food options you’ll find as part of the state’s beer scene.
Thomas Hooker Brewery
16 Tobey Road, Bloomfield
140 Huyshope Ave., Hartford
Thomas Hooker Brewery’s Bloomfield location recently celebrated the grand opening of its new scratch kitchen, where nine staff members are turning out signature gourmet pizzas, fresh salads and beer-friendly small plates like chicken wings, pretzel bites, mozzarella sticks and hand-cut fries.
Curt Cameron, Hooker’s owner and president, says the food addition is intended to give visitors a more complete experience.
“One of the challenges you run into is when people come to a place where all you can do is drink beer, they come for one beer, maybe two, and then they’re gone... How do you get people to hang out a little bit longer?”
Hooker had previously welcomed food trucks to the brewery, but Cameron says, “some are great, but some are undependable. If you have a nice Friday-night open house and then the food truck doesn’t show up, it’s troublesome.”
Pizzas, with a white or red base, include gourmet selections like loaded potato with bacon, Nashville hot chicken with pickle chips and ranch drizzle, BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with cheddar and Blonde Ale mustard. Nachos ($9) piled with cheese, tomatoes, black beans, onion and jalapeños, are built on locally-produced corn chips from Hartford’s Severance Foods. Pizzas are $8 to $14, and salads and small plates are priced at $5 to $8.
Dessert options may be created in partnership with Bolton-based Munson’s Chocolates, which has crafted beer caramels and beer brittle using Hooker’s brews, Cameron says.
Thomas Hooker’s Hartford location at the Colt Building also serves food through its onsite Tom and Sam’s Cafe, including breakfast sandwiches and burritos, salads and sandwiches ($3.95 to $8.95.)
The Bloomfield location is open Sunday to Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m. and on Thursday to Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. The Hartford location is open Monday to Wednesday from 3 to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
95 Whiting St., Plainville
Relic, which in the past few years has diversified its offerings well beyond beer with the addition of hundreds of spirits, added a small kitchen to its Plainville taproom this summer.
The menu features “beer food,” owner Mark Sigman says, with cheese and charcuterie boards, sausages (including local Martin Rosol kielbasa), grilled cheese bites, pierogi, and shareables like hummus and pita, guacamole and chips, prosciutto-wrapped dates, mixed olives and Marcona almonds.
“It’s more assembling; we’re not doing that much actual cooking,” Sigman says. “I was really creative about getting good stuff and really good ingredients.”
Rotating cheeses come from local artisans like Arethusa Farms, along with other specialty producers. January’s cheese options feature Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove in California, Carr Valley cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin, and a farmstead cheese from Seven Sisters in Pennsylvania.
Shareables are $4.50 to $12. Cheese and charcuterie options are $6.50 to $15. Sausages, including a mixed platter, bratwursts and knockwursts on buns, and roasted kielbasa bites, are $6 to $20.
Relic Brewing is open Wednesday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday, 2 to 9 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.
409 Canal St., Southington
The brewery in the town’s Milldale section partnered with the owners of Domenic and Vinnie’s to launch Sauced.
Gourmet pizzas are the focus, on a red or white base with inventive topping combinations, like The Macho Taco with housemade pulled pork, candied jalapeños, pickled red onions, cheddar cheese, cilantro, chipotle sauce drizzle and lime. (Gluten-free crust is available.)
Other menu items include sandwiches, salads, mini bread bowl sliders and snacks like jumbo pretzels, stuffed peppers, chips and salsa and “cookie pies."
Pizzas are $12 to $17, sandwiches are $8 to $10, salads are $7 to $9 and apps and desserts are $3 to $8.
Kinsmen is open Monday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 3 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Five Churches Brewing
193 Arch St., New Britain
The family-run brewery in the heart of New Britain has a wood-fired pizza oven on site, which turns out thin-crust personal-sized pies with guests’ choice of meat and veggie toppings.
The staff comes up with weekly creative specials, some which have their own dedicated customer following. Recent pizza productions have included mac and cheese with J. Timothy’s buffalo sauce; loaded mashed potato with bacon; “turkey club” with bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and Monterey Jack; white cheddar with ham, cranberry sauce and rosemary; and “The Resolution,” with chicken, mozzarella, edamame, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, scallions, sesame seeds and teriyaki glaze.
Baked pretzels, in plain, everything seasoning and salt varieties, come with a side of mustard or housemade beer cheese. A dessert pretzel, tossed in cinnamon and sugar, has a side of hazelnut sauce.
Cheese pizzas start at $7.50, and margherita pies at $9, with $1 for each additional topping (gluten-friendly crusts are $1.50 extra.) Pretzels are $6; $6.50 for dessert version.
Five Churches is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Closed Wednesday.
Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery
5 Depot Place, Bethel
Beer and pizza is a match made in carbohydrate heaven, but how about beer and burritos? With Green Grunion food truck owner Paul Mannion as a partner in the Bethel “gastro brewery,” Broken Symmetry features an onsite kitchen with a menu of San Diego style burritos, made to order and griddle-sealed with fillings like carne asada, carnitas, chorizo, pulled chicken, beans and assorted vegetables.
Other food offerings include smaller plates: ceviche, taquitos, fish tacos, quesadillas, griddle nachos with crispy cheese, carne asada fries and guacamole.
Burritos are $10 (medium) and $12 (large.) Bites like guac, plantain chips and fries are $5 and $6, and “bigger bites” are $8 to $14.
Broken Symmetry is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.
Want the traditional, brewpub experience? Many of these spots offer a conventional restaurant atmosphere with full food menus, cocktails and wines, in addition to their own signature brews.
Willimantic Brewing Company, Willimantic willimanticbrewing.com
City Steam Brewery, Hartford citysteam.biz
BAR, New Haven barnightclub.com
Food & Drink
Elicit Brewing Company, Manchester elicitbrewing.com
Bear’s Smokehouse at the Stack, New Haven (featuring an in-house brewery in partnership with Black Hog Brewing) bearsbbq.com/new-haven
Cambridge House Brew Pub, Granby cbh.beer
Brewport, Bridgeport brewportct.com
These Guys Brewing, Norwich theseguysbrewing.com
The Crossings Restaurant & Brew Pub, Putnam crossingsbrewpub.com
Leeanne Griffin can be reached at email@example.com.