September 4, 2011

Cavalry Brewing Tour and Tasting

Sadly, Hurricane Irene ruined our long-awaited plans to attend Vermont's annual Mount Snow Brewers Festival this Labor Day weekend.

Happily, however, beer - free, very good beer, mind you - can be found right here in Connecticut, at Cavalry Brewing in Oxford.
Cavalry's Nomad Stout. Serious beer.

For absolutely nothing, you can walk right into this brewery on Fridays or Saturdays (call first, just to be sure they're not out making a delivery) and ask the two brewmasters and their trusty border terrier, aptly named Mash, for an informal, yet informative tour and a tasting.

Not only will you not be disappointed, you'll be shocked to have found such a great outing and such memorable beer without having to pay a dime. Granted, if you loved the beer as much as we did, you'll be more than willing to take your wallet out before you leave and buy a few cases of your favorites to take home.

Mash, Cavalry's resident
doggie brewmaster.
Owned by an Army veteran, with only one additional staffer (who's also an Army veteran), Cavalry Brewing features a selection of brews - all named after fellow soldiers - that are made in the English tradition. That, according to Cavalry's crew, ultimately means tastier, highly drinkable, superior beer that's nothing like what you'll traditionally find this side of the pond.

All of Cavalry's hops and barley are shipped in from England, and even the water used to brew the beer is specially treated to mimic the hardness of England's water. You'll also taste the beer at the temperature at which it's served in the U.K. - at about 50 degrees, or so-called "cellar" temperature. Native Brits who've come by for tastings have told the brewers that Cavalry's beers "taste like home." (My first trip to London is planned for April, so I won't be able to vouch for this until then.)

Brewmaster Justin shows us an
English variety of hops, called Fuggles, 
which have a super fragrant flowery smell.

During our visit, we were presented with hefty (half-a-pint-glass hefty) helpings of five of Cavalry's brews:
  • Dog Soldier Golden Ale, the lightest of the bunch, with a nice bitterness, and totally refreshing (my fave)
  • Hatch Plug Ale, a pleasant and really flavorful amber ale (my husband's fave - we left with a case of it)
  • Marauder IPA, their hoppiest beer, but a really surprisingly drinkable IPA that totally reminded me of autumn (P.S., I am normally NOT an IPA fan, but this was so wonderfully mild and tasty that we bought a case of this, too)
  • Nomad Stout, which was dark and dry, and I swear had a kind of bacon-y flavor to it (it is International Bacon Day, so I may have had bacon on the brain)
  • And last but not least, an unfiltered, uncarbonated brown ale that we sampled straight from the tank, I believe because it was still in the midst of finishing up its fermentation cycle (Sorry, I don't remember all the technical terms ... This was our fifth sample in, after all, and Mash is distractingly cute).

Chatting with friendly,
super informative brewmaster

Feel free to ask any and all questions about brewing, bottling, distributing, and general operations - these guys can answer anything you throw at them. Also remember to ask them if you can try a handful of their English barley, just because you can. (They kinda taste like pumpkin seeds, in my opinion.)

Having just opened about a year and a half ago - in January 2010 - Cavalry has its beers only available locally, with distribution currently limited to Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the brewery itself is small, housed in an unassuming, 3,500-square-foot warehouse in an industrial park in the quiet town of Oxford.

But judging from what we tasted today, this place is definitely well on its way to making a big name for themselves. Check it out now, so you can say you were amongst the first to know about them!

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