Brewery owners raise glass to state beer trail

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By July 1, beer lovers will have a Connecticut Beer Trail in place that leads them to breweries across the state.

On Wednesday, a bill passed establishing the trail to promote the manufacturing and sale of Connecticut-brewed beer has passed in the General Assembly. New bills go into effect July 1.

At the Cottrell Brewing Co. in Pawcatuck, passage of the bill coincided with recent zoning approval to sell beer out of the facility on Mechanic Street and sale of two six-packs from the building on Wednesday, said Chris Kepple, director of sales and marketing. The facility also now has a tasting bar.

“They were complementary efforts that were started independently and then the timing came together in a very serendipitous way,” he said. “To have that bill pass in the same week that we made our very first sale at the brewery is a huge thrill.”

In business for 15 years, Cottrell makes an Old Yankee Ale and Mystic Bridge IPA, but plans to introduce three new beers in the next six months, Kepple said: a summer ale and Safe Harbor blond ale, due out in July, and in the fall, a dark beer dubbed “Revenge.”

“It really feels like an exciting turning point in the history of Cottrell Brewing,” said Kepple. “There’s a lot of buzz and we feel we have a bright future in Connecticut.”

Modeled after the successful marketing of the Connecticut Wine Trail, a route that links the state’s wineries, the beer trail would connect the state’s breweries and brew pubs with signs and promotional activities for locals and tourists interested in learning more about locally brewed beer.

“We’re just really excited that people are on board with trying to support local business and we’re glad everybody in Connecticut’s included because the local breweries just want to see each other do well,” said Matt Westfall, a brewer at New England Brewing in Woodbridge.

In business for seven years, New England Brewing produces Sea Hag IPA, Elm City Lager and Atlantic Amber.