Hartford Brewing Company
Hartford, CT

One of three brewpubs in Hartford, The Hartford Brewery is not only the oldest brewpub in the state, but it's also the best brewery in the Capitol area. Unfortunately, if you want to sample their fine libations, you'll have to go the brewery, because they don't distribute. However, if you just can't face the fact that you can't buy the beer at your local bar, they do sell 2 liter growler jugs for you to take home.

Hopinator Red Ale (1.054 OG)
Wow... for a couple of minutes I thought that I was sitting in San Francisco instead of Hartford, CT. This beer is a West Coast Hop-Head's dream, reminding me of a Stone Brewery Arrogant Bastard Ale or a Prohibition Ale from Speakeasy Brewing. The color is a nice, deep russet red-brown that would make the seasoned drinker believe that this would be a simple, mellow beer; but the nose of the beer gives away its secret... hops. Lots and lots of hops. So hoppy that they had to increase the malt levels to an almost bread-like level in order to keep the beer balanced. This is truly a big beer for big beer lovers.

Bag o' Bones Barley Wine (1.093 OG)
I'll be the first person to admit that I'm not crazy about Barleywines. However, I've sampled over 90 different barleywines over the last few years, and I can certainly tell what differentiates a great barleywine from a mediocre barleywine. For those of you who have never had a barleywine, it's the equivalent of a port, but made with the standard beer ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast. They can be consumed while young (1-3 months old), but a good barleywine doesn't come into its own until it passes the 6 month mark, and a well made barleywine can age for 3-10 years. Watch out, though! All barleywines pack a kick in the 10% (up to 25%) alcohol range.

The Bag o' Bones was, unfortunately, in the mediocre to poor barleywine category. An incomplete fermentation left the beer with a unfermented sugar sweetness that tasted like acetone and smelled like propelyne glycol. If the alcohol level is strong enough, the sugar taste can be masked, but this beer was unbalanced and not up to the task. A little more time in the primary fermenter and a couple more months to age could make all the difference for this beer.

Arch Amber (1.048 OG)
Five malts and five hops create a very full flavor, while the lower alcohol content makes this beer more approachable for a craft beer novice. The nose? Malt. The taste? Malt. Tons of nice, grainy malt. This is a great, refreshing beer for the summer months, and would go nicely with bar food or pizza. However the lack of bittering hops could end up leaving you bored by the end of the pint.

Old Nag ESB (1.054 OG)
I feel truly sorry for the people that think that Red Hook is a good example of an ESB... because they're never going to appreciate a great ESB like Youngs ESB or this Old Nag. Old Nag is an excellent ESB, with a strong bitterness that isn't attributable to the typical floral hoppy taste that you would get in a similarly bitter IPA. As is typical with a good Extra Special Bitter, the malt taste is stronger than the hops, but the nose has that classic aromatic hops scent. Unlike the Arch, this beer can stand on its own, and this is the sort of beer that could make for a truly enjoyable night. (Avery Glasser)