During the beautiful sunny weather we got this past weekend, I decided it was a perfect time to do the first Bike and Brew of 2017. I had a choice of five remaining brewing destinations within a biking day trip of New London (four more are in the works). Once again I went east, this time with the goal of visiting the Beer'd Brewing Company in Stonington, Connecticut.
Somewhat counterintuitively, biking toward the shoreline requires you to head away from it when you first get off the bridge. Shoreline routes in this region hug the coast, lengthening the ride considerably. Plus, getting there would involve a scary ride down one of Groton's strip mall thruways.
It's easier to head through a quiet suburban neighborhood instead and hop onto Route 184. This road has a wide breakdown lane, is fairly flat, and offers a reasonably straightforward path to the Mystic/Stonington area. The only downside is that it's populated mostly with blocky business buildings and similarly blocky churches that apparently think aesthetically pleasing architecture is an affront to God.
First Baptist Church of This Used To Be A Linoleum Warehouse or Something
The suggested route continued along this highway, but it's much more rewarding to abandon it for the scenic route. I wound up taking some back roads past a small farm with enormous piles of firewood for sale as well as the trailhead for the Pequot Woods, a 140-acre parcel of preserved land not far from downtown Mystic.
The easiest way to get to Stonington from Mystic is to take Route 1. It quickly sheds its traffic lights and troublesome intersections, becoming an open highway with rolling hills and generous breakdown lanes. I was tempted to take a side road which crosses a causeway onto scenic Mason's Island and goes from there across another crossway to Ender's Island, but left those water views for another day
The map shows an intriguing shortcut out of the Borough toward the Beer'd Brewing Company along Elm Street, although I trusted Google Maps' advice to take the long way around. Turns out the Elm Street way is a secluded walkway over the railroad tracks, which wouldn't be too fun to haul a bike over.
The Velvet Mill is a rambling brick structure located in a residential neighborhood in Stonington. The business got its start in the town because a malaria epidemic forced a Long Island company to look for other locations for its velvet weaving and dying operations. The mill once housed hundreds of looms and employed 450 people, but after its closure it became a haven for artists. It has now been subdivided into dozens of spaces housing businesses such as art galleries, photographers, metal workers, boutiques, and even an organ restorer.
While several breweries have started up or are underway in southeastern Connecticut today, there wasn't much of a scene as recently as five years ago. The Cottrell Brewing Company in Pawcatuck, a place I'll visit for a future entry, had been a mainstay since 1996. Aaren Simoncini apprenticed at Cottrell before opening the Beer'd Brewing Company in 2012 with partner Precious Putnam. The brewery had the misfortune of opening right after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, forcing them to rely on an emergency generator for their early batches. Luckily, Beer'd got past this initial hurdle and has been thriving ever since.
Beer'd posts its daily offerings on Facebook, and I was hoping to get a Nano-A-Nano, a Belgian style black IPA, but it had already sold out. Several other taps had kicked or were offered for growlers only, so my choices were fairly limited. I opted for a This Side of Paradise, a rather strong IPA (9.3 percent ABV) with a bitterness that was nicely balanced by the fruit notes.
Mileage total: 31.27 miles
Previous Bike and Brew outings:
Outer Light Brewing Company