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New Milford Outdoors key to new brewery’s appeal

October 4, 2018

The latest addition to the local brewing scene is a 3,200-square-foot rustic river lodge featuring eight beers on tap, stone fireplace, large outdoor beer garden and dozens of games such as cornhole, Jenga, Nerf football and even hula hoops.

Housatonic River Brewing opened last month at 30 Kent Road (Route 7) in New Milford and owner Dave Littlefield is thrilled with what he’s seen so far.

“People don’t like it here, they love it here,” said Littlefield, who is also the head brewer. “I didn’t want it to be just another brewery. People will see that the bar looks like the front porch of a log cabin and they’ll tell their friends. Every piece was thought out. I had a vision of what I wanted, and this is it. I wanted to create a place that I would want to go to.”

Housatonic River Brewing rests on a seven-acre property along its namesake river. It has a large parking lot for cars, separate lot for motorcycles, beer garden with about a dozen picnic tables and cornhole playing area, smaller covered beer garden in case of rain, and fire pits.

“The outdoor aspect is a big part of it,” Littlefield said.

Inside features rustic decor with barrel tables, fireplace, board game shelves and bar designed to look like a log cabin. The five-barrel brewing system is in the back of the building and visible to guests, who may see Littlefield or assistant brewer Tom Reardon looking over the next batch of beer.

The taproom has eight rotating beer varieties. Littlefield said the Really Love Your Peaches blonde ale has been the top seller so far, with Amarillo Sky IPA also a popular selection.

“We were making the blonde ale and the Steve Miller song (The Joker) came on, so we went with that as the name,” Littlefield said of the song that includes the lyric.

Littlefield is also excited about his latest brew, Sacred Grounds Coffee Porter, which debuted Thursday evening.

“It’s delicious. I mean it’s freaking delicious,” he said. “I can’t wait for people to try it.”

The brew is a collaboration with Sacred Grounds Coffee Roasters, an organic and fair-trade coffee maker based in Sherman. Sacred Grounds Coffee owner John Rich said he provided a Guatemalan coffee for the brew.

“I’m happy to partner up with local businesses and this was a fun thing. I’m just happy to do it,” said Rich, who is a friend of Reardon’s. “It’s good that they opened. It’s a great local business and welcome addition to the town.”

The brewery also partnered with Shelton-based The Drunk Alpaca to make snacks available at the taproom. The snacks incorporate the brewery’s beers into the recipe.

Littlefield thought to open a brewery about a year and a half ago when his job with Tesla was being eliminated. He had a brewery in California 25 years ago and was an avid home brewer. He moved to Connecticut in 1998 and has been a New Milford resident since 2000.

“I thought, I’m 54 years old, what do I do with the rest of my life?” he said. “People always told me I should start another brewery, so we (he and his wife) decided to go all-in. We spent the retirement account and mortgaged the house and here we are.”

Sustainability is an important part of Littlefield’s life and he worked at SolarCity prior to Tesla. He utilizes a water recovery program at Housatonic River Brewing and plans to install solar panels on the roof in the near future.

The brewery is in its beginning stages, but Littlefield said he would someday like to open a second location for packaging and add more tanks to the present location to increase brewing capacity. Housatonic River Brewing will offer four-packs of cans soon, in addition to the growlers already available for takeout.

The brewery is the latest to open in the Danbury area in the last two years, following Redding Beer Co., Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield, Charter Oak Brewing in Danbury, Broken Symmetry in Bethel, and Bad Dream Brewing in New Milford.

“I think it’s great to have so many around,” Littlefield said. “It makes for a nice cluster for people to visit. We’re all working together and we’re all friends.”

Littlefield said each brewery offers something different to the customers.

“I’ve been in sales for a long time. It’s always about wowing the customer. If you’re going to do what everyone else is doing, why bother?” he said. “It’s all about creating that perfect customer experience.”

To reach Housatonic River Brewing, call 860-946-0266.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

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