Entrepreneur resurrects local lager for New Haven community
By MARY O'LEARY
Jan. 22, 2018
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — "I'll have a Hull's, please."
That request hasn't been heard at bars in 44 years, since the storied Hull's Brewery on Congress Avenue suddenly closed its doors in 1977 after more than a century in business.
Thanks to a young entrepreneur from New Haven, 500 cases of Hull's Export Lager, its premium beer, will soon be delivered to local package stores, restaurants and bars.
Chuck DelVecchio, 36, his wife Meredith DelVecchio and some extended family members watched the first run of Hull's come off the conveyor at Overshores Brewery Friday morning for delivery to Star Distributors in West Haven.
DelVecchio, a certified public accountant for 14 years, is banking on his knowledge of financing and a good feeling that bringing back an iconic local beer will be a smart move.
It was stories of his grandfather, Charles Lewis DelVecchio — his namesake — relaxing with a Hull's beer at the end of the day that inspired him.
"Growing up in New Haven ... I would hear stories about Hull's. Stories like, 'I wish we had Hull's Bock Beer for Easter' or 'I wish Hull's Export Beer was around for the St. Patrick's Day Parade,'" DelVecchio said.
"I had this affinity toward the brand at an early age," DelVecchio said.
Looking into its history, DelVecchio said he found it was really engrained in the fabric of the city.
"It was so loved, respected and embraced by New Haven residents and Connecticut residents in general," he said.
DelVecchio planned this move for a year and half, leaving RSM, a national accounting firm in New Haven, as its senior manager earlier this month.
After purchasing the recipe, he was able to obtain the grain, malt and hops he needed to brew it.
"The result was a lager like I had never tasted before," DelVecchio said. "There is a mild 'hoppyness' to it compared to other popular national lagers out right now."
He hired a graphic design artist and together they studied elements of Hull's cans from the past.
The newest presentation has a white background, reminiscent of the 1970s cans. The oval on the front and back is in a 1940s style, while the Hull's name repeats the original font. The deep metallic blue within the oval is meant to evoke a Connecticut feel, DelVecchio said.
Christian Amport, who owns Overshores Brewery in East Haven, makes his own brand there but also contracts with others who are just starting out or waiting for their breweries to be constructed. Some beer entrepreneurs also would rather not put up the capital investment needed for this kind of operation.
Amport said Overshores acts in a "much more collaborative way than other contract breweries," doing such things as featuring the contract beers in its tasting room.
"I take the attitude that I want everyone to succeed. I want everyone to have visibility. I want everyone to be able to grow their brand," Amport said.
"We try to be accommodating. Everyone has different goals. Everyone has different needs and ultimately the piece we are filling in is they need beer and its got to be really good," Amport said.
He said they promote high standards and quality assurance for their Belgium beer, which are then in place for the contract brands. Overshores, which he said caters to a niche "white-cloth table restaurant" business, doesn't really compete with the other beers they are hired to produce.
Amport was a practicing architect, who then got a master's in business, before opening his brewery four years ago.
"We all came from something else," he said. Most people don't get into this business until well into their 20s and have had other careers first, he said.
"You get a mix. You get teachers. You get people with a science background, marketers. It is a wonderfully diverse community."
DelVecchio is keeping his business plan fluid to see how everything goes, but the staying power of the original Hull's is something to emulate.
Unlike many of the local breweries, it survived Prohibition by selling ice and nonalcoholic malt beverages. When that ended in 1933, Hull's kicked back into gear and moved from its Trumbull Street site to 820 Congress Ave., its last home.
Taking advantage of the new technology of the day, Hull's also started using cans that year.
"Metal was cheap. Metal was lighter than glass bottles. So all of a sudden there was this new way to get products to consumers," DelVecchio said.
Hull's Export Beer came around in the late 1950s, but they also made Hull's Cream Ale, Bock Beer and India Pale Ale.
"I have big plans for the revival, but I don't want to rush into anything. I want to see how Connecticut embraces the revival," he said, before expanding the line of beers he will offer.
Hull's Export had a coming out party on Friday night at the Three Sheets bar, which is the site of the original Rudy's Bar and Grill, whose customers were big consumers of the brand, according to Jeff Browning, Connecticut's beer historian.
Admittedly, DelVecchio and his wife are a little nervous but mostly excited about this new adventure for them,
"She gave me the courage to pursue this. It really is such a dream of mine. I think she saw I put my heart and soul into this and just was full on board," DelVecchio said.
Over the past eight years, DelVecchio said he has become a big fan of Connecticut beers.
"Connecticut brewers put out some of the best beer in the country," he said. In addition to that, DelVecchio said they are also supportive of one another.
"The camaraderie is endearing," he said. "It is a great community." DelVecchio said he has heard countless stories of brewers helping each other out if someone is short of ingredients or needs space for a large order.
DelVecchio, who grew up in New Haven and continues to live here, said setting up his company here was no accident.
"It's important to bring it back to New Haven," DelVecchio said.
He will spread the word about Hull's on social media, through beer festivals, special events and through word of mouth. He said if people want it, they should tell their package store or bar. The website is hullsbrewingcompany.com.
His father, Frank DelVecchio, his uncle, Pasquale DelVecchio, and his aunt, Roseann DelVecchio, were there to witness the first run of the beer.
"The timing is right for the brand. It is an old-time favorite of New Haven," Frank DelVecchio said.
Pasquale DelVecchio seemed to recall his father-in-law, Charles Lewis, would buy a case of Hull's a week.
"I drank this beer in 1969 when I was 21 at Malone's on Church Street," he said.
Browning said the nostalgic side of bringing back Hull's Export Lager is a big plus.
"People like local beers" created and sold by someone they know, rather than a national entity, he said. They can relate to a product when they know the owner.
Hull's ultimately was overwhelmed by Anheuser Busch and its takeover of regional breweries, whose prices they had undercut, Browning said. The uniqueness of breweries like Hull's were replaced with more of a monoculture nationally. That cycle has now come full circle with the emphasis on craft beers.
DelVecchio said he is not targeting any one demographic, only people interested in drinking a premium lager that is historically accurate.
"What I would like is to see Hull's viewed as a Connecticut lager in a true New Haven lager style," he said.
Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com