In 1873 the United States of America reached a pinnacle in its brewing history — a total of 4,131 breweries were operating within its borders. It took 143 years, two World Wars, an asinine attempt to legislate morality, and a new millennium for America to surpass its 1873 mark. In 2015 though, it did. Since then the idea of craft breweries recreating the conditions of beer-making in Pre-Prohibition America has been a continual topic of conversation among beer advocates — that one day, in the not so distant future, every town will have a brewer within their town limits. Now some of the figures in that era were misleading — namely that close to 85% of that beer was being produced in New York and Pennsylvania — but the fact that the number of breweries in 2018 is at an all time high, and significantly more decentralized than the heights of the 19th century, is an undoubted achievement for the craft beer movement.
Birthed in 2015 in Old Saybrook, 30 Mile Brewing Co. is a graceful partner in this trend. They came out from the get-go producing quality beer, whose composition was familiar to the general population, but with elements that provided something different. A prime example of this is their Golden Boy, a Belgium Golden Strong Ale. It seems that breweries these days only pump out high alcohol beer when it’s a Double IPA, but don’t waste time — nor malt — on anything save this style. Of course a formidable IPA or DIPA is the breadwinner for many beer-makers, but it must be said that ales above 8% just aren’t produced en masse anymore when its not an iteration of an IPA. Golden Boy isn’t 30 Mile’s flagship, but its been perpetual on their menu since the brewery’s inception. For a nine percenter, the alcohol is masked well and the beer itself has proper lace, just the right amount of froth, and a hazy yellow make-up. It is inviting. Bready and banana tones dominate the front-end of the sip, with a dry, almost sour finish. It isn’t difficult to drink one of these and, unlike many high ABV beers, another pour would be welcome — its highly drinkable. As a core offering, it’s nice to see a big beer be central to 30 Mile’s fleet.
30 Mile’s most popular beer is their Baby Fight Club and it’s what one would expect a flagship to be for a New England microbrewery. The brew clocks in at 7.1 ABV and 70 IBUs. From an alcohol perspective its certainly a stronger single IPA in terms of ABV, but it’s extremely palatable nonetheless. You’d bring a few of these to a tailgate to start off the day off with class, but if you continued for the entirety of the festivities with Baby Fight Club — you’d either be really fun or really fucking annoying later-on, depending on both your personality and the patience of others. Nonetheless, Baby Fight Club is sold in a four pack, a nice amount to drink consecutively, and in that amount its easy to appreciate the deployment of one hundred percent Citra hops and the wide-range of both tropical and citrus fruit yielded. The foremost flavor is grapefruit, but strokes of mango and orange can be found too, with piney notes underneath. In the tap room, and recently in cans, is the Double Dry-Hopped Baby Fight Club, which is a magnificent tweak to the original and well worth the pilgrimage to sample it fresh.
The brewery pumps out a number of different beers, but the last set I’m going to cover is their sour series. 30 Mile employs Lacto or Lactobacillus Bacteria for their sours as opposed to utilizing the Brett or Brettanomyces Yeast to get that that mouth puckering finish. Outside the fact that Lacto is bacteria and Brett is yeast — the key difference between the two is that Lacto creates the clean, sour taste seen in many Goses or Berliner Weisses, while Brett conjures that funky, earthy flavor found in other sour, wild beers.
30 Mile’s utilizes lacto for their sours. They want a clean base for them as they not only batch that base sour into different beers — the Blackberry and Raspberry beers currently on tap as an example — but sometimes blend that sour into their other offerings as well. Sofa King Sour (IPA / Sour) and SaiSour (Saison / Sour) are two that come to mind. This is 30 Mile at their best, I think. The Going Sour Blackberry on tap is mixed with vanilla beans and blackberries and is more than decent, but the star here is the Going Sour Rasberry. Champagne yeast paired with tart raspberries complete a sour to sweet to dry journey within every sip. If you like sours, or at least can get over that initial tart shock when sampling, you’d be hard-pressed to not love this beer.
The layout of 30 Mile is, well, drab. It’s probably the biggest impediment to the brewery’s success. First off, while their location is quite close to downtown Old Saybrook, it isn’t walkable, and is a bit of pain to find by car. They have signs and it’s honestly super close to downtown, but it can be confusing to pinpoint. The building itself is shared with a Crossfit gym and provides minimal outdoor space. Even if they want to host outdoor activities, there isn’t much grass or open space to do much. It’s great for brewing, but limits the appeal for visitors. 30 Mile though is cognizant of this and has made recent changes. They blew out a wall and expanded their bar by a magnitude. With a space that once just had a single four-top table and a few bar seats, they tripled the size of their bar, added a big ping pong table, a massive Jenga set to the bar area, and placed four big tables in the back of the addition. The brewery can sustain much larger crowds now and the bar itself is a nice place to post-up at. 30 Mile is also active on Social Media (Facebook, not Instagram) and holds events such as Saved by the Bell trivia, Cornhole tournaments, and has local bands and food trucks visit. If you drop-in on a Saturday afternoon or night, there is a high likelihood that some form of entertainment will be had. This is a move in the right direction.
While not impossible, the era to make it huge as a craft brewer in America has probably passed. The time to imprint a local legacy and provide fine ale to one’s community though is still ripe for the taking. 30 Mile Brewing Co. is aiming to accomplish this and as they head towards their fourth year of operation, they’re in a good position to provide Old Saybrook and its neighbors fresh and tasty beer for years to come. The era of the local brewer is upon us.
Strengths: Sour Beer / Consistent Quality / Shifting Tap List / Adventurous Brews / Local
Weaknesses: Limited Outdoor Space / Barebones Interior Decor
Tips: Follow them on Instagram & Twitter. They are active in putting together appealing events. Special & limited can releases are announced here too.
FEAST: Food Trucks on Saturdays. Check Social Media for Updates. Uncle D’s Blazin BBQ ain’t too bad.
FROTH: Golden Boy is a fantastic beer & unique to what many other CT Breweries are putting out. It’s my favorite beer they produce.
FEAST: 2/10 – FROTH: 7/10 – BREWERY: 7/10