The concrete facade of Tony’s Package Store — otherwise known as the beer cave — is paired with maroon awnings and resembles a billiard hall from 1975. Across the street from Tony’s, on Route 82, is Dunkin Donuts, a boutique New England patisserie of growing fame. If you stop at Tony’s, you are actually walking into one of the great craft beer stores in Connecticut, if you step into Dunkies, well, you are promised to be served shit coffee and stale donuts. From this stretch of Route 82 in Haddam, it’s easy to locate these two shops, but what is decidedly more difficult to spot is the crown jewel of this forested Connecticut River Valley town — tucked in directly behind Tony’s Package Store — Steady Habit Brewing Company.
Not all breweries that survive make great beer. Some are lucky to secure a downtown, heavily trafficked location, others open their doors and are the only game in town for miles upon miles, while a few rock war chests from the get-go that would make even a Lannister blush. Steady Habit isn’t around today for any of those reasons — they exist because they make formidable beer. Steady Habit is a no thrills brewery. The warehouse it sits in and the wooden picnic tables it’s decorated with aren’t going to be featured on HGTV anytime soon, nor is the outdoor space, which is primarily a parking lot, save one single cornhole set. Yet people come to Steady Habit consistently, even when it’s off the beaten path. This speaks volumes about the quality of their beer.
And the reason why Steady Habit’s reputation is so strong is simple — they are incredibly competent and reliable beer-makers. 2015 was the breakout year for microbreweries in Connecticut and everyone went heavy on DIPAs. While some breweries found success with this strategy, Steady Habit absolutely owned it. In fact, if you think Steady Habit, you probably think of 5 beers — Coalesce, Boom! Mosaic, Boom! Citra Laka, Boom! Topaz, and Swing Bridge. All of these are IPAs, with the first four being doubles clocking in at 8%. This is a bit like the new kid hitting on the prettiest girl at school with all of her admirers in eyeshot — the kid isn’t trying to start trouble per se, but just feels he has something improved to offer her. IPA is certainly the most popular style of beer, but one must have moxie to start a brewery, exclusively brew that style, and believe it will be that much better than the incumbents. With a small twenty barrel set-up to start, Steady Habit’s survival would hinge on producing IPAs that were an upgrade to the competition.
In this regard, they are undoubtedly successful. Their flagship is probably their Coalesce, one of their 8% DIPAs with Citra and Hallertau Blanc hops. The appearance of the beer is awesome, with a murky orange hue. Huge hits of grapefruit and orange dominate every sip, with a subtle hop finish. Its a fruit forward DIPA and a crowd pleaser for sure. Their Boom! series is also something to seek out. They are all single hopped DIPAs, with Mosaic, Citra Laka, and Topaz. Of the the three, the Boom! Mosaic is my personal favorite. In a world of juicy DIPAs, I think this finds a nice medium between fruit and earth. Orange, mango, even peach on the front-end, with a strong resin punch and a distinctive hop bite on the end.
Steady Habit is clearly doing well for themselves from a distribution standpoint too. Currently they have seven beers canned, which can be found in 38 stores statewide, while their tap offerings are even bigger with 39 bars and restaurants carrying their product. For a brewery operating less than three years, without what appears to be millions of dollars of initial seed money, it’s an highly impressive feat. If you visit their brewery too, they usually have twelve taps rotating, with a fleet of cans in a side fridge. They’ve taken their successes and translated it into more creativity and you can see this on the ground floor of their tap room. Goses, Barrel Aged Sours, Scotch Ales, Porters, and even Ciders were offered alongside their trusty IPAs — particularly the Mystic Sea Porter and Scotch Ale were quite nice. And this is why Steady Habit works. There is nothing about their brewery that is trendy, but people still show up in droves every weekend to sample and hangout. The masses come for the beer and nothing else. It’s a glimpse into the quality of their product and about the highest compliment a small brewer can strive towards.
Strengths: DIPAs / Brewery’s Extensive Tap List / Nothing too cute — they are focused on crafting quality beers without straying from the style’s basics too much.
Weaknesses: Location / Outdoor Space / Live music can be WAY too loud
Tips: While I’m not saying to steer clear of their IPAs on premises, you can usually find them in cans at the brewery, and Steady Habit is pretty well distributed throughout the state too. Try the Boom! Mosaic or Coalesce on tap if they have it and then explore their other styles of beer.
FEAST: Non-existent. Sandwich Steady Habit in between lunch and dinner in Chester.
FROTH: Boom! Mosaic.
FEAST: 0/10 – FROTH: 6/10 – BREWERY: 6/10