I don’t how many things the general public and hardened Navy veterans can completely agree on, but one common ground might just be that submariners are crazy sons of bitches. Think about the situation these volunteer only service men and women find themselves in. Deployments of six months plus can see crews completely submerged for 60-90 day increments, with only a handful of those 180 days above surface. Reaching depths that are classified — but at least 800 ft below the sea’s surface — the cramped quarters would provide nightmares to any individual with even a hint of claustrophobia. Yet people choose this path. Nobody is ever forced to serve on a submarine. So what in the hell is the make-up of these badasses who choose to serve in an underwater steel tube, with 160 others, for months at a time? Well surely traits such as dependability, agreeability, humor, and, of course, consistency would rank high on the list. In the submarine capital of the world — Groton, CT — Outer Light Brewing Company and it’s wonderful beer share many of the same characteristics that make U.S. Navy submariners extraordinary.
Outer Light has been open since 2015 and has been a staple in the Connecticut craft beer scene ever since. Their location doesn’t hurt. Set in stunning Groton, you aren’t too far from a promenade through historic Mystic or a trip further down the coast to Stonington or Westerly, RI. From a Connecticut beer trail standpoint, looping in a visit to Outer Light, with a stop at Beer’d, and a bite in Mystic is a foolproof itinerary for a phenomenal Saturday afternoon or evening. And Outer Light’s Tap Room is inviting as hell. High ceilings and concrete walls are met with smart lighting and a great seating set-up — a 10 person bar and at least eight tables provide ample room for beer drinking. The place can be packed, but it never feels crowded. What is killer too is that the brewery has activities! Yes, some purists might frown on this, but TV with sports on is appealing, as are the stable of board games that the brewery offers. The TVs and board games aren’t centerpieces of their tap room per se, yet they definitely add versatility to your visit. With ten or so beers available at all times too and a multitude of cans locked and loaded for sale, the Outer Light tap room is always a pleasant stop.
It’s funny how fast the Connecticut beer scene is evolving, because Outer Light already feels like an old soul in the movement. And being an old soul in the movement isn’t meant to be a pejorative — it’s just that they’re already well entrenched in terms of their quality, reputation, and beer distribution across the state, even if they’re just 3.5 years old. They also aren’t following the fads. In general, they’ve stayed away from the NEIPA craze and when they finally decided to dip their toes into that style, they did so with a fantastic sense of humor. JUICY BULL$#!T NEIPA is the actual name for their version of an NEIPA. It’s a scream to the community that unfiltered, cloudy beers can be part of their repertoire, but maybe a slight jab at the over-reliance of the style by many new brewers. Their JUICY BULL$#!T NEIPA itself was quite tasty, I got hits of both pineapple and mango in mine, and it clocked in at a welcoming 6.1% ABV too. Yet while I enjoyed this beer, it’s not really what I view Outer Light to be all about — which is the production of clean, reliable, and highly drinkable versions of the classics.
Outer Light has a triumvirate of flagship beers — Lonesome Boatman, Libation Propaganda, and SUBduction IPA (an homage to the submarines of Groton) — that align well with the seaside vibe the brewery projects. While none of these are “beach beers” per se, they are all accessible versions of each style that cater to a large audience. The brews aren’t overly aggressive or divisive — they are pleasant concoctions and avoid the hate that more experimental beers in the comments sections of Beer Advocate or Untapped might face. In short, they’re dependable options that could be passed around a beachside fire. The SUBduction IPA is a fine old school IPA, but the Lonesome Boatman — a breadtastic Amber Ale — and Libation Propaganda — a properly roasty coffee stout are some of my favorite base beers to stock a fridge with. They’re a handy accompaniment for a heavy night of drinking — supplementing your buzz in between bigger beers you might be indulging in — or are perfect for a party when you want to have beers that’ll appeal to a wide range of guests.
The Groton brewery also had two beers on tap during my last visit that were quite interesting (in addition to the aforementioned four) — their Batch 500 Imperial Brut IPA and their Timber Rauchbier. Brut IPAs are trending in craft beer and this was the first Connecticut version I’ve tried. The idea with Bruts is to create an IPA which still exhibits familiar hop profiles in terms of smell and taste, but with a drier finish and paler malt bill. In other words, Bruts aim to replace the traditional hop bite, with a champagne-like finish. To do this they use an enzyme called amylase glucosidase. Amylase glucosidase is commonly employed in imperial stouts to breakdown complex sugars, which the yeast can then consume — something they couldn’t do otherwise without amylase glucosidase — thus cutting down on what would be an unpalatably sweet beer that many high ABV brews would be without the use of this enzyme. Their Batch 500 Imperial Brut IPA poured a straw yellow reminiscent of a fresh pilsner. It was astonishing how clear and pale this beer was at 8%. I got a wave of lemon, pine, and white grapes, before a bone-dry finish which mirrored that of a white wine. Lastly, I’m a sucker for smoked lagers and Outer Light’s Timber Rauchbier was towering. It’s the best Connecticut version I’ve tasted and, quite frankly, maybe the best version I’ve tried outside of Bamberg itself. Light mahogany in color, with just the right amount of smoke, it begins with a hit of straight barbecue before relenting to a clean, crisp, and slightly malty finish. It’s a balanced rauchbier and fitting for colder autumn nights.
After 180 days at sea in a confined steel tube, you’d need a beer too. Lucky for the submariners of Groton and the residents of the Connecticut Shoreline alike, that Outer Light Brewing Company exists. Head there for a pint or three, dependable and tasty craft beer awaits.
Strengths: Magnificent Tap Room / Double Digit Tap Selection / Cans to Takeaway / Variety of Styles Produced / Accessible Beer
Weaknesses: Located in a Dead Strip Mall / Lack of Big Beers (8% or higher)
Tips: If you are a beer nerd and also like sports, TVs in the Tap Room allow you to watch the game *and* drink fresh beer — not many Tap Rooms offer this.
FEAST: You’re close to Mystic!
FROTH: Timber Rauchbier — their autumn seasonal. It’s glorious. Big fan of Libation Propaganda Coffee Stout. That is offered year round.
FEAST: 2/10 – FROTH: 7.5/10 – BREWERY: 7.5/10