FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. ‒ To beer aficionados ‒ and just plain fans ‒ it would be a dream job: Take a lifelong passion for beer and open your own highly successful microbrewery.
Co-owner Brad Hittle, brewmaster Phil Markowski and their partners have done just that with Two Roads Brewing Company, offering beer that is manufactured, sold ‒ and now consumed ‒ in Fairfield County’s largest brewery. Two Roads Brewing operates out of a rambling,100-year-old, 100,000-square-foot converted factory in Stratford.
Hittle, who grew up in Old Greenwich and now lives in Greenwich, worked as chief marketing officer at Pabst Brewing Company until 2010. He was on the team that “successfully turned Pabst around from the brink of bankruptcy.” His efforts, he said, were recognized as among the most successful turnarounds of a major brand.
But tired of the weekly commute between Greenwich and Chicago (where Pabst is based), he conceived the idea of Two Roads Brewing Company.
Why Two Roads? Referring to the venerable poem by Robert Frost, which he read as a youngster, Hittle said: “It’s in honor of taking the road less traveled in life ‒ and in beer.”
According to Hittle, the beer idea couldn’t have floated alone. Of his partners, he said: “I knew I had a winning team, because Phil Markowski is internationally renowned as an exceptional brew master; and Clem Pellani worked with Phil at New England Brewing Company. Peter Doering is a financial guy who keeps us beer guys from spending too much money.”
As with any new venture, particularly one of this magnitude, there was risk. “Twenty years ago there were only a few hundred breweries and brewpubs in the country,” said Hittle. Now, he said, there are more than 2,300, all vying for growth.
But Hittle added that the so-called “craft,” or artisanal segment of the beer business, is growing rapidly ‒ at a rate of more than 15 percent per year ‒ and represents just a small share of the larger beer industry. So, he said, “There is an immense upside.”
That upside is a bright side for beer lovers, who thirst not only for unusual, fresh and satisfying brew, but also for the brewhouse experience. “We brew quality beer in a unique, old, iconic brick manufacturing building,” said Hittle. And that “experience” is markedly enhanced with beer names such as “Igor’s Dream,” “Worker’s Comp” and “Ol’ Factory,” among others.
The bill passed last year in Connecticut that allows alcohol sales on Sunday also stipulates that craft breweries such as Two Roads can sell beer by the glass, as well as allow customers to purchase bottled beer ‒ and fill their own “growlers.”
So, the beer is flowing out of Two Roads Brewing Company, and the customers are pouring in. “It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but we couldn’t be more proud of what we have done here in a very short period of time,” said Hittle.
Two Roads Brewing Company is located at 1700 Stratford Ave. in Stratford, and is open Tuesday through Friday, 3 to 8 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Click here for more information.