Whether it’s a creamy, opaque stout to take the chill off or a crisp, light IPA in July heat, beer is as abundant as it is diverse here in the U.S.
If there’s one thing beer-lovers enjoy, and I know as I am one of them, it’s checking out the local flavors. Some of the most unique and intriguing brews are home-grown and right in Connecticut’s backyard.
The latest addition to the Conn. brewing scene is New Canaan’s own Scott Vallely, owner of Charter Oak Brewery. If you’ve ever made it to the half-way point in your life and you want to start over, Vallely is the man to talk to.
Once the number of printed newspapers and handwritten letters declined, so did the pulp and paper industry - an industry occupied by Vallely the majority of his life.
“It hadn’t been very exciting, wasn’t much energy,” said Vallely of his paper companies, “but then we found somebody interested in buying the companies, and that was my opportunity to get into something I always loved - that’s brewing beer and I’ve been doing that the last 30 years now.
A frequent visitor to Vermont, a brewer’s mecca on the east coast, Vallely and his wife started to recognize his talent and potential. After months of research, Vallely started utilizing brewing equipment at a location in Mass., ingredients and dozens of recipes in hand.
“I have spent the last eight weeks doing all the brewing and pre-selling the beer. The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and I’m home at 10 p.m. I’m knocking door-to-door like I’m 21 years old again. I’ve already sold many batches,” said Vallely.
Vallely explained to me the local legend of the Charter Oak Tree, from whence came the name of his brew. As legend according to Vallely would have it:
When colonists throughout the north east started colonizing and rebelling against England, they sent Winthrop, who was the governor of Connecticut at the time, to sail back to England and tell King Charles that the colonists needed more rights. Winthrop talked King Charles into giving each colony a royal charter for independence. When King james took over after King Charles died, he wasn’t so lenient and told a delegate to get on a sailboat and confiscate royal charters with Charles’ signature. As legend would have it, he got all of them back except for Connecticut’s. They met at a tavern with this delegate, the candles were blown out and this gentleman, Wadsworth, grabbed the charter, rode out and hid the charter in an oak tree. Charter or not, England still attempted to regain control of the colonists and in 1689, when the colonists were really beginning to rebel, the charter came back out of the tree. All the colonies ruled themselves under that charter. It is said the Charter Oak Tree grew to be very old and very big, 33 feet in circumference, and a lot of the furniture in the capitol was built with this oak. The constitution is also framed by wood from the oak tree...as legend would have it.
Over the next few months, Vallely will release four of his brews, which are all named after dates, people and facts. The first to be released will be the Brown Ale, called 1687 for the year the legend took place; second will be the Pale Ale, called Royal Charter; third will be the IPA, called Wadsworth after the man who stole the charter; and fourth will be the Sanford Tavern, an ESB. (Extra-Special Bitter).
Vallely is looking to expand throughout Conn. and New England, introducing Charter Oak to package stores and restaurants in all seven counties so far. The 1687 Brown Ale could be available in New Canaan package stores as early as next week.
“The Brown Ale is fantastic with anything off the grille. Sausage, venison, quail, goose, burger, steak, pork chops, anything off the grille pairs fantastically with this ale.
“It’s also great on a cool summer night by the pool or patio or just in your den. It’s a great session beer, very relaxing, you can have a few. It’s a dynamite beer, there’s not too much alcohol or hops, it’s full-bodied with a nice aroma,” said Vallely.
If you’re interested in getting a taste of Charter Oak, you can friend them on Facebook and Twitter for updates on where you can get the first batch. For more information on distributing Charter Oak, Vallely can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.