You can now get your favorite pint of beer and morning cup of joe in one place at Connecticut Valley Brewing Company and its Birdhouse Coffee Bar & Kitchen in South Windsor, CT.
“We are a family business. My father, Steve, who is now 51, had begun brewing beer in my grandma’s basement in college and shared his brews with family and friends over the years,” said Will Palauskas who is Marketing Manager at Connecticut Valley Brewing Company.
But in the mid-2010s, what was a longtime hobby for his dad began to take on a career path.
”My dad and mom, Lori, were so passionate about craft beer and finally looked at one another one day saying it was ‘now or never’ to take the next big step and open their own brewery. They had visited many breweries over the years, where they not only enjoyed a good pint or two, but experienced what I refer to as ‘a special feeling of community.’ It is that same feeling of community that they wanted to create here in South Windsor,” Palauskas said.
Their dream became a reality in 2018 when theyopened their taproom and brewing facility, followed the next year by Birdhouse Coffee, a café and roastery that as their website proclaims, “celebrates another love of ours” - ethically-sourced and produced coffee. Then in 2021, they expanded again with their own in-house kitchen providing a variety of appetizers, entrees, breads, pastries and more luscious treats.
Their website - www.ctvalleybrewing.com - also proclaims: “Everything we do pays homage to the story of Connecticut pioneers who helped blaze the trail we stand on today.”
“It was my mom’s idea for the brewery to somehow tie things back to the rich history of Connecticut and its many innovations that people don’t realize contributed to the history of our country,” Palauskas said.
Lori’s efforts to give Connecticut the recognition she believes it deserves began with their name - Connecticut Valley Brewing Company - and continued with the company’s logo which incorporates the F4U Corsair into its design. Over 12,000 of the aircraft, designated as the Connecticut State Airplane in 2005, were built from 1938 to 1945 in Connecticut. It is also no coincidence that so many airplanes feature prominently in their logo and cans.
“My mom and dad were pilots and are still inspired by the spirit of aviation,” Palauskas said.
Even the names of their earliest beers and subsequent can designs - Trailblazer, A Fantastic Voyage, The New Frontier, and Into the Woods - celebrate the places, people, and stories that have helped shape Connecticut into the innovative hub it is today.
Trailblazer, their signature New England Style India Pale Ale, features Colonel Albert Pope adorning the can racing on his signature Pope Cycle. By 1900, Col. Pope’s Hartford factory produced more motor vehicles than any other factory in the world.
A Fantastic Voyage, another New England Style IPA, features a yellow submarine on the can - but it has nothing to do with the famous Beatles’ song. Instead, it is a representation of the first submarine invented in Connecticut in 1775.
It is not just Connecticut that is paid tribute to on their cans.
Red Tails, a red ale, depicts a red-tailed P-51 Mustang flown by the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Home Front pilsner, with yet another plane on the can, pays tribute to the 1942 song “Rosie the Riveter,” which became synonymous with the six million women who worked in the factories, shipyards, or volunteered during WWII on “the home front.”
And those are only a few of the stories to be told.
Their Trailblazer story has more to it than just Col. Pope and his Pope Cycle. Trailblazer is Connecticut Valley Brewing Company’s signature hazy, fruity and juicy New England Style India Pale Ale (NEIPA). John Kimmich is believed to have brewed the first NEIPA, called Heady Topper, around 2004 at his Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. Brewed with tons and tons of hops and known for their fruity aromas, it wouldn’t be for another 10 years until NEIPAs would take the craft beer industry by storm.
Beer lovers, however, “do not live by hazy NEIPAs alone.”
Putting to work that innovative spirit that defines the South Windsor company, head brewer Jason Desroches has crafted an array of different tastes for adventurous beer drinkers that include stouts to sours to seltzers to their ingenious Spiked Smoothies.
“At any one time we have 12 beers on tap on a rotating basis as well as a cooler filled with nearly all of our other brews, each with their own colorful designs to match their inventive names,” Palauskas said.
There is a Camper’s S’more Stout with people sitting around a camp fire, a Plum Crazy Ale Sour with its purplish-colored can featuring a ripe plum, Northstar Seltzers each adorned with the fruit found inside the can such as their Blueberry Acai, and the extremely colorful designs for their Spiked Smoothie fruity brews which stand out in both taste and design.
“We even have something for non-beer drinkers, people who don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Our Valley Sparkling Water, which is available in many fruity flavors, is infused with 25mg of CBD,” Palauskas said.
In addition to the many brews to choose from, cocktail lovers can enjoy signature, seasonally-inspired craft cocktails on the menu served on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Past seasonal favorites have included several sweet concoctions like the Kentucky Kiss with cherry bitters, chocolate bitters, Bulleit bourbon and a filthy cherry, and Be Mine Mojito with white rum, strawberry compote, lime juice, mint, and club soda.
And let’s not forget the coffee.
“What beer is to my parents, coffee is to me,” Palauskas said.
“I remember when Jack, my older brother, and I would go to different coffee shops around the state. Jack was fascinated by the roasting process and helped launch the coffee shop. Our mom, Lori, named it Birdhouse Coffee where where we blend and roast our ethically-sourced green coffee beans and people could gather together in a community space just like in our taproom,” he added.
Palauskas noted they are surprising people with “the way coffee can taste.”
“Coffee drinkers are used to a dark roast found at many coffee chains. But we roast towards a lighter roast for a fresh flavor profile, not burnt,” he said.
The coffee shop offers traditional staples like hot coffee, iced coffee, and cold brew as well as Italian espresso staples like cappuccinos, cortados, and lattes. Classic flavor shots like vanilla, caramel, and mocha are available as well as rotating seasonal specials. For the spring months, there is a Honey Blueberry Latte and a Lavender White Mocha. Looseleaf teas, lemonades and more are also offered. Everything pairs perfectly with scratch made pastries and breads made by Birdhouse’s baking team, led by Amanda Winograd, bakery manager.
Birdhouse breakfasts include their Brekkie Sandwich and a Brewer’s Plate offering two eggs your way, home fries, and two strips of bacon, as well as a breakfast burrito or avocado toast.
While enjoying a cool brew, you can head into Birdhouse Coffee and order something to bring back to the Taproom to chow down on. A seasonal menu created by kitchen manager Alicia Kirschner, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America, includes a signature fry flight with three different fries and sauces, fried pickles, giant pretzel, soups and grilled cheese, loaded tots, flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
Also, check out the Events page on their website which features a long list of live music, car shows, cornhole tournaments, trivia and karaoke nights, comedy nights, and a host of other good times in the taproom and outside on two spacious patios.
Located at 765 Sullivan Ave., the brewery taproom is open Monday and Tuesday from 4-8 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 2-9 p.m., Saturday from noon- 9.pm., and Sunday from noon-5 p.m.For more information, visit www.ctvalleybrewing.com or call 860-644-2707
Birdhouse Coffee’s hours are Monday and Tuesday from 7 a.m.- 4 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.,
Friday from 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m.-9 pm. and Sunday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information, visit www.birdhousecoffee.com or call 860-474-3737.