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Yankee Brew News Archive

Microbrewery Profile: Farmington River Brewing Company

Originally Published: 06/97

By: Gregg Glaser

March 1996 marked the opening of the Farmington River Brewing Company in Bloomfield, Connecticut. The owners of the year-and-a-half-old micro are the husband and wife team of Bill Hodkin and Melissa Millan. Their current product line includes Farmington River Mahogany Ale, Blonde Ale and Brown Ale.

Hodkin, a former homebrewer and "recovering attorney," hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, where he attended law school at the University of Utah in the 1980s. His first law job brought him to Portland, Oregon, where he practiced tax and litigation law. It was in Portland that Hodkin first experienced good microbrewed beer, and the idea for one day opening his own microbrewery took shape in his mind.

Hodkin's wife, Melissa Millan, worked in the insurance industry in Portland, and in 1992 she accepted a job in Hartford, Connecticut. Hodkin landed a law job with a local law firm, but his heart wasn't in the law. Brewing beer kept creeping into his thoughts. On weekends he would travel north to the Ipswich Brewing Company in Massachusetts to learn the trade as an apprentice. When the Pilgrim Brewery, at that time sharing the Ipswich brewhouse, established its own brewery in Hudson, Massachusetts, Hodkin continued his apprenticeship at the new location.

To complete his brewing education, in the summer of 1994 he took two brewing courses offered at the University of California at Davis.

On January 1, 1995, Hodkin left his law career behind and began working full-time planning and building Farmington River Brewing. Why the decision to open a brewery in Connecticut?

Hodkin replies, "Fifty percent of the reason was that I was unable to get the good beers I was used to in Portland here on the East Coast. The other half of the reason was that it seemed at the time that the craft brewing industry was not nearly as developed out here as in the Pacific Northwest, and that there was room for more micros."

Hodkin pieced together a brewhouse from a mix of found, used and new equipment. His 15-barrel brew kettle came from a used equipment warehouse in New Hampshire. He bought the mash/lauter tun from a scrap yard located under I-95 near Philadelphia. He found his hot liquor tank at an auction at a New York winery. His four fermenters were fabricated at Stainless Steel Specialists in Canada. Hodkin expects to put a bottling line into use late this summer. Current capacity for Farmington River Brewing is 1,200 barrels per year.

Mahogany Ale, the micro's first beer, is patterned after an English-style ESB. Blonde Ale, the second beer released, is a hoppy Pacific Northwest-style pale ale. Brown Ale is brewed in the English "nut" brown ale style.

Hodkins also brews two contract beers. For the W.B. Cody restaurants in Bloomfield, Connecticut and Westerly, Rhode Island, there is a pale ale named W.B. Cody's Blond Ale, and for Eli Cannon's in Middletown, Connecticut, Hodkin brews an ale that the restaurant calls Terminator IPA.

Farmington River beers are available on draft throughout Connecticut and some parts of Rhode Island. The brewery address is 102 Filley St., Bloomfield, Connecticut, 06002, 860-242-3722.


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