SOUTHINGTON — Two breweries less than three miles apart are open for business in former factory buildings.
Witchdoctor Brewing Co. opened Wednesday afternoon at 168 Center St. with several dozen customers filling the bar and nearby tables.
Josh Norris, one of the owners, said it’s still sinking in that they’ve opened their doors. Planning started two years ago when he and brew master Daryl Adamaitis expected to be open in spring of 2016.
Kinsmen Brewing Co., in the former Clark Brothers Bolt factory building at 409 Canal Street, has been open for about three weeks with a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Although the taproom isn’t yet finished and has only minimal furniture, head brewer Bob Bartholomew said they’ve been packed for the past three weekends.
“We still have quite a bit to do but people can come in Thursday through Sunday,” Bartholomew said. “Saturday was a madhouse.”
On Wednesday, Bartholomew was cleaning tanks but said he was heading over to Witchdoctor to attend its grand opening and to fill a growler. Among brewers there’s little animosity and he said Kinsmen has already collaborated with other breweries.
Both have similar aesthetics with exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood furniture and trim and brewing equipment visible to the public.
Both are also located along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which Bartholomew said can help make the area a destination for craft beer aficionados.
Carl and Patricia Forster, Southington residents who live nearby Witchdoctor, bought a sampling tray of beer Wednesday.
“I like three of the four, that’s amazing,” Carl Forster said.
The couple was glad the former industrial space was being used and hoped the brewery would succeed.
“I think it’s going to be good for Southington. It’s close to home,” Carl Forster said.
They’d followed the brewery’s progress during the months of renovation and construction. Both Witchdoctor and Kinsmen were opened later than their owners had hoped, held up by construction delays and permits among other things.
Bartholomew said there are lots of people starting breweries but it’s difficult to correctly estimate how much money it takes to get one operational. In addition to expensive tanks, fermenters and brewing equipment, there are other less anticipated costs. Kinsmen spent $13,000 for a brewing room floor and $5,000 on a double door.
Norris said there’s only decorations to add to the brewery although their operations will be refined over time.
“We’re going to find our groove,” he said.
Brewers from Wallingford and Bristol plan to open the town’s third brewery called Skygazer Brewing Co. Taylor Pilewski of Wallingford and Erik Tynik of Bristol signed a least Thursday for a planned building on Triano Drive.
A distillery could also join the town’s growing beer scene. Jon Rondeau bought the former H.D. Smith Co. office and factory two years ago and is working to open a whiskey and bourbon distillery at the West Street location.
Town officials passed a tax incentive two years ago for breweries and distilleries to open in vacant buildings.
The tax break applies only to breweries and distilleries looking to locate in industrial zone buildings that have been vacant or more than half vacant for 10 years or more. Locations chosen by Witchdoctor and Kinsmen didn’t fit those criteria but the distillery planned for West Street would likely qualify according to Town Econmic Development Coordinator Louis Perillo.
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