WALLINGFORD — Town resident Peter Ford remembers the first batch of beer he brewed 30 years ago.
“It was a maple nut brown ale. It turned out fantastic. I think I got lucky the first time,” he said.
Ford, 53, turned what was once a hobby into a new business. His new venture, The Center Street Brewing Co., is the latest entry in the town center’s vibrant food and drink scene. It opened Saturday afternoon at noon and less than an hour later the place was full.
“It has been a long process of planning a lot of small and big details, an emotional process throughout all the planning. Today is more of a feeling of happiness and readiness,” he said. “Seeing the doors open and seeing people in here feels right.”
Ford said the brewery has been gestating for six years — the time it took to navigate the permitting process and get everything ready for launch.
“It came together nicely,” he said.
The brewery’s home, 25 Wallace Ave., has had many incarnations, Ford said. It was at different points an artist’s studio, a recording studio, and an auto repair shop, among other things. His immediate goal was to pull out the warren of offices that had developed over the years and create something inviting. A wide open floor plan, white wood tables and fixtures, and a garage door to open on warm days has done just that.
“I wanted to give it as much of a New England feeling as I could. We wanted to keep it a place people felt comfortable coming to,” Ford said.
The brewery is small, able to produce about 1,500 barrels of beer a year using gleaming equipment built by the Portland, Oregon-based Portland Kettle Works, he said. His primary objective is to focus his business on the brewery itself, with distribution to about 12 to 15 local accounts and some restaurants.
“We are not looking to compete with anyone. We really want this to be a local brewery, a local flavor and be part of what we are doing here,” Ford said.
Ford hopes that over time he can work with the town’s other breweries and vineyards to have a festival showcasing their creations. He is also partnering with local restaurants, including Alyssa’s Cakery of Wallingford and Laudano’s Pizza of Meriden.
“I believe that a rising tide raises all ships,” he said. “We want to make Wallingford a destination. Each (brewery and vineyard) has a different philosophy and take on the process.”
On opening day customers gave Ford’s creations high marks. Alicia Beadle and Marina Davila made the trip from Wethersfield and West Haven, respectively, to give the beer a try.
“I go to a lot of breweries so I made the journey today. I really like the atmosphere,” Beadle said. “It has a rustic country feel.”
Davila described herself as a “huge craft beer person,” frequenting breweries and beer festivals across the state.
“I am always looking for the new thing around, what new flavors they are going to bring,” she said. Davila gestured to her sampler of beers. “So far all of these are great. They blew away my expectations,” she said.
Ford is partnering with his brother Tim and his assistant brewer Jake DeGennaro on the brewery. His hope is that he can build something that he can pass along to his two adult sons Nick, 26, and John, 22.
But for now, just working the room and taking care of the customers lining up to the bar is a huge victory.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said.