Scott Vallely started Charter Oak Brewing Co. in 2011 and has built a successful brand whose IPAs, ales and other beer varieties can be found in about 400 establishments throughout Connecticut.
Despite its success, Charter Oak has never had a home to call its own — until now.
Brewing operations are up and running at its new Danbury building with a five-barrel system and a 20-barrel system each producing the fresh, handcrafted beers for which the brand has become known.
The taproom has received local and federal approvals and will open in about two weeks, pending state approvals. Vallely said he hopes to be open by Memorial Day.
“In the past, we were a gypsy brewery; brewing wherever they had the time, space and patience,” Vallely said. “We had to bring all of our equipment and rent the barrels, but we’ve always done our own brewing.”
On Wednesday, the canning line was installed and by Thursday a batch of 1687 Brown Ale with new labeling was being packaged. On Friday, cans of Wadsworth’s India Pale Ale rolled off the line.
Vallely beamed when asked if having his own location makes the brewing and packaging process easier.
“Oh my god. Yes, indeed, sir,” he said. “This has been five years in the making. I’ve spent every moment thinking of every detail. I did the specs on everything. This is five years of me — at 2 in the morning — taking notes at the side of my bed.”
Vallely, who has been brewing beer for 38 years, is joined at the new location by brewer Mike Granoth and salesman Justin Vidal, of Danbury.
Charter Oak joins a suddenly burgeoning brewing scene in the Danbury area. Redding Beer Co. in Georgetown and Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield opened last year and Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery opened in March. Two more breweries are expected to open this year in New Milford.
“We’ve been chatting about a mini beer trail and being able to feed off each other,” Vallely said. “It’s a great community. Let’s work together, not apart from one another.”
The road to Danbury
The state as a whole is experiencing a brewery boom with more than 70 in operation.
Charter Oak is by far the area’s largest operation. The building at 39B Shelter Rock Road was previously used for distribution and office space.
At 10,000 square feet, the building offers room for expansion and a sturdy base to support the brewing systems.
“It’s slab on grade and 26 feet to the ceiling,” he said. “We enhanced the daylights out of the building. It used to be two floors, but we cleared it out to make way for the barrels (in the large brewing system).”
Hawley Construction of Danbury is the main contractor for the repurposing of the building.
Vallely feels he found the perfect spot for his brewery, but it came only after an exhaustive search of more than 30 locations throughout the state. A New Canaan resident, Vallely wanted to be in Fairfield County because he knew “we’d practically be living there.”Read Full Article
The search started in the southern part of the county, but he was wooed north by P.J. Prunty, who was then the director of CityCenter Danbury. Charter Oak was set to commit to a downtown location, but the building could not support the brewing systems.
Prunty would not allow that to be a deal-breaker, however, and he kept up his relentless pursuit of a home for Charter Oak Brewing Co. in Danbury.
“Scott and I walked a bunch of different properties,” said Prunty, now the president of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce. “He did a lot of research on the greater Danbury area and knew that this was an excellent market for him to open up his brewery.”
Vallely said Prunty’s enthusiasm and persistence kept Charter Oak’s search focused on Danbury.
“P.J. Prunty is responsible for Charter Oak Brewing being in Danbury,” he said.
The taproom at Charter Oak Brewing will be open from 3 to 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. It will feature 10 beer varieties on tap and offer flights, pints and growlers. Vallely said he will not serve food because he does not want to compete with the restaurants that carry his beer, but will have food available through delivery services.
The taproom features an industrial feel with high ceilings, exposed duct work, wood tables and chairs, and windows with views into the brewing operations.
“There won’t be music, dancing and pool tables,” he said. “It’s a place to grab a beer and talk with your buddies.”
Granoth added: “The brewing community is a way to bring people together ... hang out with friends.”
The name of the brewery comes from the Charter Oak legend, of which Vallely is a student. A charter issued by King Charles II in 1662 that granted Connecticut certain autonomies was to be revoked and collected under order of James II, the brother and successor of Charles II. During a debate in Hartford in 1687 at which the charter was to be handed over, the legend goes, the candles mysteriously blew out. Under the cover of darkness, Capt. Joseph Wadsworth took the charter and hid it in a cavity in a giant oak tree.
“I wanted something Connecticut-centric,” Vallely said of the brewery’s name. “So far, all of the beers we’ve made are named after something pertaining to the legend.”
The writer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-731-3338