Nonalcoholic brewers find warm welcome
Whether you are the designated driver or just looking to keep your wits about you, Stratford-based Athletic Brewing Co. is offering craft beer without the buzz.
The brewery opened a month ago in a warehouse location on 350 Long Beach Blvd., to what founders Bill Shufelt and John Walker described as a wave of support from the community and local businesses looking to buy and carry the nonalcoholic brands.
“People just immediately get it and you see the lightbulb go on and where it fits in their life,” Shufelt said.
Shufelt and Walker opened the 8,000-square-foot brewery on May 12 in a newly renovated space that features a 20-barrel brewhouse with six 40-barrel fermenters and two 40-barrel brite tanks for conditioning. They also have a 2,000-square-foot taproom and outdoor seating area.
As the brewery scene in Connecticut continues to grow, Shufelt and Walker are looking to carve out a niche for themselves in the surging market with their Upside Dawn golden ale and Run Wild IPA, both of which have an alcohol content below 0.5 percent.
“I think we’re are definitely happy with our product,” said Walker, who is also head brew master. “I’m a firm believer that you should always keep the bar a little higher. You should stay ahead of your product.”
To that end, Shufelt and Walker have added new member, Andrew Ledley, to their team to oversee lab operations, quality control and brewing. A chemistry graduate from Notre Dame, Ledley brings an extensive background in the food service and catering industry.
Since opening the brewery and taproom, the trio have been planning to launch distribution throughout the state. They’ve been canning their flagship brews for the last few weeks.
According to Shufelt, they already have roughly 50 business throughout Fairfield, New Haven, and Litchfield counties looking to carry and sell the non-alcoholic brand. With the help of West Haven-based Star Distributors Inc., Athletic Brewing Co. will be launching distribution to package stores, restaurants and bars on Friday.
“We think that a lot of the grocery stores and restaurants get it that a lot of people ask for healthier and lighter alternatives so it fits right with their demographics.” Shufelt said, adding that both flagship beers use organic grains, which drop the brews’ calorie point below most craft and Big Beer options.
A can of the Run Wild IPA is 70 calories, while the Upside Dawn Golden Ale is 50.
A major driver has been to provide fitness buffs with a beer that would not hinder training goals. That has been evident in Athletic Brewing’s recent appearances at local athletic events like the Rev3 Lake Quassy Triathlon, Fairfield Half Marathon and more.
The Stratford brewery will be featured in a series of other athletic events and festivals throughout the Northeast leading into the fall.
Athletic Brewing Co. is open Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.