There’s a great deal of focus on buying local these days, and rightly so. With the agricultural environment the way it is, it’s comforting to know exactly from where your food comes and who’s producing it. Now, Kent Falls Brewery is making it easier for you to drink locally, as well.
Located in Kent Hollow, Kent Falls Brewing Company is comprised of only three employees: general manager Barry Labendz, brewmaster Derek Dellinger, and sales person Rob Bollard. The brewery itself is located at Camps Road Farm, and the two have been growing together to make great local brews for all in Connecticut to enjoy.
A Farmer’s Brewery
Camps Road Farms started in 2012 with small beds of tomatoes and cucumbers but has already grown to having multiple greenhouses, heirloom chickens (who get to enjoy the free-range life), as well as goats and a fairly new and extensive hop field. Barry has been at the farm since the beginning, ripping multiflora out of the back field and building the vegetables beds. At the same time, he started construction on a small farm brewery which would soon be known as the Kent Falls Brewing Company.
The brewery was completed in January, 2015, and started brewing in February. In the short four months since then, the brewery boasts three regular brews: “Field Beer,” a seasonal saison that, in its current incarnation, is earthy and nutty and made with all Connecticut-grown barley; “Farmer’s Table,” a dry-hopped farmhouse ale with a low alcohol content and multiple different grains; and their new Brett IPA, “Waymaker,” which, in Barry’s words, has “more tropical fruit flavors than a traditional IPA and a little bit of a farmhouse undertone to it. The two playing together with the hops give it a little bit of a citrus character to it.”
Kent Falls Brewing is constantly experimenting and growing. They have come up with a specialty beer,”Juicemaker,” which is a fruity version of their “Waymaker” IPA, re-fermented on mangos. Their next commercial brew will be a sour IPA called “Alternate World.” In addition, they regularly experiment with new flavors – such as rhubarb and mint – that they hope to release as seasonal specialties in the coming months and years.
Perhaps most excitingly, Kent Falls Brewing Company will soon be coming out with a sour grapefruit beer made with 100% local Connecticut grapefruits. The experienced growers and gardeners protest: grapefruits don’t grow in Connecticut! And normally they’d be correct. But these grapefruits were, indeed, grown in the state, by architect and Washington, Connecticut native, Peter Talbot.
Peter’s father, William Talbot – a sculptor by trade and passion – started with one grapefruit tree on the balcony of his West Village apartment in 1949, grown from a seed he picked out of his breakfast grapefruit. In 1950, William and his wife Joan – a photographer and musician – decided to move to Washington, Connecticut, where they bought and renovated an old horse barn. Unwilling to leave the tree that he’d cared for from seed, he brought the tree with him and, in 1960, built a specialized greenhouse for it on his new property.
After William’s death, Peter took over the care of the tree, heating the soil and expanding the greenhouse into today’s Bell Hill House. He now has many fruit trees, including fig and ponderosa lemon, as well as flowers, such as camellias, which bloom up until Easter.
The grapefruit tree yields roughly 250 grapefruits per year, which Joan would use to make marmalade and give to friends. Recently, after Joan’s death, Peter decided to donate 140 grapefruits to Community Table, in Washington. They used the fruit to make a specialty drink with local champagne and called it, fittingly enough, “The Joan,” after Peter’s mother.
Early on in the brewery’s design phase, Barry met Peter over architectural discussions. The two stayed in touch, and when Barry asked Peter if he could use some of his grapefruits in the beer, Peter was delighted to help. “It was a treat when Barry called,” Peter says, and he immediately offered his grapefruits to the brewery, asking for no money in return. His only request was that he and his father be acknowledged for the hard work that they put into caring for the tree. Barry muses, “It’s not a commercial enterprise for him. It’s something he does out of love. And he likes, I think, seeing it go to places that care about it and that are interesting.”
Kent Falls Brewing Company is yet another great reason for Connecticut residents to enjoy a taste of something local. Find out more about the brewery and where to find their brews at KentFallsBrewing.com. They can also be followed on Instagram (KentFallsBrewing), Facebook (Kent Falls Brewing), and Twitter (KentFallsBC).