by Eric Grulke, Environmental Engineer
I knew within seconds of meeting Amanda Fromerth (the Event Planner) that my visit to Elicit Brewery in Manchester, CT was going to be different. Not just because I could already picture myself there watching the game (or all the games) on their 20+ big screen TVs while debating which of their 40+ beers on tap to sample, but because Amanda speaks “engineer”. Her father is an engineer and, because Connecticut is home a lot of engineering industries, she was already used to fielding questions about the transformation and design of the Eli’s Restaurant Group’s new space. Needless to say, our conversation felt effortless.
Elicit Brewing Company opened a couple months ago on Adams Street in Manchester, CT. As a life-long Connecticut resident, I was already familiar with the space because Adams Mill Restaurant resided there for the 37 years prior. But when I walked into Elicit, every memory I had of my previous visits was confounded. I had trouble orienting myself in the space because the transformation was so complete. Amanda, who grew up in Manchester, mentioned that this is common. She loves watching people see the new space for the first time and listening to their memories. While the exterior remained pretty similar, the inside was remarkable. Elicit’s parent company, Eli’s Restaurant Group, worked with a designer named Welcome (MyNameisWelcome.com) who completely changed the space. While the wood beams upstairs in the cocktail lounge are original, the “steel” beams that accent the downstairs are creative engineering at its best. Crafted from lightweight PVC, I challenge our Structural Department to find obvious signs of difference, other than their load-bearing capabilities. The light fixtures are an engineer’s dream, being created by handpicked items from Home Depot. Additionally, an outdoor 4,000 ft2 patio was taking shape outside and is set to open in the spring.
You would think a 16,000 ft2 building wouldn’t already be short on space, but it is. Joining us for the conversation was brewmaster Brian Ayers, whose biggest concern is capacity. Typical sizing suggests that a taproom should be anywhere from a quarter to a third of the size of the facility. In this case, the production space is approximately 9.4% of the total space. He’s operating a seven-barrel system and, to keep up with demand, contracting batches at Firefly Hollow Brewing in Bristol, CT. Brian has welcomed the challenge, however, and considers his space a laboratory where he can experiment in small batches. If these brews are successful, he can then contract out a larger order. Elicit aims to have a rotating selection of six of their own beers on tap while also supplying the restaurant group with their signature brews. (Fun fact: each of the Elicit beers are named to include “Eli”.) As they are currently selling at about twice the rate they anticipated in-house, plus the canned options, talk has already turned to an unused pump house on the property as a potential new brew space. But we’ll save that expansion for a future blog.
Even though Brian describes himself as a tinkerer, a large part of our conversation turned to the chemistry aspect of brewing, one of my favorite engineering topics. Brian worked his way up through the industry after starting off as a homebrewer. When he talks about this difference between hopping in a whirlpool and dry hopping, he’s speaking as someone who’s lived the difference in brew size and equipment scale. For those unfamiliar, dry hopping adds hop fragrances to beers, but the bitterness comes from the alpha acids in the hops isomerizing into bittering compounds during the boiling process. Brian expressed excitement about his experimentation because, with the smaller batches, he doesn’t need to worry about long-term shelf stability. He alluded to “cold-fruiting” his beers and how the elimination of a beer’s shelf-life puts a “few more tools in the toolbox”. To be honest, I think Brian may secretly be an engineer at heart.
Part of what makes Elicit singular in this geography is their approach to a beer hall atmosphere. Up until now, you’ve had to travel around to try all the beers that the area has to offer – not that I’m complaining about visiting breweries. But Elicit reiterated what I’ve heard time and time again.. They’re drawing on the community of craft beer and their local relationships to bring these beers together in one fantastic space. And they’ve thrown in an arcade, full kitchen, and craft cocktail lounge in the mix for good measure.
As I’ve been recapping, I realize there were so many more pieces of this conversation that I want to mention. The story about how installing a backup generator would have stifled the creative genius of their opening day stout, or how a certain cowboy hat-wearing designer also has a Grammy Award, or how gumshoe detective work led to the beers that are currently on tap today. If any of this piques your interest, Check out the transcript of our full conversation here>
About the Author
Eric Grulke is an Environmental Engineer with Fuss & O’Neill’s Industry & Utilities Business Line and a craft beer enthusiast. If you have suggestions as to where Eric should visit next, please send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Elicit Brewing Company: We’re restaurateurs at heart and beer drinkers at liver. This is our stab at bringing our two passions together. A brewery, beer hall, cocktail bar, lounge, arcade, restaurant, and much more.
Located in Manchester, CT. We’re bringing our own brews together with the best of Connecticut, and the world, with other libations and street fare to generate the ultimate experience. Our reboot on the Adams Paper Mills, circa 1864, has yielded our great state’s newest adult playground.