Olde Burnside Brewing Company Puts In Their Ten Cents

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by Nick Doniger
from Sizzle Grove

Photo by Jean Geoghegan.

“The craft beer business is just exploding now,” stated Bob McClellan, owner and founder of East Hartford, Connecticut’s Olde Burnside Brewing Company, in an interview.  “I don’t think it’s ever gonna crash.”

That statement is a promising prospect for Olde Burnside, whose signature Ten Penny Ale was crafted on the concept that great beer truly is worth the cost.  The story goes that during McClellan’s youth, his grandfather would reminisce about the great beer produced by local breweries, which cost about five pennies a pint.  Occasionally, his grandfather would mention, the brewers would produce extra high quality ales that cost ten pennies a pint.

by Nick Doniger
from Sizzle Grove

 


 

“The craft beer business is just exploding now,” stated Bob McClellan, owner and founder of East Hartford, Connecticut’s Olde Burnside Brewing Company, in an interview.  “I don’t think it’s ever gonna crash.”

Photo by Jean Geoghegan.

That statement is a promising prospect for Olde Burnside, whose signature Ten Penny Ale was crafted on the concept that great beer truly is worth the cost.  The story goes that during McClellan’s youth, his grandfather would reminisce about the great beer produced by local breweries, which cost about five pennies a pint.  Occasionally, his grandfather would mention, the brewers would produce extra high quality ales that cost ten pennies a pint.

Since 2000, McClellan has been producing the type of beer he envisioned his grandfather speaking of.  Ten Penny Ale is, as McClellan describes it, an unfiltered and unpasteurized amber-colored Scottish “real ale” with a slightly stronger-than-traditional malt base and a touch more of a roasty/smokey flavor.  And, in actuality, it isn’t too expensive when compared to other craft beers out there.

Olde Burnside also boasts seasonals and special releases. Dirty Penny is Ten Penny mixed with stout as an homage to the “black ‘n tan” style and their witbier (which is a Belgian-style light wheat ale, called Penny Weiz, is brewed with orange peel, as is traditional for the style.  However, instead of spicing it with the traditional touch of coriander, Olde Burnside adds heather, creating a distinctly floral taste.


In the 1990s, when McClellan noticed that a few of the same people were filling up copious amounts of water at his ice-manufacturing company, he couldn’t help but ask them what they were using it for.  They told him the water was great for brewing beer.

 

The brewery also has a winter warmer style beer called Father Christmas Highland Ale, perfect for frosty cold days, such as the Thursday afternoon when I visited the brewery.  Of course, we can’t discuss their beers without mentioning Ten Penny Reserve, a 10% ABV “wee heavy” style strong Scottish ale which is available year round.

So, the brewery nods to Scottish heritage, and they brew an amber ale, a black ‘n tan, a witbier, a winter warmer, and a wee heavy. That’s not the most common kind of a line-up in today’s craft beer world, but other breweries try to produce similar beers.  But what really sets Olde Burnside apart from other craft breweries (other than the fact that they almost strictly sell beer in large growlers)?

For McClellan, this is an easy answer: the water.  Since Olde Burnside started off as an ice-manufacturing comBob McClellan with outdoor fermentors.  Photo by Jean Geoghegan.pany, they’ve had water spigots in front of their location for locals to fill up at fifty cents a gallon.  In the 1990s, when McClellan noticed that a few of the same people were filling up copious amounts of water, he couldn’t help but ask them what they were using it for.  They told him the water was great for brewing beer.

His curiosity got the best of him, and McClellan got the water tested.  Results came back stating that his water had the right mineral content and pH for brewing beer.  What was most fascinating, however, was the fact that his water, apparently, was almost identical to the water found in Burton-on-Trent, a large town in England in which some of the best English ales are brewed.

A few years and a business plan later, McClellan acquired some equipment from a defunct brewery in Wyoming and Olde Burnside Brewing Company opened up. 

Currently, McClellan states, the brewery is expanding about 20 to 30% a year, with distribution to southern Maine, Vermont, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, part of New York, and of course, all over Connecticut.  They brew five days a week and usually twice a day just to keep up with demand.

Connecticut craft beer drinkers, continue to be proud.


Olde Burneside is located at 780 Tolland Street in East Hartford.
For more information, visit their website here or give a call at (860)528-2200.

 

Nick Doniger is the creator and author of Sizzle Grove, a blog celebrating all that is barbecue and beer.  He is a blogger and online content writer with a degree in American Studies from the University of Connecticut.  Nick’s interest in barbecue stemmed from watching cooking shows and the subsequent purchase of a charcoal grill, plus a couple years of trial, error, and experimentation.  All recipes on his site were developed by him, unless noted otherwise.  His love of craft beer was spawned from frequent visits to his favorite bar at My Place restaurant in Newtown, Connecticut, and from his parents’ and friends’ influence.  In his spare time, Nick enjoys cooking and developing recipes, spending time with his girlfriend, singer Lauryn Linley, and writing his own music.

 


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