Counter Weight Brewing Co. – A Delicate Balance
Photos and profile by Jim Lalumiere
In 2017, Counter Weight Brewing Company opened in Hamden. The driving force behind Counter Weight is Matt Westfall. Matt had recently left New England Brewing Company after a 10-year stint, when he got an itch to do something different. Counter Weight is the balance Matt was looking for in life. Blending old world traits that he admires in German lagers with hop forward, aggressive ales and wild fermented beers is what Counter Weight is all about. It’s about finding balance in life as well as in their portfolio of beers.
With the use of old-world brewing equipment like foeders and coolships, Counter Weight brings something different to the local brewing scene. Coolships are room-sized metal pans used to cool large batches of beer while inoculating it with airborne yeasts and wild bacteria, thus producing a wild fermented ale. Counter Weight is only one of four breweries in Connecticut to use a coolship. In his three travels to Germany, Matt realized he appreciated the nuanced flavors of their beers. He wanted to chase the flavors of that nuance and harmonize it with the aggressive hoppy ales of New England. The delicate balance of Counter Weights beers is simple. They love and appreciate the newer styles of beers, but lean on the tried, true, and reliable styles of old. With such dedication to the craft, Counter Weight is able to produce beers that are affordable, available, and consistent.
The three core beers at Counter Weight are Headway IPA, Workhorse Pilsner, and Crucial Mass IIPA, with Headway (their flagship beer) making up 75% of their production. The company’s mindset is that fine line between making their core beers better, and making beers that they’ve never brewed before. With Matt’s extensive background brewing hoppy beers, their portfolio consists of a vast array of single and double IPAs, with multiple variations of some. Balancing out the flavor spectrum are enough porters, stouts and imperial stouts to make any malt-head happy. Imagine sipping a 10% Hex Imperial Stout aged with cinnamon, chocolate, and vanilla on a cold winter night. I have, and it’s as delicious as it sounds.
With strict attention to consistency, the team is able to spread their brewing wings and experiment with their beers. One of Matt’s goals is to have a barrel aging and spontaneous fermentation program that provides specialty beers on a regular basis. Future projects include blending one, two, and three-year aged wild ales together, and releasing their Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout around the holidays. One beer I was lucky enough to sample while at the brewery was their newest specialty release bottle. A blend of spontaneous and mixed fermentation ales aged on Syrah and Cabernet grapes, Aeolian is nothing short of a masterpiece fusing the flavors of beer and wine.
When they opened in 2017, the brewery had a goal of producing 10,000 barrels within five years. In 2019, they already surpassed that goal by making 11,500 barrels of ales and lagers. With a consistent team of brewers, packagers, and tap-room staff, Counter Weight is a 110% group effort, where everyone feels ownership over everything they make. Ideas for beers are brought around organically, and can come from any employee. Matt sees the final product only as good as the individuals making it, and stresses that every beer they brew are made and represented properly.
The tap-room at Counter Weight is a perfect setting to foster the beer community that has supported them from the beginning. Over the years, customers have become friends and family. That beer family is very welcomed and appreciated. Their 200-member mug club gets 4 additional ounces per pour, and are able to purchase specialty releases before the general public. During the Covid-19 shutdown, the local support has been incredible, with cars lining up Thursday through Sunday to purchase 4-packs, cases, and specialty bottles weekly via curbside pickup. The tap-room offers simple bagged snacks and cheese platters, and food trucks are a regular occurrence in the parking lot to feed the masses. Being a very dog-friendly brewery, there is even a Dog Wall of Fame in the stairwell leading to the upstairs bar area, where you can overlook the brewhouse.
Having outgrown their current space, Counter Weight is looking down the road to expand into a new location, doubling its size and upgrading to a 30-barrel brewhouse. This will allow the team to continue to grow and produce enough ales, lagers and specialty beers for many years to come.
Counter Weight balances the tradition of participating in something that’s been done for hundreds of years with the excitement of experimenting with the spectrum of flavors to be had. Old school meets new school. That’s what got Matt into brewing years ago, and that’s the balancing act that makes Counter Weight what it is today.
Counter Weight Brewing Company
23 Raccio Park Rd, Hamden
Hours: Thursday-Sunday 11 AM – 6 PM