NEW MILFORD – Whenever longtime resident and entrepreneur David Littlefield comes up with an idea he goes all out to turn his vision into reality.
His latest concept is of the hops variety and he’s passionate about building a full-scale microbrewery, taproom and outdoor beer garden to attract and entertain craft beer lovers from all over the region.
Housatonic River Brewing, located at 30 Kent Road, is set along the scenic river that overlooks the iconic Veterans Bridge. Doors will open just in time for Oktoberfest on Friday, September 21.
“We’re excited that Housatonic River Brewing chose New Milford to invest in,” said Mayor Pete Bass. “With our beautiful natural resource as a backdrop, the Housatonic River, their brewery will make a great addition to our expanding food/drink/entertainment community.”
Littlefield’s plans are ambitious, and his microbrewery and tasting room with a large outdoor beer garden will put New Milford on the Connecticut Beer Trail map.
“There’s nothing quite like what I’m doing that exists in this state, or on the map, and I fully plan on being part of it,” he said.
“We like his creative style and are looking forward to seeing his personality flourish in his beer. Housatonic River Brewing will be a tremendous asset to our close-knit craft beer community and the northwest corner of the state,” said Phil Pappas, executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild.
Littlefield, who began brewing beer in the 1980s, bought the 7-acre property and 3,200 square foot rectangular building outright from a private owner in February, and said he’s building the perfect place that he would like to go for a beer.
“I want to enjoy my beer and sit outside in the sun. I also want to play frisbee and cornhole games, hang out with families and host pig roasts on special occasions. My place will attract people of all ages and it will be a place to have a lot of fun,” he said.
For the past several months passersby on Route 7 can see massive construction trucks working on a 73-car parking lot. The exterior of the old equestrian shop is also getting a major overhaul and the building was completely gutted.
Littlefield envisions a warm and inviting rustic river lodge look and feel for his microbrewery.
The exterior of the building features a corrugated steel roof on the main patio with nice lighting and big timbers were used for a large 1,200-square-foot deck. At the rear is an additional 10,000-square-foot paved space designated as one of the entertainment sections for outdoor games.
The two spaces will seat 150 guests in comfortable Adirondack chairs and casual picnic tables.
Littlefield was his own general contractor and used John McGuire Construction of New Milford for the millwork and buildout.
The inside features a 48-foot rustic log cabin bar that adds to the river lodge vibe and the main gathering place is centered around a floor-to-ceiling river stone fireplace.
The large 5-barrel stainless steel tanks, four fermenters and eight serving tanks add to the ambiance.
Littlefield will soon add a 10-barrel fermenter and serving tank to the area, which will be used for a canning line to make 4-packs of beer to-go.
He also creatively converted old wine barrels into tables. With the bar area and tasting rooms combined, there will be ample seating for 75 people.
When doors open, Littlefield will offer eight of his distinctive signature beers on tap. “My staple items include an IPA, DIPA and Imperial Stout. I will also serve different seasonal varieties like pale ales in the warmer months and porters and saisons in the wintertime.”
Housatonic River Brewing is a 5-barrel craft brewery. In other words, whenever each beer is brewed – during a 1.5 to 2-week period – five barrels, or 155 gallons of beer, are produced. To start, Littlefield has 40 barrels of beer and 20 barrels more are in fermentation.
He likes to experiment and enjoys creating slightly out of the ordinary varieties, anything from a peach blond to a peppercorn infused IPA.
“I don’t make the same beer twice. However, I’m now formulating recipes for the commercial brewery and will eventually distribute to local bars, restaurants and package stores. I just developed a coffee porter recipe and like to do collaborations with other breweries, too,” he said.
Aside from the special occasion pig roast, Littlefield will regularly serve snacks like jerkies and popcorn. He’ll rotate food trucks and plans to partner with catering companies, too. Selections from local wineries will be offered as well.
Once Housatonic River Brewing is up and running, Littlefield plans to dedicate three acres of land to grow a variety of hops on the northeast corner of the property toward the river. “It will be really nice to walk by the hop fields while sipping beer.” He will harvest, dry, prep, store and preserve the hops onsite.
Right now, he gets 12 to 15 different hops at different times of the year from Pioneer Hops at South Farms in Morris, Connecticut.
The property includes 350 feet of river frontage. “I would like to add a dock, so canoers and kayakers can easily access the microbrewery from the river,” said Littlefield. It also borders a 25-acre bird sanctuary. “Bikers and walkers can stop in for a cold beer, too,” he said.
“I will be hosting weddings and special occasions in my gardens that will be spectacular, just like what you would experience in Europe,” he added.
This isn’t the first time Littlefield, who has “always liked good beer,” owned and operated a craft brew business.
In the early 1990s, just before microbreweries became all the rage, he bought a brewpub in Dana Point, California, where he was living at the time. He then expanded the business and turned it into a full-size brewery called Harbor Lights Brewing Company.
Littlefield’s defining moment happened two years before when he traveled to Maine to visit family and went out for a beer at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland. “I saw shiny copper brewing tanks downstairs and was amazed by how a person can have a business making and selling beer directly to the public. I also couldn’t get over how delicious the beers were,” he said.
Ever since, Littlefield is on a mission to share his take on “the perfect brew” with fellow lovers of craft beer.
Housatonic River Brewing will be open Wednesday through Friday, 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday from noon to 9 and Sunday from noon to 7.
Did you know?
71 microbreweries, breweries and brewpubs operate in CT and 19 more are planned – Connecticut Brewers Guild
166,848 barrels of craft beer were made in CT last year, ranking 29th in the US
$718 million, The CT economic impact in 2017 – Brewers Association
This feature and photos by Alicia Sakal originally appeared online and in the August 18, 2018 edition of Republican-American, a regional daily newspaper in 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.