Thomas Hooker Brewing Company Hopes for Return to Hartford

A Connecticut brewery is planning to return to its roots.

Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, which is currently located in Bloomfield, Conn., recently announced plans to move its brewing operations back to downtown Hartford.

“It makes sense for us to be back [in] Hartford,” said Curt Cameron, President of Thomas Hooker Brewing Company. “When we went through our last expansion, we just couldn’t find the right facility.”

The original Thomas Hooker

The hope to move to Hartford has several underlying layers. The brewery got its start at the Trout Brook Brew Pub in Hartford and its name from Thomas Hooker, the Puritan-born preacher who founded Hartford and the state of Connecticut in the 17th century.

Cameron said that the move is one that both Pedro E. Segarra, the mayor of Hartford, and Dannel Molloy, the governor of Connecticut, are interested in, envisioning the move as a key step in their efforts to revive the city’s downtown scene. Cameron said that Molloy, who lives just a few miles down the road, frequents the brewery to say hello and drink the occasional pint.

Segarra, meanwhile, understands the brewery’s local impact from firsthand experience. About six months ago, Segarra visited the brewery with his chief of staff and other officials on a Friday afternoon. Cameron toured the mayor around the brewery before they sat and chatted in his office. By the time they had finished talking, the brewery’s fortnightly open house had begun. What had been an empty brewery now had 250 people frolicking, drinking and enjoying one another’s company. The mayor probably wasn’t expecting to make a public appearance.

After incidents like this, Segarra, Molloy, Hartford’s planning division, and Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development are enthusiastic about the possibilities that could come from having Thomas Hooker downtown again.

“If you’re drawing 300 people on a Friday night in an industrial park in Bloomfield,” Cameron said, “what would you do on a main drag in Hartford?”

Cameron said that he has identified a desirable location, but he’s still working through some financial ramifications before anything becomes official. The expansion would include plans for a 50-barrel brewhouse, a visitor center and a casual, sit-down restaurant.

The idea for a restaurant derived from a few different realizations. Cameron has kept an eye on breweries like Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, Calif., which is planning on opening a hotel and already totes a contemporary restaurant that can feel like a modern art museum, and Long Trail Brewing Co. of Cors, Vt., which brings visitors from afar for its brewpub and visitor center.

“I look at the guys who I think have done a great job and the majority of them seem to have that complete experience,” Cameron said.

He also noted that he currently rents his brewery 10 to 20 times per month for private events. The space attracts all kinds of groups, from big insurance companies and financial institutions, to Double Dog Rescue, Inc. and girls’ softball teams. A restaurant would help the brewery in continuing to lure private events while also providing some extra profit.

“They usually cater these events, so I think we’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not offering that component,” Cameron said.

Cameron took some preparatory steps along the way that have helped him establish Thomas Hooker as a local staple. He took over operations of the brewery in 2006 after owning a few liquor stores. This position helped him better understand how retailers price products, what motivates them, and what helps them sell their beer. He started a mix-a-six program, which allowed shoppers to make their own 6-pack from more than 600 different individual beer bottles. This promotion not only brought customers into the store, it also helped Cameron realize the potential of craft beer.

“Seven years ago, we were pretty aware that the craft beer world was really starting to blow up,” he said. “And so getting into this wasn’t like ‘gee whiz, I always wanted to make beer.’ It was ‘I think this is a great business opportunity.’”

According to the Brewers Association, Thomas Hooker produced 1,050 barrels in 2007. By 2011, the brewery produced 10,500 barrels. If the brewery makes the move to Hartford, Cameron said that he would expect 20,000 to 25,000 barrels per year. The company already distributes in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, Eastern Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey, but despite the growth potential, Cameron said that his team will stay local and lives by the mantra “go deep, not wide.”

“We could be in 30 states. We get distributors calling us all the time to carry our beer,” Cameron said. “But if I can’t put a physical sales rep in that area and really feel comfortable that the brand is being represented properly, then I’d rather not be there.”

Without the capacity to distribute beer in half the country, Cameron said that Thomas Hooker feels most comfortable in Connecticut. Hartford, specifically, would be even better.

“Our home is Hartford,” he said. “I don’t see setting up production facilities anywhere else.”

Brewery: Thomas Hooker Brewing Co, LLC Website: http://www.hookerbeer.com
Address: 16 Tobey Rd
Bloomfield, CT 06002
United States
  • Theofilos Anastasiadis

    Sounds like a great plan. Good luck guys. Your friends @ Pies & Pints, Middlebury CT

  • Theofilos Anastasiadis

    Good Luck you guys. Your friends @Pies & Pints, Middlebury CT