By BRIAN WOODMAN
When visitors to Firefly Hollow Brewing in Bristol, Connecticut first approach the brewery on Federal Hill, they may find themselves surprised by the location – a large brick factory that looks like the setting for a crime film sitting next to a set of train tracks on Federal Hill. The cheery pub-style sign depicting a firefly, a symbol which adorns the brewery’s barleywine ale Twinkler, hints at better times literally around the corner. People parking in the back will notice the café tables constructed from barrels outside. There may even be a few dogs sitting outside with their owners – this is the serving room to an industrial site, after all, and not a bar. Brewery staff are currently preparing for the business’s six-year anniversary party on October 26.
Dana Bourque, co-owner of the brewery, may acknowledge the importance of the brewery’s ambiance. Bourque, who is also president of the Connecticut Brewer’s Guild, admits to being a fantasy and science fiction fan, and it is reflected in some of the brewery’s offerings. Four posters for their beers line the wall in front of the bar seats along with other paraphernalia. Nick Gamma, who specializes in artwork for beer labels as a side gig, illustrated all but four of the posters. One of them, the cute but ferocious Dire Chinchilla, was designed by Gamma but completed by Shanti Ritgers – a friend of Bourque. The creature guards piles of gold in a cave, which Bourque admitted was a nod to playing “Dungeons & Dragons” in his youth. The beer itself is an Imperial Ale with 9.9 percent alcohol content that is aged in a tequila-soaked barrel (ferocious indeed!) and first released in 2014. The others include the Twinkler, which was released to the public in 2014 before the brewery opened to the public.
The other two posters depict a being with a ball-shaped head enjoying different beers in otherworldly settings. “We call him the Neutral Entity,” joked Bourque. One of them, Photon, is an Imperial Crimson Ale with 8.9 percent content – he described it as a red ale with a different name. The beer is currently “on sabbatical,” he added. The other one, Choconaut, is a porter with 8 percent content made from coca nibs – the raw material for making chocolate. The entity’s bizarre helmet also adorns Boris, who is a vanilla bean-legged spider and the mascot for his namesake – a Russian Imperial Stout with 12 percent content. Bourque, who said he named the beer after a nickname for his father, described it as one of the brewery’s best received brands. And yes, the design references the song “Boris he Spider” by The Who.
The Scottish-style strong ale There Can Be Only One references the movie “Highlander,” has a 9.5 percent ABV and will be re-released on a semi-annual basis. Bourque described the beer as smoky, earthy and with a strong caramel flavor. The brewery first released its triple IPA Luciferin with a plain black label. But the ale, which has a 10.5 percent ABV, will soon sport a new and scarier label. Bourque described how the name is Latin for light and also references a chemical compound that allows fireflies to maintain their luminescence.
Although swag for Wolfshirt can be purchased at the brewery, Bourque admitted the red IPA flopped in the market. The Wisp, a single-hop IPA brewed there, has also been retired. But the Toadstool stout, which was second beer released by the company, is still doing well. “The Coneflakes IPA is a big off-premise seller,” said Bourque. “We have done well with Lizard’s Breath, Charm Quark and Upquark.” He added that newer flavors such as the Octoberfest and the Vodnick Pilsner have done well.
The company briefly released Rise of Brutality, an American IPA with a 5.4 ABV, to coincide with Hatebreed’s appearance in New Haven, Connecticut for their 20th anniversary tour last year. Gamma did not design the label, which actually used graphics from their albums. “It has a touch of citrus,” said Bourque, “Pure but clean.” He said brewery operators have not determined whether they will re-release the beer.