Beer in Mind

“We started off four years ago with about thirty-five hundred bucks each in our bank accounts and a dream of making some beer,” Hoax Brewing co-founder Sean Ricci says. As bartenders and drinkers, he and business partner Austin Scott had spent years geeking out over beer together, but the deeper learning had come in the past six months as they developed small experimental recipes out of collaborative brewery The Beeracks.

That might have been the extent of it if not for a second dream: of hosting a great party. “I was throwing a big show for my birthday,” Ricci remembers, “and we were doing some small batches in the back. We were like, ‘We got all our friends’ bands playing here, we’re gonna pack this place, it’s gonna be a great time. Let’s put some of our beers on tap.’” As the party approached, he and Scott were surprised to realize they had created enough varieties to fill every line in the tap room.

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Too much fear and too little capital seemed poised to derail that idea, until The Beeracks’s other residents proved just how collaborative they could be. Overshores Brewing founder and Beeracks head honcho Christian Amport offered to take a backend cut of sales instead of an upfront brewing fee, and Armada Brewing founder John Kraszewski “held our hand and walked us through the whole thing—got us our LLC, helped us get our name together, helped us get everything in line,” Ricci says. Winking at the impostor syndrome they were feeling as relative neophytes, they decided to call the brand Hoax, and as the date of the party arrived in March of 2018, “We launched our first beer [and] emptied out our bank accounts on the hope that this one batch was gonna do good.”

And to their ongoing amazement, the result has been good indeed. Four years later, Hoax is very much not a hoax. As the company prepares to celebrate its anniversary this weekend with live music and parties at The Beeracks, annual revenue is reportedly nearing half a million, and the pace of innovation remains brisk, with Scott estimating an average rate of three new beers a month. “We have a lot of fun with it and do stuff that’s a little bit different, a little weird, a little crazy. Some shit doesn’t work, but sometimes it does work,” Ricci says. The science of brewing, which they know quite well and routinely harness as they seek to prove their next hypothesis, is crucial, but so is the art, concerned not just with pucker (if it’s one of their mildly tart signature sours) but also with puckishness. “We’re definitely into a tricking-your-mind type of thing,” Scott says with a grin.

Take the well-timed Birthday Cake variant (6.5% ABV) of their “milkshake-style IPA” Beauty Parade series. Ingredients include literal vanilla frosting and funfetti cake mix—“Stop & Shop gets really mad at us [when] we clean them out,” Scott says with a laugh—which helps explain the Wonka-esque magic of feeling like you’re “drinking a sheet cake,” as my bar companion put it. Ricci notes the use of coconutty Sabro hops, which reinforces the beer’s richness and creaminess without pushing the sugar over the edge. Like the rest of the Beauty Parade series, which has ranged from Orange Creamsicle to Blueberry Pancake, the Birthday Cake is brewed with lactose sugar—roughly “99% unfermentable,” Ricci says. So, unlike sugar from grains or malt, it survives ’til the end, lending a rounded sweetness.

Another dessert-inspired concoction is the Intergalactic Space Rainbows (6% ABV), a rainbow sherbet sour made with the core elements of the iconic ice cream: raspberries (a 55-gallon drum’s worth), tangerines (350 pounds of them) and “a little bit of lime” along with a dash of “all-natural secret flavorings just to make it pop.” The finished product tastes almost exactly like rainbow sherbet with “a little bit of carbonation behind it,” as Scott notes—a spitting image of the sherbet-and-soda floats I sometimes made as a kid. The concept came from a failed attempt by another brewery, which Ricci was at first excited to encounter at a Massachusetts pizza bar. But that swing was a miss. Hoax needed “to do it and do it right,” Ricci says, and now, after their own process of trial and error, they’ve done it.

Sometimes inspiration simply comes from one’s friends. The Sad Boi, an eyeliner-streaked collaboration with Ricci and Scott’s pals at Emo Night CT—who are producing Hoax’s weekend-opening party tonight—came about because the humble lager, it turns out, is an emo scene favorite. “So we just wanted to do a basic American lager—crushable, easy to drink, but still has a little bit of flavor and you get a nice malt backbone to it,” Ricci says. “Something you can drink 10 of,” Scott adds with a knowing laugh, causing Ricci to recall his own history of crushing Sad Bois. “I think the first time we brewed this recipe,” he says, “I may have drank more than we sold that summer”—which is fine, since, according to a recent branding update, it’s an “emotional support lager.”

And hey, if you need some emotional support of your own this weekend, you know where to find it.

Hoax Brewing Company
The Beeracks – 250 Bradley St, East Haven
Scroll down here for anniversary and general event schedule
Hoax Brewing | The Beeracks

Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Image features Sean Ricci and Austin Scott with 5 oz. pours of Beauty Parade Birthday Cake, Intergalactic Space Rainbows and Sad Boi.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories.

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