Counter Weight Brewing Company

Counter Offerings

Not many people can claim they’re always making headway. But Matt Westfall can. The owner of Hamden’s Counter Weight Brewing Company, Westfall always has his flagship beer, Headway American IPA, on tap in the brewery’s tasting area, along with four to seven other concoctions on any given night.

Despite its tucked-away location in a former fitness center, a crowd of beer lovers had no trouble finding Counter Weight one recent Friday night. They mingled at the bar or sat at tables upstairs and down, enjoying libations and conversations.

The downstairs space is set up for customers to “grab and go,” where barkeeps fill your growler at the tap or you can pick up a few cans of whatever’s in the cooler that day. If you’re in no hurry, there’s still room to sit down for a pint or two. On the weekend, a food truck might be parked outside, but you’re welcome to BYOF as well, along with “well-behaved pups and kids alike,” the website says.

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Upstairs, the vibe is more pub-like. Custom-designed wooden tables with built-in game boards are matched with industrial metal stools. Two loveseats claim one corner with a view into the brewhouse, where Counter Weight’s steel tanks sparkle. Wood-planked walls are the backdrop for a show of work by local artists—on this night, Christian Perez. The names of the evening’s beers are chalked on the tap handles. You may get your pour in a traditional pint glass, but some beers are served in stemware, with a big opening that accentuates the aroma. The long stem, our bartender tells us, also keeps your warm hands from killing the beer’s cool. Feel free to ask him to put on one of the LPs kept in a box on the bar, including selections from John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, Beck and Why?.

What really matters, of course, is the beer. Counter Weight offers a rotating selection, with the aim, owner Westfall says, of always having at least one lager, one Belgian, one dark offering and a few hoppy beers on tap. Bartenders will pour you a taste, a half-pour or a full pint, making it easy to try more than one.

The orange-label Space Coyote, part of an IPA series, was refreshing and citrusy. While the recipe stays the same for each new batch, the hops change, making each version of Space Coyote a little bit different, explaining why Counter Weight changes the label color with each.

The Mixed Cassette Grisette was light and easy with a big, wheaty sigh at the end. And the brand new Ceno-Stout Imperial is downright delicious, full of coffee and chocolate in the mouth, but light on the belly. Also on tap: WorkHorse, a German Keller pilsner; Spiral Architect and Wizard Fight, both American double IPAs; Weisses and Virtues (the name says it all); Void American oatmeal stout; and the ever-popular Headway, which blends four varieties of American hops for a crowd-pleasing, “bright and expressive” beer, as the website puts it. You can find Headway on tap not just at Counter Weight but also at around 80 restaurants and pubs statewide, half of them in New Haven County, including Eli’s, J. Roo’s, Wood-n-Tap and Mikro, according to a barmate, as well as in the can at local liquor stores.

Open to the public since March, Counter Weight seems to have found its groove. It was populated by both “familiar faces and new ones,” taproom manager Krystle Ryder observed as she showed me around. And there’s apparently more to come: “more than I even know how to keep up with,” she joked. “We’re trying to come up with new and different concepts for every little bit of unique space that we have.”

On the way is a mug club, as well as more live music and open parties. (October’s “Raising Hell at Counter Weight” featured friends and beer collaborators from Hope Gallery Tattoo for the official launch of the Ceno-Stout, including BBQ and a smoked suckling pig.) In the brewhouse, Westfall is experimenting with aging beer in old wine and whiskey barrels, and an upstairs room holds a coolship—a large, shallow, uncovered vessel for open fermentation, another experiment in progress.

A new venture is always a balancing act, but Counter Weight is making more than just Headway, and lots of it.

Counter Weight Brewing Company
23 Raccio Park Rd, Hamden (map)
Thurs 3-7pm, Fri 3-9pm, Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-5pm
(203) 821-7333 |

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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