By the Dozen

By the Dozen

How can a brewery be many breweries?

For the Twelve Percent Beer Project, located at 341 State Street in North Haven, the secret lies in collaboration, community and really, really good beer. On a recent Friday, its taproom featured 15 beers from 11 separate breweries, all of them brewed right there on the premises.

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Community is key for Alex Blank, one of Twelve’s three owners along with Bridget Blank (his wife) and Brian Ewing. The brewery and taproom play host to so-called “nomadic” breweries—which lack fixed homes and tend to do contract brews across the country—such as Evil Twin, Omnipollo and Stillwater, to name some of the more high-profile nomads. “We’re kind of like an independent record label,” Blank explains. “We represent 12 or so brewers, and we help them make and sell their beer.” 12s are numerous in Twelve Percent’s history. Blank recalls the first beer the business distributed 12 years ago, back when it was only an importer: a ‘t Gaverhopke Den 12 that is—of course—12% ABV.

Though Twelve’s been working with nomadic brewers for years, its own brewing space is a new addition. “We did our first brew October 1, and soft openings of the taproom in December, but we’ve been fully open since January 1.” Open noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, the taproom is already bustling with casual drinkers and beer nerds alike. Large family groups with picnics of goods from Liuzzi down the street mingled with flannel-decked, bespectacled brewers from Connecticut’s Abomination Brewing, New Jersey’s Icarus Brewing and New York’s Public Access Liquids and Free Thought Brewing—all very small outfits brought together by Twelve Percent.

“I have enormous optimism because of the quality of the beer here,” Blank says, grinning and gesturing at one of the items on the tap list that day: Public Access’s There is a Place, a stout made with coconut and cocoa. “This is the first stout they’ve done, and the reception has been fantastic.” Instead of taking any and all contract brews to make as much money as possible, Blank emphasizes quality over quantity for Twelve Percent. “Every day, 25% of our tap lines rotate, and it’s impossible over two weekends to see the same beer.” Part of this, though, comes down to the sheer volume of patrons. “It’s been incredibly busy since we’ve opened,” he says, pleasantly surprised at the near-instant popularity of the taproom, but his focus is always on beer quality.

If you brew it, they will come, and come they do, filling the bar and the ample comfy couches, taking artful pictures of enticing beers and talking shop with fellow beer nerds. Social media has played a role in gaining the attention of the general public and beer world alike—Twelve Percent boasts more than 16,000 followers on their Instagram page alone. Instagram and Untappd, a beer-centered social media app that allows users to rate beer and beer venues in addition to “checking in,” lead the way in showcasing just how popular high-quality beer can be. Families with children utilize the small but curated selection of board and card games, sipping full or half pours (uniformly priced at $6 and $4 respectively) of beers ranging from hazy double IPAs from Evil Twin to an aptly potent 12% imperial stout from Stillwater.

The Twelve Percent Beer Project not only brews these beers but distributes them. (It also still distributes the kinds of Belgian beers that dominated its portfolio when it first started out as an importer.) Search your local package store for labels sporting “Distributed by 12%”—or pick up four-packs from the taproom itself, of such tasty offerings as Free Thought Brewing’s Night Vision, a dark sour brewed with blood orange and chocolate. Opaque with an almost lustrous hue, it starts subtle for a sour but finishes with a strong and pleasing contrast between the bittersweetness of the chocolate and the tart depth of the fruit.

It was a tasty and affordable pour, in a casual but also discerning environment, and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Twelve Percent Beer Project
341 State St, North Haven (map)
Wed-Sun noon-8pm

Written and photographed by Allison Hadley.

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