Kent Falls Brewery is now open to the public on Saturdays
Barry Labendz now invites people to his home every Saturday.
Well, not his home exactly, but the brewery he runs — Kent Falls Brewery, which is a 50-step commute from his front door.
Starting June 11, Labendz and two other live-in managers of Kent Falls Brewery and Camps Road Farm in Kent opened their brewery to the public.
Now, instead of a “cat and mouse” game of package store runs, farmer’s market trips, bar calls and bar crawls, Kent Falls fans can just stop in at the farm nestled near Lake Waramaug in Lichfield County’s rolling hills from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to buy bottles of brew.
“It’s great to finally see people,” Labendz said, adding that before the brewery got licensed to sell beer out of the farm, the about 18-month-old brewery could be a lonely place.
The brewery, which distributes kegs of its farmhouse brew around Connecticut and New York, has some loyal fans even though it’s small and fairly new.
People drool over limited production India pale ales, American India pale ales, saisons and other styles of beer with names like “I Am Table,” “Are You Single?” and “Awkward Hug.”
Now, surrounded by beer — in bottles, in barrels and in massive tanks — folks can take in the hoppy smell Labendz has grown accustomed to.
“It’s a boost to business,” he said, adding that the brewery is so far averaging about 100 purchases a Saturday, sales they didn’t have before.
But it wasn’t easy to get people in the door. It took months to figure out just how to license the place, Labendz said.
Is it a farm? A brewery? A farm-stand? A retail store?
It’s a little bit of each, Labendz said, as he passed a pig pen and walked into a 1.5-acre field of high-lofted hops, just steps away from the brewery.
To even get the brewery itself licensed to be operational, it took about a year of talks with the town of Kent, Labendz said. “No farm brewery laws exist,” he said.
The brewery and farm has a special permit from the town that allows it to exist.
And to get the brewery itself ready for the public, it took plenty of work. Kent Falls had to add a bathroom, construct a septic tank and expand parking, Labendz said.
Before the build-out, if a visiting friend came to check out the brewery and had to use the bathroom, Labendz told them they had two options.
“They could go outside, or they could use my house,” he said, adding that it was an awkward experience.
Although people can stop by and stock up on Saturdays, they still can’t drink on site — although it’s legal for them to do a taste test.
But there have been, and will be, special events for beer tastings, he said.
For now, Labendz and company are just happy they have company on Saturdays, and that they can sell beer one day a week without having to leave the farm.
“I already drove 200 miles today delivering beer,” Labendz said on a recent Friday afternoon.