Relic Brewing has come a long way since its debut in early 2012. Then again, so has Connecticut beer.
When avid homebrewer Mark Sigman took the leap to professional brewing and opened his brewery in a Plainville industrial park, it was at a pivotal point in Connecticut’s beer history — new legislation at the time allowed breweries to sell their beer in on-site taprooms, where they had only before been allowed to give tours and samples. With the change in law, the state’s beer scene quickly proliferated, and Connecticut now boasts nearly 90 operational breweries, with dozens more in planning.
By the time Relic marked its seventh anniversary in February with a party (and a triple IPA specially brewed for the occasion), Sigman and his team had made major changes to its business model, recognizing the wants and needs of craft beer fans and visitors.
The brewery no longer serves just beer, but in fact now carries one of the state’s largest collections of spirits, available for tastings in half-ounce and one-ounce servings. Brown liquor enthusiasts will find about 650 whiskeys, Scotches and bourbons, with rare bottles on offer, and Relic also features aged tequilas and rums, assorted gins and vodkas, and other liqueurs, like Italian amaro, for a wide variety of cocktail options. Wine and cider are also available.
But Relic hasn’t strayed from its brewery roots, insists Sigman.
“Beer is still by far our primary seller and it always will be,” he says, noting that the spirits offering gives his brewery “a tiny competitive advantage” when visitors are trying to decide which brewery to visit. "We’re getting a lot of groups. Half the people love beer, half don’t love beer.”
Relic also introduced a fresh new expansion in mid-January, opening up its space to create a large, handsome taproom with inviting leather chairs and couches and modern light fixtures. The development was necessary, Sigman says, as its previous seating space with just a few tables would crowd quickly.
FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY BEERS: Relic doesn’t have a particular flagship beer — “I’ve tried that, it really doesn’t work for us,” Sigman says — but visitors can expect to find about 10 or 11 different brews on draft in the taproom each day. A solid half of those beers fall into the IPA category, but Sigman is careful to offer other varieties for non-IPA drinkers, with recent features like the Spectral Beast Baltic porter (with “smooth, strong chocolate roasty flavors”) and the Death of Venus milk stout. Sigman also likes to brew German-style beers, like the Imaginary World pilsner (“clean and bright, malt backbone...floral hop finish”) and the Fools Gold alt bier.
“We’re still highly an IPA shop,” Sigman says, acknowledging the style that’s still all the rage in craft beer. “That’s honestly what most people want to do. They’re astounded and amazed that they can do a flight of IPAs.”
Relic recently featured one of its most popular IPAs, Violet Ray, a “classic citra and mosaic IPA with bold tropical flavors,” along with four double IPAs: Found Objects, The Gristling, Midnight Muse and The Barrens. A new IPA called The Havens will debut closer to summer.
“This year we’re doing more repeats of the most popular [beers], where last year we did so many new ones, it was a little bit of overload," Sigman says. "Now we’re focusing more on our core favorites.”
TASTING ROOM AMENITIES: The new expansion, with an abundance of space, offers new room for games like shuffleboard, cornhole and a vintage pinball machine.
FOOD OPTIONS: Relic has been welcoming regular food trucks and vendors on weekends, with recent appearances by Seasonings Catering, Bear’s Smokehouse and Chunky Tomato’s pizza truck.
PRICING: Beers are available to-go in cans and growlers (about $10 to $15 for cans in four- and six-packs; $7 to $20 for 32 and 64-ounce growlers). Pours, in 8 and 16-ounce sizes, are $4.50 to $7.50. A flight of four beers is $9.50. Wines are $7 to $10.50. Spirits flights featuring bourbon, rum, tequila and mezcal are $9 to $12. Other spirits are priced by the half-ounce or one-ounce pour.
HOURS: Relic Brewing, at 95B Whiting St. in Plainville, is open Wednesday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday, 2 to 9 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. 860-255-4252, relicbrewing.com.
Leeanne Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.