Asylum Brewpub Promises ‘Safe Harbor’ And ‘Delicious Beer’
Behind an 80-year-old brick façade was a cavernous hall filled with banging, heavy machinery, aromas of fresh pizza, and eager conversation.
Partners Mark Tambascio of My Place Restaurant on Queen Street and Dave Kingsley eyed progress on April 25 as renovations continued at Stratford Hall in Fairfield Hills. Several others, including My Place bartender Mark Lennon and Brew Master John Watson, talked about plans for a brewpub, Asylum, which will include beer and beverages, food trucks, a large pizza oven, outdoor activities, a fire pit, a patio, and more.
Looking at the ceiling 25 feet overhead and the oak-wrapped columns supporting it, Mr Lennon’s gaze wandered to multiple oversized palladium windows, where grass and trees were beginning to show green outside. The brewpub will be a family-style venue where guests can “gather and socialize.” The new pub will “optimistically” open for Labor Day.
“Asylum, to us, means a safe harbor, a sanctuary,” said Mr Kingsley.
“An idea for a beer is Seek Asylum,” Mr Lennon said. Looking again at the structure’s sturdy build, he commented, “Everything is so well-manufactured,” that 80-year old materials are “still in good condition.”
He hopes to repurpose some marble for a bar top and polish the floors, he said.
Thinking again on the pub atmosphere, Mr Lennon said, “bring the kids; bring dogs — outside only,” which led him to another thought. “Another idea for a beer is Walk The Dog,” he said. He imagines parents visiting Fairfield Hills to drop off their children at NYA Sports & Fitness Center and then walking to Asylum for a beer and a pizza.
A live music component is also part of the plan, Mr Tambascio confirmed.
A pizza oven will occupy one side of the building while a bar and brewing equipment will face the oven across the large main room. With brewing equipment behind the bar, Mr Lennon said, “It will be a focal point.” Mr Kingsley added that “big, tall fermentors,” will occupy a corner space.
Walking through the hall and past demolition debris was Mr Watson.
“I’m just the brewer. I will bring delicious beer here,” he said. He mentioned a menu including lagers, pilsners, stouts, IPAs, and “general beer styles.” But he shared a cautious philosophy about the beer he creates, saying “Just because you can put it in a beer, doesn’t mean you should.”
He plans to dedicate some tanks to Czechoslovakian and German pilsners, describing them as “bright, effervescent," light beers. He also imagines a “flagship pilsner,” that is “easy to drink.”
Two horizontal fermenters will also be in use, Mr Lennon said.
“It’s more surface space for yeast,” Mr Watson added. “Top-cropping yeast ‘Ferris-wheels’ through the liquid until it eats through the sugars.”
As demolition and removal of old materials continues, planning is in progress for refinishing the ceiling with acoustic tile, painting and refinishing other surfaces, mapping out patio space, bathrooms, and more.
Challenges are going to be the acoustics and insulation, Mr Kingsley said.
Roughly one year ago, as the partners sought approval to lease Stratford Hall, Mr Tambascio had said the venue would include entertainment such as a bocce court, outdoor toss games, indoor board games, darts and table games, and live music.
Mr Tambascio said last April, “I have felt that Stratford [Hall] would be a great place” for a brewpub. The craft brewing concept “is growing as an industry,” he said. He thinks a brewery “could serve as an anchor to bring retail and people into our town. It’s a destination, absolutely. And we love that building.”
“Hopefully, the town will support it,” he said.
“We can have a lot of private events and weddings and rehearsal dinners, showers. We can do anything with that space,” Mr Tambascio said. “We will have wine, too. Many breweries don’t.”
He also envisions offering cold brewed coffee from local roasters.
“We think we are going to have the best beer, on top of the fact that the venue is beautiful,” Mr Tambascio said.
He had said, “We will restore the building to its original grandeur,” while including modern upgrades.
He states, “The unique beauty of the building lends a huge advantage over more industrial sites… this should be the most picturesque brewpub in the state… as the craft beer industry matures.”
The facility will include areas for consumption and purchase, plus the brewery itself.
“The brewery will be ten barrels… with room to expand,” he said.
Mr Tambascio has spoken with people who claim to have old historical pictures from Fairfield Hills, which he very much hopes others will share with him.
Terms of Lease
The Town of Newtown, as landlord, entered into a lease agreement with tenant Asylum Brewing Company LLC in October 2018. Terms are for a period of 20 years — October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2038.
According to the lease, the tenant has the right to extend the original term for ten years. The tenant shall pay the landlord monthly installments as follows: Years 1-5 the tenant shall pay $200 monthly; Years 6-10, $500 rent monthly; and Years 11-20 is $830 monthly. An extension option for years 21-30 is $2,000 monthly.
According to First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, “While the town still owns the building, the business will be subject to personal property taxes. Asylum is also doing most of the heavy lifting in restoration of the building.”
The town did the exterior work and roof for about $150,000, he said, and estimates the balance of the restoration to be approximately $700,000.
According to information found at newtownhistory.org, Stratford Hall once served as the staff dining hall.
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