Milford's first brewery, taproom is hopping

From left, Tribus Beer Company owners Sean O'Neill, Matt Weichner and Sebastian D'Agostino at their beer brewery and tap room in Milford.

From left, Tribus Beer Company owners Sean O'Neill, Matt Weichner and Sebastian D'Agostino at their beer brewery and tap room in Milford.

On arriving at 100 Raton Drive, in an industrial area surrounded by nice homes, you are met by a dreary warehouse with a simple sign that reads: “Tribus Beer Co.” over a tall garage door.

But, when you turn the corner, there’s a craft beer lover’s paradise: a cozy biergarten with tiny lights and flowers and just through the doors a 10,000-square-foot tap room with a cozy feel and brewery of shiny stainless-steel equipment.

Welcome to the city’s first craft brewery and tap room.

“You walk in and you forget everything,” said Matt Weichner, 32, one of three friends who owns the newly opened brewery. “It’s been a lot of fun seeing the reaction when people come in and enjoy.”

Since opening Aug. 11, business has been so great, Weichner said, that they can’t brew fast enough to keep up with the total demand for kegs, including their restaurant distribution customers all the way to Stamford.

“It’s been so busy here, it’s hard to keep up,” Weichner said. “It’s great to have more demand than supply.”

They are open Thursday through Sunday and had some 1,200 visitors in one day for the grand opening and hundreds more on Sunday. They are open Labor Day from noon to 5 p.m.

But there’s plenty of beer for the tap room and biergarten customers — and wine, hard cider and soda for those who visit and don’t drink beer.

He and his partners/friends, Sebastian D’Agostino and Sean O’Neill, both 29, started the project a year ago, overhauling the once dilapidated warehouse themselves, building the bar and furniture themselves. They were supposed to open sooner, but there were delays in permits, which allowed them time to add nice details, they said.

Weichner and D’Agostino met at the well-known and established New England Brewing Company, where they worked as head brewers.

The men have impressive beer-making credentials — Weichner went to brewing school in Munich, Germany, and Chicago and D’Agostino in Berlin, Germany.

The departure from New England Brewing Co. was not only friendly, the two friends continue to collaborate with their former boss and even offer an IPA called “Exit Interview” to mark the departure. That beer is brewed by New England Brewing company.

O’Neill works on the sales and marketing end of the business.

They picked the name Tribus because the “Tri” means three and the word indicates a “tribe” or notion of coming together.

“We want to create a community where people come together,” Weichner said. “We want people to come here, create the relationship, show them who we are.”

D’Agostino, who works the brewery when the tap room and Biergarten are closed Monday through Wednesday, said it’s been “great so far” but “long to get here.”

“It’s a cool vibe to be around here,” he said.

All the men live in Milford and emphasized they want their business to be part of the community and fundraising for organizations.

Weichner said they want to see their beer sold in downtown Milford — the current restaurant “reach” for their beer distribution is Stamford — and to close at 9 p.m., so they are more of a pre-dinner destination.

Many people come from 3 to 6 p.m., then go downtown and have dinner at Stonebridge, Eli’s, bin 100 or other restaurants.

Tribus doesn’t sell food, but Friday through Sunday they have a different food truck on location and customers can also bring their own food.

They have different brews available at various times.

Shuga Mama is a tribute to “the ladies in our life,” who worked to pay bills and keep life going while they put the place together, Weichner said.

Appropriately, it’s an easy drinking IPA with nice citrus flavors and soft mouth feel.

Flow is a vibrant double IPA with tropical fruit taste, Fix is an easy drinking IPA, Bier, is an easy drinking pilsner and then there are brews called, FunkManFunkMan, Quest and Blank Check.

A sign by the bar reads: “Good people drink good beer”

The tap room and biergarten are family friendly and often there are children in the midst.

There’s a “living room” area of black leather couches made from pallets and a wide selection of games, including “Connect 4,” “Apples to Apples,” “Trivial Pursuit” and “What do you meme?” There’s shuffleboard too, and a space that meanders to a back area where hops are delivered, which has a few chairs and tables, as well as Ping Pong and Foosball.

Despite its size, there’s something cozy about the taproom and brewery. It’s soft industrial with a modern feel.

The men added some nice detail to the place while waiting for the permits and it gives the space an old soul feel.

They used their notes from brewing school to wallpaper a wall.

One of the main walls and another wall toward the bathrooms was painted by Hillhouse High School assistant principal John Tarka and displays a bold mural of intricate circle designs that the three owners consider to be tribal circles. The circles are have hop vines painted on them and the murals cascade onto the floor. Hops are used in making beer.

Tarka said the designs — his signature artwork — are his take on cultures and different ethnicities coming together.

Circle designs say, “We’re all really connected in this together,” Tarka said, noting the guys at Tribus are about the community coming together.

The long bar of light oak is fronted with corrugated metal painted a custom gray, their logo is burnt into the area near the taps and they used a special process to burn the wood of the wall behind the bar

The logo by graphic designer Will Thresher, is two vertical lines with a third horizontal line across the top, representing the three partners and forming a T for Tribus.

The men even built extra bathrooms — they’re selling beer after all — and those too are pleasant and bright. A sign in one reads, “I have a fever and the only prescription is Tribus Beer.”

Even though demand for their beer is higher than they expected, the men aren’t running out to expand the brewery yet.

“We want to grow naturally and be that local brewery,” Weichner said.

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